OPPOSITION MDC leader, Nelson Chamisa yesterday said he would gladly accept dialogue convened by former South African President Thabo Mbeki to end political hostilities between him and President Emmerson Mnangagwa and resolve the country’s deepening economic crisis.
In an interview, Chamisa’s spokesperson Nkululeko Sibanda described Mbeki as a neutral and credible mediator.
Mbeki, who brokered the historic Global Political Agreement leading to the formation of the 2009-13 Government of National Unity bringing together the late former President Robert Mugabe (Zanu PF), late MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai and Arthur Mutambara of the MDC, was in Zimbabwe two weeks ago to explore possibilities of bringing Zimbabwe’s key political actors to the negotiating table.
The GNU came about following the 2008 disputed election.
Mbeki last month indicated that he would return to Zimbabwe before year-end to continue with the talks after holding separate meetings with Mnangagwa and Chamisa, but no reasons have been given for his no show.
“President Chamisa has said he was open to dialogue convened by a neutral and credible convener. The question which remains is whether President Mbeki is a neutral and credible convener. I think it speaks for itself. You know these are negotiations, we don’t want to speak much,” Sibanda said.
The opposition’s sentiments, which have also been backed by the Zimbabwe Council of Churches (ZCC), come when there is pressure on the two arch rivals to dialogue to end the crisis which has stalled national development and brought the economy to its knees.
However, Mnangagwa’s Zanu PF government has declared it will not hold any talks with Chamisa outside the Political Actors Dialogue (Polad) platform he set up with fringe political parties that took part in the July 2018 elections. Chamisa on the other hand has refused to recognise the platform, describing it as a sideshow.
Information secretary Ndavaningi Mangwana yesterday reiterated Mnangagwa’s position saying no talks would be held between the Zanu PF leader and Chamisa outside Polad.
“I think people are not clear here. What exactly do people want ED and Chamisa to talk about?” Mangwana asked rhetorically.
Meanwhile, churches have welcomed the “broad spectrum” of dialogue initiated by Mbeki who was in Harare last month to try to nudge Zanu PF and MDC into dialogue to end the economic and political crises in the country.
The ZCC, which has been calling for a seven-year sabbatical from elections to allow the country some healing and a chance to solve the economic and political problems, said although Zimbabweans were wary of Mbeki’s “quiet diplomacy”, they welcomed his resolve to engage everyone.
“Due to past experiences with him, Zimbabweans will be reluctant and suspicious of Mbeki’s efforts,” ZCC general secretary Kennedy Mtata said.
“But that he has come to explore what needs to be done and that he thinks the broad spectrum of society must be involved in the process, is encouraging. At the end of the day, we as Zimbabweans will need to come to our senses and sort ourselves out.”
“Outsiders can only facilitate your engagement, but you must have the desire for transformation,” Mtata said.
“We need no more piecemeal solutions. Let’s break this cycle of retrogression and start afresh. Zimbabwe turns 40, if it was the biblical 40 years of the desert, we should by now be reaching our ultimate goal of a united, just and prosperous Zimbabwe.”
Zimbabwe is doddering on the brink of a total economic collapse which Zanu PF blames on sanctions imposed on the country by the West but Chamisa claims Mnangagwa’s “lack of legitimacy” after the 2018 election is the cause of the country’s problems.
The two protagonists have repeatedly snubbed calls to dialogue, with Chamisa demanding that Mnangagwa’s disputed legitimacy should be on the agenda, while the Zanu PF leader insists that the opposition youthful leader should first recognise him as the President of the country before any talks can commence.