THE time is now opportune for three of the country’s major political players — President Emmerson Mnangagwa, opposition leader Douglas Mwonzora and his MDC rival Nelson Chamisa — to sit down together to help resolve Zimbabwe’s decades-long political and economic challenges, some analysts say.
Speaking to the Daily News at the weekend, the analysts said with Mnangagwa having already indicated that he was open to working with Mwonzora, it would be prudent that the president also sought to engage with Chamisa given his following.
This comes after Mwonzora, as well as a close ally of Chamisa, reiterated over the past few days that the MDC heavyweights were happy to engage with Mnangagwa — adding significantly, that ED’s long claimed “legitimacy question” would not be “a pre-condition for dialogue”.
Respected University of Zimbabwe political analyst, Eldred Masunungure, was among those who said with Mnangagwa having shown his readiness to work with Mwonzora as the country’s official opposition leader, it made sense that he also engaged with Chamisa on account of his popularity with opposition supporters.
He added that if the country was entertaining any hopes of “turning the corner both politically and economically”, there was “an immediate need for convergence by all political parties and their leaders”, as well as civil society and other key stakeholders.
“For the sake of practicality, any meaningful dialogue ought to mean that Mnangagwa sits down with Chamisa, first and foremost, and then Mwonzora, to make it a tripartite negotiating forum.
“These three are the key political players in that Chamisa is very popular and that Mnangagwa prefers to see Mwonzora as the official opposition leader.
“If the mood of talking to each other like all the sides want to portray is there, that would be the most progressive way to push forward a national agenda that is not partisan.
“The process can then be aided by a few others in the national interest. It is, however, a tall order to get to that point,” Masunungure told the Daily News.
But professor of World Politics at the London School of Oriental and African Studies, Stephen Chan, said “while rational dialogue is something greatly to be desired, it needs to be open and its conduct should be on equal terms”.
“And, while the three leaders are talking, the government should not be harassing opposition supporters. In short, there has to be public and visible good faith when the tripartite negotiations happen.
“The dialogue has to concern not just political issues, but economic ones as well. It will take a very long time for Zimbabwe to recover sufficient economic stability to act as a platform for multi-sector growth … to generate employment for the mass of Zimbabweans.
“So, the talks have to be about the economic welfare of the mass of Zimbabweans who are the ones so often left out of the government’s plans and in the rhetoric of confrontational politics,” Chan told the Daily News.
However, Public Administration and Management senior lecturer at Tshwane University in South Africa, Ricky Mukonza, said it was difficult to imagine Chamisa and Mwonzora sitting at the same table — given the acrimony that existed between the two erstwhile MDC comrades.
“That three political players compromise and work together towards a common national agenda is what would be ideal for Zimbabwe and Zimbabweans.
“However, this seems a Herculean task because of their history. Chamisa and Mwonzora have been involved in power struggles in the MDC and the struggle still persists.
“Mnangagwa and Chamisa have not resolved the issue of the 2018 election outcome. The only possible collaboration is between Mwonzora and Mnangagwa as they do not seem to have an acrimonious relationship,” Mukonza told the Daily News.
“A dialogue among the three for me is impossible at this point in time. In fact the issue of dialogue may as well be of academic purposes considering that we have two years before the next elections,” he added.
This comes after Zanu PF said last week that Chamisa had harmed his own interests by rebuffing invitations by Mnangagwa for talks, including joining the Political Actors Dialogue (Polad) platform — where the president confers with leaders of fringe opposition parties who contested him in the 2018 elections.
Speaking to the Daily News, Zanu PF national political commissar, Victor Matemadanda, further claimed that Chamisa’s political star was dimming after he batted away several opportunities to hold talks with Mnangagwa.
He also accused Chamisa of over-estimating himself and suffering a “lack of wisdom” for declining to dialogue with Mnangagwa under Polad — adding that this was the MDC Alliance leader’s “biggest undoing”.
“Chamisa’s lack of wisdom is his biggest undoing. You need to understand that you cannot hold the people to ransom for a long time.
“We have had people with support, but when you don’t work with others, they will dump you. This is what has happened with him,” he said.
Matemadanda also said it was to Mnangagwa’s credit that since the dramatic fall from power in November 2017 of the late former president Robert Mugabe, Mnangagwa had been extending a hand of friendship to all his political rivals — as part of efforts to promote peace and unity in the country.
“Obviously, the approach of our current president was and remains engaging. Many of the opposition parties were formed during the Mugabe era, where there were no engagement platforms.
“President Mnangagwa invited all parties to Polad and the MDC Alliance decided not to join.
“He (Chamisa) made a serious mistake by refusing to join Polad. What will happen is that (first MDC deputy president Thokozani) Khupe and others become relevant because they are part of what will be going on while he continues to cry from outside.
“He now has nowhere to take his problems as an opposition party,” Matemadanda added.
On the other hand Mwonzora has pledged to pursue dialogue with Mnangagwa and Zanu PF — with a view to improving the lives of long-suffering Zimbabweans.
Speaking to the Daily News last week, the level-headed MDC Alliance secretary for presidential affairs, Jameson Timba, observed that Chamisa had been among the first leaders to call for necessary national dialogue — adding, however, that he had been “ignored” by Mnangagwa and Zanu PF.
“Our position on the issue of legitimacy and dialogue has not changed. The legitimacy question is not a pre-condition for dialogue, but an agenda item for that dialogue.
“Chamisa was the first to call for dialogue, but was spurned by Zanu PF, which said there was nothing to talk about,” he said, amid national hopes that the political climate in the country had never been more conducive for all-inclusive talks.
Timba also said the MDC Alliance had indeed refused to join Polad because Chamisa wanted to hold talks with Mnangagwa directly, as there was no dispute between the MDC Alliance and the other political formations which are part of the platform.
“We said dialogue can only take place between those who are not in agreement. We have no dispute with the other 20 politicians in Polad.
“We, therefore, believe that meaningful dialogue to resolve the national crisis can only take place between the two main protagonists — and these are Chamisa and President Mnangagwa.
“He (Mnangagwa) is currently the president of the country and it is incumbent upon him to say let us sit down and talk to solve the problems facing us as a country,” Timba further told the Daily News.
The even-tempered former Cabinet minister in the short-lived, but stability inducing 2009 government of national unity (GNU) also said Zimbabwe’s politics had been sullied by “a legitimacy crisis” for many decades — and, therefore, it was wrong to see the disputed 2018 presidential election result as an isolated incident.
“The legitimacy crisis has been with us for decades. The crisis of legitimacy arises out of a cycle of disputed elections, and this dispute cannot, therefore, be simplistically reduced to a dispute between Chamisa and Mnangagwa — because previously it was a dispute between (Robert) Mugabe and (Joshua) Nkomo, then Mugabe and (Edgar) Tekere, Mugabe and (Morgan) Tsvangirai (all late), and now these two.
“Unless this cycle is broken then the crisis in this country will not end. Chamisa and Mnangagwa are just but the current representatives of this dispute by virtue of their 2018 election dispute,” the measured and ever approachable Timba added.