PRESIDENT Emmerson Mnangagwa has confided in some cabinet ministers and senior Zanu PF officials close to him that he is not too keen on negotiating a power-sharing deal with opposition leader Nelson Chamisa.
Highly placed sources told the Zimbabwe Independent that following last December’s visit to Harare by former South African president Thabo Mbeki on a Sadc-initiated mission to nudge the two protagonists to the negotiating table, Mnangagwa briefed some senior government officials, including cabinet ministers and top Zanu PF members, that he would rather go it alone for the duration of his five-year term, considering he won the mandate to do so in the 2018 general election, than allow the opposition into government.
The term expires in 2023 when the next general election is due. Mnangagwa and Chamisa have adopted hardline stances on the talks, each insisting dialogue can only happen on their terms.
They also sharply differ on the modalities for dialogue as well as the desired outcome. Mbeki’s biggest challenge will be to break the logjam and bring the two to the negotiating table.
At the moment, Zanu PF and the MDC are wrangling over the platform on which the dialogue can take place, with Mnangagwa insisting that the opposition party should join the Political Actors Dialogue (Polad) platform he established in May last year if it entertains any hopes of participating in national dialogue.
Chamisa on his part is adamant that he will never join Polad, which comprises of “insignificant political figures” like Lovemore Madhuku, Thokozanu Khupe and Bryan Mteki, among others.
Chamisa also favours the establishement of a National Transitional Authority which would, among other outcomes, lay the groundwork for credible polls.
However, sources said while Mnangagwa has publicly stated that he would talk to Chamisa if he joins Polad, his true position was that he was not amenable to it under any circumstances.
“He has clearly told those of us he trusts publicly that he was keen to talk to Chamisa when in actual fact he is not too keen on these talks. He prefers that his administration continues as at present, since our party won the election and got vindicated by the courts when the MDC challenged the presidential poll result. He believes he has the backing of regional heads of state,” a top official said.
Mbeki had indicated that he would be returning to the country during the last week of December after having briefed Sadc heads of state, but he failed to do so.
However, he is still expected to visit Zimbabwe shortly. “No one really knows the course events will take at the moment, but, from the look of things, Mbeki, when he finally returns, will have to work really hard to convince the two to abandon their hardline stance. otherwise, as things stand, Chamisa’s refusal to join Polad, which itself makes a lot of sense in many respects, will just provide him (Mnangagwa) with the perfect opportunity to refuse talks with Chamisa.
“It’s all confusing at the moment, though, because it’s hard to see the MDC acceding to that sort of demand,” the official said.
Another official said: “If you listen to the government rhetoric, it points to that direction (of not wanting talks). For instance, it is well known that Mbeki came here on a Sadc undertaking but they have declared that his visit was on a government invitation and that he (president), is the one who gave him permission to meet with other parties and civil society leaders. This is basically meant to create the impression that he is in total control of the situation.”
Information minister Monica Mutsvangwa said the only thing she knew was that the President was keen on dialogue.
“The President is on record as saying dialogue is the best thing for the country and if there is anyone claiming he or she heard something else different, I don’t know about that,” she said.
However, despite the sharp differences between the political parties, there is overwhelming consensus from all facets of society, and even among regional leaders, that dialogue is unavoidable if Zimbabwe is to be extricated from the economic and social crisis it finds itself in.
— Zimbabwe Independent