MDC Alliance president Nelson Chamisa last Tuesday called for an urgent all-inclusive dialogue to resolve the country’s decades-long political and economic crises.
He said the talks will not seek power-sharing with President Emmerson Mnangagwa and his ruling Zanu PF government, but reforms to future-proof elections from being disputed.
Two days later, the youthful leader told a Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition meeting in the capital that there was need for a broad alliance to push for dialogue and reforms.
The Daily News on Sunday Senior Staff Writer Godknows Matarutse attended the meeting and later had a chat with Chamisa on his dialogue proposal.
Below are the excerpts.
Q: You have been calling for all-inclusive talks lately, how important is the dialogue?
A: The issue of convention is important to be able to come together through dialogue, through a broader alliance and say, what is the collective interpretation of our problem in this country…
We can’t converge on the solution if we are not converging on the understanding of what the problem is. Zanu PF would say it’s sanctions, we would say it’s governance and for us to be able to come together we must sit down and say what is the problem we are facing.
And the mistake our colleagues in Zanu PF are making and Mnangagwa is to think that they are the beginning and the end of the definition of what Zimbabwe is.
Patriotism is not partisan, patriotism is not defined by Zanu PF, patriotism is a definition by the collective and our definition of that collective is only a product of proper dialogue and coming together.
I have written several letters to Mnangagwa. I have sent emissaries to Mnangagwa to say come let us reason together, this problem is too big for you.
You are incapable of solving it alone, it takes two to tango, come let’s look at the problem together, but he doesn’t listen.
He has refused to listen, he has refused to understand where we are coming from. You can’t say the country is normal… when student leaders are in jail, when senior MDC members are charged, when workers have had charges, that can’t be normal.
You can’t be the only one who is right and everyone is wrong.
That is what has to be corrected, but it starts with understanding that something is fundamentally broken and it needs to be fixed and it can only be fixed by all of us.
Q: What are you doing to ensure the dialogue becomes a reality?
A: We have done our best. We have gone to Sadc. We continue to go to the AU. We continue to appeal to (South African) President (Cyril) Ramaphosa and also South Africa to play a role to bring us together.
When two brothers are not agreeing, there is need for a third brother, and we think that South Africa and even Botswana, Malawi or any other brother from Sadc or the AU would be an appropriate umpire to help underwrite and scaffold the coming together of brothers that are not agreeing.
So, yes, we still hope that it’s possible for people to agree on reforms. We have said we do not want to sit down to share power or to share government.
We want to share a vision. We want to share a trajectory to the future.
We want to share a future and we want to share the reforms that we need to see so that there is no dispute out of any election, there is no dispute out of any governance process, there is no dispute out of any kind of attempt to resolve political processes or governance processes.
Q: The feedback from your engagements with African leaders; is there any hope something could come out of it?
A: The responses are very encouraging because they are making every effort and we are optimistic.
I also hope that finally Mnangagwa will begin to see light, and will begin to understand that he has to feel for Zimbabweans.
It’s not a normal country where you wake up to everything not working … nothing functions and that’s a problem.
We need to begin to start to feel for others. Zimbabweans are suffering and that suffering must really be a wake-up call to the conscience of Mr Mnangagwa.
Dialogue is important. It’s actually a biblical injunction. Human creatures are a product of a dialogue … No solution to any national problem can be resolved without dialogue ultimately.
But if dialogue is not a possibility out of persuasion, it must be a possibility out of political action and that is why citizens must come together and unite.
Q: What can be done differently to initiate the dialogue?
A: What is going to be done differently is citizen mobilisation and citizens taking the lead.
The greatest mistake any leader can ever make is to assume that the leader is the struggle. Also to assume that the leader is the one who is the Alpha and Omega of what the people must do.
Let us take back the struggle to where it belongs, in the hands of the people. The country we want to see is in our hearts and in our hands and we can only unleash it for future generations and for ourselves when we begin to all act, not as politicians, not as trade unions, not as churches, but as citizens.
So, the bottom line is for us to go back to the common denominator, that which unites us being citizens of Zimbabwe and we need to be united as citizens.
That’s why I said this is not about Zanu PF, this is not about MDC, this is not about the old or the young, this is about everybody.
This is so because our common destiny is under threat, our common future has been jeopardised and we need to rescue it. We are a lost nation, we are a broken nation, we need to discover ourselves and to discover ourselves we need unity.
That is the different thing you are going to see. It’s no longer about the MDC being the big party or the ZCTU being the big brother, this is all about us being united and having a common platform. And citizens united can never be defeated.
No army, no weapon can stand when the people say enough is enough and that is what we are saying now to draw the line in the sand.
No matter the cost, we are determined to move forward. This is a convergence of citizens and we are ready to have that mobilisation taking place.
Q: People are saying Zimbabwe is in a crisis, the fights and the splits in the MDC. It appears there is no unity in the opposition?
A: I have to disabuse the nation of this whole notion that MDC is divided. There is no division. The people are united. We are united. The fact that we have few individuals who, out of their cases of convenience, choose to go the other side does not make us divided.
You are talking about names you are mentioning, they have chosen to side with those who are oppressing us. It has nothing to do with the unity of our people. Zimbabweans are united and they know what they want.
And I told you, don’t make the mistake of confusing or conflating MDC-T and MDC Alliance.
It’s like Zanu Ndonga and Zanu PF, they are two separate institutions.
Let MDC-T go and contribute to the liberation of Zimbabweans, we are contributing in our own way, that is the end of the story.
So, don’t waste time on things that are not real issues because the people are united.
We in the leadership of the MDC Alliance are united and we are uniting with other progressive forces, that is what matters. We are united and you will see the unity of the people when we start acting.
Q: What happened to the commission on local governance that you appointed and was led by Advocate Thabani Mpofu to investigate councils your party is in charge of?
A: Part of the biggest challenge we are having with local authorities is that they need to be liberated from central government. Local authorities have been captured by the central government.
You now have a minister of Local Government who is a mayor of each and every city because of instructions that come from the central government. We have problems around the issue of legislative framework.
There is no devolution, local authorities cannot make independent decisions.
Procurement in local authorities is done in the Office of the President. Ventures and joint ventures are supposed to be authorised by the minister of central government.
Budgets of local authorities are supposed to be passed, endorsed and signed by the Local Government minister.
Withdrawal of councillors are instigated and authenticated by the minister of Local Government.
So you find that in terms of how our local authorities are structured, if we do not liberate local authorities from central government it will be expecting too much from councillors and local authorities.
And until we are able to deal with that fundamental question of the governance issue it may not be possible to have proper service delivery.
Issues to do with funds, foreign currency, they are all under central government, even water, in terms of the Water Act, is under the President of Zimbabwe.
So, until we are able to address all these issues it might not be realistic to expect miracles from local authorities, especially if they are being interfered with.
The issue of the commission which was being led by Advocate Mpofu; Covid-19 broke out, withdrawals happened and each time we would want to invite councillors to ask them on what they are being accused of, they will tell you ‘I don’t belong to the MDC Alliance I belong to the MDC-T’ as a way and strategy to run away from accountability.