When Zimbabwe was on the verge of political and economic collapse in 2007, it took the late former President Robert Mugabe and his long-time nemesis Morgan Tsvangirai of the MDC, to dialogue the country’s way out of the mess.
The late protagonists dialogued with the mediation of South African Presidents Thabo Mbeki, Jacob Zuma and later Kgalema Motlanthe, making frequent visits to their neighbouring country to iron out the differences between Zimbabwe’s political players. As a result of South Africa’s mediation, with Sadc and the African Union as guarantors, Mugabe and Tsvangirai buried the hatchet and the results were there for all to see.
The dialogue paved way for the birth of the Government of National Unity, borne out of the Global Political Agreement that ushered in a new government with Tsvangirai as Prime Minister and the five years that followed brought economic and political change. Ten years down the line, Zimbabwe is teetering on the brink of collapse and indications are that as long as President Emmerson Mnangagwa and Nelson Chamisa continue to shadow box, the downward spiral will continue, and ordinary citizens have already started feeling the pain of the current stalemate. Now that South Africa, through its Minister of International Relations and Co-operation Naledi Pandor, has spoken on the need to end the political “antipathy” between Zimbabwe’s political rivals, Mnangagwa must be sincere, swallow his pride and shrug off hardliners in Zanu PF who are against dialogue and talk to Chamisa. While Mnangagwa and Chamisa have consistently spoken about dialogue — it has a different meaning to both of them. Citizens want them to talk to each other, period! Yet, one wonders why Mnangagwa prefers dialogue with political nonentities. Mnangagwa has not been clear whether he wants dialogue with Chamisa or not. The MDC leader has spoken on the need for a Mnangagwa engagement. Chamisa has called for dialogue with a neutral mediator, not a tough call to Mnangagwa. The President through third parties has insisted there is no need for foreign mediation as the churches and the National Peace and Reconciliation Commission are well equipped to do that.
We believe all players, internal or external, that carry sufficient political weight should be involved. That is what neighbours are there for, anyway. Mnangagwa must demonstrate true leadership in the face of a crisis by putting aside his own personal interests and consider what is good for the generality of the people. Is it not ironic that the President continues to ignore the voice of the people, which according to him is the voice of God.
Yes, he has created the Political Actors’ Dialogue (Polad) platform where he took on board all fringe opposition parties to discuss Zimbabwe’s future. But without the main opposition MDC, Polad remains a grouping of insignificant political actors and for Mnangagwa to claim he is talking to them for a solution to the crisis without Chamisa is illogical. It is meaningless to dialogue with people who have no representation in the population.
If Mugabe, whose anger and disdain of Tsvangirai was known, could take the so called “puppet of the West” as he was fond of saying to the negotiating table, why is Mnangagwa holding the country back by shutting out meaningful dialogue with the main opposition? As the country’s President, the buck stops with him. We wait for the day he picks up that call and open doors for meaningful dialogue.