Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) leader Nelson Chamisa on Saturday met, by chance, with the most high-ranking member of President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government in almost six months – and it did not go well.
Chamisa has called for political dialogue with Mnangagwa to find solutions to the country’s economic crisis following disputed elections in July last year, but he maintains that his offer has been spurned. Mnangagwa, meanwhile, has assembled over a dozen smaller parties with whom he has been in regular discussions. His officials say the platform is open for Chamisa to join.
The MDC leader was an invited guest at an event organised by the British embassy in Harare on Saturday, at which Foreign Minister Sibusiso Moyo, a retired army general famed for announcing the military ouster of former President Robert Mugabe on television in 2017, was also present.
A British diplomat set the two up with a formal introduction as though the two men were strangers, according to sources who witnessed the exchange.
Chamisa, sources said, jokingly reprised Moyo’s famous line from the 2017 coup broadcast, telling the former general: “The situation in our country has moved to another level.”
Moyo did not see the funny side – maybe with good reason. The coup was staged ostensibly to put Zimbabwe back on an economic recovery path and tackle corruption – but the situation has got much, much worse.
A source said: “Moyo was furious, he felt like Chamisa was forcing his words back down his throat; ridiculing him. He was very uptight about it.”
Moyo, said the sources, told Chamisa that “people are suffering and we need to talk.”
“He appeared to blame Chamisa for how things had turned out. In his view, Chamisa’s refusal to accept Mnangagwa’s election win was the cause of the paralysis and Zimbabwe’s inability to move on,” the source said.
British ambassador to Zimbabwe Melanie Robinson and her deputy, Simon Thomas, listened in and watched the two politicians’ terse exchange.
Inviting the two men to the same event was no accident by the British, who are believed to be – along with other Western embassies – keen to see a resolution of the political stalemate in Zimbabwe through dialogue between Mnangagwa and Chamisa.
Chamisa previously met Defence Minister Oppah Muchinguri at Oliver Mtukudzi’s funeral in January. Muchinguri accused Chamisa of “trying to steal the limelight”, drawing an angry response from the 41-year-old lawyer who told her: “This is a funeral, there’s no light at a funeral.”