BY Brenna Matendere

Dialogue between President Emmerson Mnangagwa and MDC leader Nelson Chamisa over the disputed 2018 presidential elections is the only way to rescue the country from the worsening economic gridlock, a top opposition official has said.

The southern African country is facing its worst economic crisis in a decade underlined by shortages of foreign currency, fuel and medicines while a drought has left over five million people in need of food aid.

Speaking at Mkoba Stadium in Gweru on Wednesday during Workers’ Day commemorations led by the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU), MDC vice-president Welshman Ncube said the issue of legitimacy will haunt Mnangagwa throughout his term unless he sits down and talk to Chamisa.

“I understand this year’s theme for the ZCTU on this Workers’ Day urges people to unite and fight neo-liberalism and austerity. However, I want to tell you that all these small fights will not yield your desired results. The nation must just unite to fight a single battle which is the illegitimacy crisis of the current government led by Mnangagwa,” Ncube said.

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“To that end, I want to reiterate that Mnangagwa’s all other efforts to restore economic prosperity will not succeed as long as the legitimacy crisis of this country that was given birth by stolen elections last year is not resolved. Mnangagwa must set aside all the other efforts and sit down with Chamisa to resolve this illegitimacy crisis. That is the only way things can start moving and that is the only way the other hardships, especially the economic problems can be put to rest.”

Mnangagwa, who was voted into power after long-time ruler Robert Mugabe was overthrown in November 2017, is superintending over a country with deep macro-economic imbalances, large fiscal deficits and distortions in foreign currency exchanges that are hampering the economy and responsible for regular price hikes and fuelling inflation.

When government raised the fuel prices in January, it sparked protests across the country during which 20 people were killed and nearly 200 were left nursing gunshot wounds, according to human rights groups. The country is also struggling to respond to the devastation from Cyclone Idai which killed nearly 400 people and affected 270 000 others, according to aid agencies.

Ncube called on workers to confront the government and demand an end to the hardships they were facing on a daily basis.

“Zanu PF supporters are suffering, just like any other person in this country. Their colleagues say ED pfee during the day, but go back home to face tables without food in the evening.
So I am saying to Zimbabweans, please set aside your party affiliations and join hands to fight the bad governance – it does not matter whether you are Zanu PF or MDC,” Ncube added.

But Zanu PF spokesperson Simon Khaya Moyo said the issue of legitimacy was now water under the bridge after the Constitutional Court (ConCourt) confirmed Mnangagwa as the winner of last year’s presidential polls.

“I do not know why some people just want to confuse the nation. That issue of legitimacy was resolved by the ConCourt. We have to move on. What dialogue on legitimacy can there be when the highest court has decided?” he asked.

Khaya Moyo said dialogue between Chamisa and Mnangagwa can only happen inside the already running platform which includes other opposition parties.

“However, if Chamisa wants special treatment, he must write to the President saying so. But I don’t know what the President will say. All I can say is that the President cannot meet all the other party leaders this week and then meet Chamisa next week, who is he?” Khaya Moyo added. The Zanu PF spokesperson blamed the economic crisis on Western economic sanctions which he said were “invited by the MDC”.