Mnangagwa, Chamisa agreed to Mbeki tea at State House, ED backed out at the last minute
Former South African president Thabo Mbeki almost secured a dialogue victory on his recent visit, after persuading President Emmerson Mnangagwa and MDC leader Nelson Chamisa to sit down for tea at State House, Kukurigo can report.
Sources close to developments said Mbeki spent hours with an intransigent Mnangagwa who insisted there was no basis for any dialogue with Chamisa unless he publicly acknowledged him as the legitimately elected president.
“Mbeki agreed that the opposition should acknowledge Mnangagwa but said in the meantime it was essential to get the ball rolling through a symbolic gesture of goodwill by meeting Chamisa for tea, one on one,” a source said.
Mnangagwa is reported to have agreed to the meeting, assuming Chamisa would refuse to accept the non-negotiable State House venue.
“Nobody thought Chamisa would agree to come to State House because it is the symbolic citadel of presidential power. That’s why Mnangagwa agreed. It was just so Mbeki would not view him as the one standing in the way of potential negotiations,” the source added.
Mnangagwa is said to have been surprised to learn that Chamisa had agreed to the meeting after Mbeki returned to firm up on when he should bring the opposition leader who continues to insist that he won the 2018 presidential election.
“The president was caught by surprise and pushed back against Mbeki saying that the meeting would happen at a later date, without giving any particular reason to explain the sudden change in position. Mbeki did not push it beyond that point but is likely to resurrect the issue when he returns,” a corroborating source familiar with the developments said.
EDITORIAL: Mbeki appears to have calculated that the seemingly innocuous tea date would break the ice on two issues that have stood in the way of negotiations – POLAD and legitimacy. By setting a stage where Chamisa enjoyed an exclusive audience outside of POLAD, Mbeki was likely angling to soften and undermine Mnangagwa’s repeated position that all political dialogue will take place under POLAD, together with other losing 2018 presidential election candidates.
At the same time, Chamisa would have implicitly acknowledged Mnangagwa’s legitimacy without suffering the indignity of a direct capitulation. The symbolic significance could not be ignored.