THERE is renewed hope that the much-needed and much-talked about national dialogue could happen soon, after top clerics met with President Emmerson Mnangagwa and MDC Alliance leader Nelson Chamisa separately last week — in a bid to help end the country’s myriad challenges.
The Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops Conference (ZCBC), which was part of the group that met with Mnangagwa first, and later Chamisa, confirmed to the Daily News yesterday that there was indeed a fresh push by the church to persuade the two men and other key stakeholders to engage each other.
In fact, so hopeful are the members of the Zimbabwe Heads of Christian Denominations (ZHOCD), that they held their national executive meeting yesterday — to map the way forward, after their “positive talks” with Mnangagwa and Chamisa.
This comes as Mnangagwa has said emphatically that he will not seek outside help to foster national dialogue with the opposition and other key stakeholders in the country.
It also comes as South African President Cyril Ramaphosa and his ruling African National Congress (ANC) have been attempting to assist Zimbabwe to end its decades-long political and economic crises.
“I was not part of the delegation that went there. In general, the church is trying to initiate dialogue in the nation among various stakeholders.
“At the moment I can’t give you much information. We are open to engaging with all stakeholders.
“It’s not just the political parties, we are aiming to have a broad-based dialogue which involves civil society, professionals and others,” ZCBC spokesperson, Frederick Chiromba, told the Daily News yesterday.
The general secretary of the Evangelical Fellowship of Zimbabwe (EFZ), Blessings Makwara, said he could not comment on the developments, as the clerics were having a meeting to review last week’s talks with the two political leaders.
However, well-placed MDC sources told the Daily News yesterday that Chamisa had apparently told a Standing Committee meeting of the Alliance at the weekend that Mnangagwa was open to holding talks with him and Thokozani Khupe.
“Chamisa told us that he met with the church and they told him Mnangagwa was eager to meet him and the Khupe faction.
“He also said that Mnangagwa had told the clerics that he was open to having talks mediated by a local mediator.
“Chamisa said he was currently looking at the issue and would decide on the way forward soon,” one of the sources told the daily news yesterday.
MDC Alliance deputy spokesperson, Clifford Hlatywayo, referred questions to Chamisa’s spokesman Nkululeko Sibanda — who promised to comment, but had not come back to the Daily News at the time of going to print.
Presidential spokesperson George Charamba dismissed claims that Mnangagwa had sent churches to convince Chamisa to dialogue with him outside the Political Actors Dialogue (Polad), describing this as wishful thinking and imaginary.
“The meeting between the President and the churches was related to the Catholic Bishops’ pastoral letter.
“We were clear that churches were lacking some pertinent information as most of them came out in support of the letter, so we decided to interact with them to ensure that they have accurate information.
“I can assure you that if it had not been for the letter we probably would not have met with the churches or we would have met them but on a different subject matter.
“So let us not be carried away by wishful thinking. Perhaps this is what the churches and the MDC are hoping for,” Charamba told the daily news.
“If the MDC wants to dialogue with us then it can come through Polad. Buddhists have what we call a pagoda, Moslems have a mosque and Jews have a synagogue.
“Polad is our synagogue. That is the appropriate national platform that can be used for any form of political dialogue,” Charamba added.
Leading clerics have consistently said that they preferred locally-mediated national dialogue — further dismissing calls for a foreign mediator by the opposition and some civil society organisations.
Last Wednesday, the clerics met with Mnangagwa as they seek to end the country’s long-standing challenges.
Mnangagwa himself later told a Zanu PF politburo meeting that he had hosted the church leaders as part of his efforts to engage with key stakeholders.
“This morning (last wednesday) I was pleased to receive a delegation from the Zimbabwe Heads of Christian Denominations which comprised the leadership of the Evangelical Fellowship of Zimbabwe, Catholic Bishops, Zimbabwe Council of Churches and the Indigenous Churches.
“Dialogue must be encouraged throughout all sections of our society in the spirit of constructive engagement, among others.
“This is the culture of the second republic, of national building … peace… harmony … unity and love as we develop the Zimbabwe we love,” Mnangagwa said then.
The meeting with clerics, especially the Catholic bishops, came after they had sharply criticised the government’s handling of the foiled July 31 mass protests.
In particular, the Catholic bishops’ letter in which they said “the march has not ended”, was not received well by the government — which issued a strong warning against clerics dabbling in politics.
In the meantime, Mnangagwa has since told a Zanu PF central committee meeting that he would not allow foreign mediation in the country’s decades-long crises.
“This session comes against yet another crushing failure of machinations by our detractors on social media to reverse and destabilise the unity, peace, security and development milestone our party fought for.
“I applaud the people of Zimbabwe and leadership of the party for remaining resolute in defiance of the opposition’s regime change agenda and worrying levels of self-hate through a sustained call to make our country … ungovernable.
“The crisis exists in their mind, in their parties, in their bedrooms, not in Zimbabwe. We have challenges like any other country,” Mnangagwa thundered.
This also comes as Mnangagwa earlier this month, also said the country’s deepening challenges required unity of purpose among all Zimbabweans to mitigate them.
And at the weekend, church leaders said it was time for Zimbabweans to come together to end the country’s deepening crises.