INTERNATIONAL pressure on Zimbabwe’s major political players, Zanu PF and MDC to urgently come to the negotiating table to unlock the political logjam continues to grow with the United States (US) adding its voice, saying the talks should be mediated by a neutral arbiter.
This comes amid reports that representatives of the two parties were already in Switzerland attending a peace-building workshop aimed at facilitating the dialogue process.
MDC’s chief of staff Sesil Zvidzai told NewsDay from Basel that the workshop was meant to enable them to share notes with representatives of other countries.
“We are looking at case studies in areas like Syria, the Tunisian situation and how it turned out after the Arab Spring and many other examples,” Zvidzai said.
“Although this is not specifically for Zimbabwe, the experience that we are getting here is helpful in the sense that people must dialogue. This is about what is good for us as a country.”
But Zanu PF national spokesperson Simon Khaya Moyo said he was unaware of the workshop or any party representative seconded to that gathering.
Some of the delegates to the workshop, which started this week, were drawn from church, government and the National Peace and Reconciliation Commission (NPRC).
In a statement on Tuesday, US State Department deputy spokesperson Robert Palladino said only a national dialogue could solve problems bedevilling Zimbabwe.
“The US calls on all sides to come together immediately in a national dialogue process that must be credible, inclusive and mediated by a neutral third party,” Palladino said.
“In order for such a dialogue to succeed, the government of Zimbabwe should end its excessive violence and intimidation, immediately release the civil society activists, who have been arbitrarily detained and hold security force members responsible for human rights violations and abuses accountable.”
The US said the sanctions on President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government would only be lifted after he has implemented significant political and economic reforms in line with his inauguration speech.
“We also reiterate our call for the government of Zimbabwe to enact promised political and economic reforms,” the statement read.
President Donald Trump’s government also blamed Mnangagwa for using excessive force on civilians.
“US remains seriously concerned about excessive force by the government of Zimbabwe security forces since January 14, which has resulted in at least 13 deaths, 600 victims of violence, torture or rape and more than 1 000 arrests,” the statement read.
Mnangagwa has since denied that his government was behind the killings and challenged affected families to provide evidence of the attrocities.
Recently, Mnangagwa invited to State House all the presidential candidates that participated in last year’s harmonised elections to map up the framework for the proposed dialogue.
Although MDC leader Nelson Chamisa boycotted Mnangagwa’s indaba, the opposition leader later attended a prayer breakfast meeting organised by the church, which was snubbed by the Zanu PF leader.
Zimbabwe Council of Churches secretary-general, Kenneth Mtata, said the Swiss workshop was part of capacity-building for different actors involved in the dialogue process. He said after the prayer breakfast meeting held in Harare, they were confident of bringing the two protagonists together.
“The next steps would be to make a debriefing process with different key stakeholders, including the President who must get first-hand information of the whole process with whom we will share information of how the process must unfold going forward so that it is effective and inclusive to produce expected results that enhance national peace, justice and prosperity for all Zimbabweans,” Mtata said.
“After this, we will move on to define issues regarding mandate. There are many possibilities of convening national dialogue.”
He said they will likely have a broader consultative forum, which will lead them to a stage of finding suitable conveners of the dialogue.
Mtata also said they hope to have Parliament’s buy-in so as to have a legally binding mandate.
He said the convening process and convening team will then set up the framework for national dialogue with the scope of the dialogue and different levels of participation and the implementation plan.
“The national dialogue has begun, but has not yet been formalised. The President has launched the dialogue with political parties and we think that what is required now is to converge all the processes into the all-encompassing national dialogue,” he said.
Mtata said the process must have long-lasting solutions for the country, adding that they were not in any way discouraged by negativities.
“We are not discouraged by those who are trying to throw in spanners in the works. There are those with negative views of this whole process and, therefore, will invent some stories and work with some conspiracy theories,” he said.