candour:Nqaba Matshazi

The year 2010 was a good one. The economy was on the up, the general mood in the country was bright, the politics were uncertain because of the power struggles in the Government of National Unity, but generally, there was a feel good atmosphere. Companies that had closed in the previous decade were re-opening, Alpha Media Holdings (AMH) tapped into that positive growth with the launch of NewsDay.

There was a bizarre “multi-currency” regime in place, shops did not have change and would give customers chewing gum and sweets in place of coins and our US dollar notes were soiled in the most unthinkable way, but somehow, the system worked for us and we were content.

The sun was shining, the sky was blue and Zimbabwe was certainly on the way up, the country would not go belly up again, we thought; or if it did go wrong, it would not be as bad as 2007 to 2008.

With the unity government, the ruling Zanu PF was kept in check and its excesses were moderated, although the party did threaten the stability of the government from time to time, it did not act on its brinkmanship.

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At the beginning of the last decade there was so much hope that Zimbabwe had turned a corner, but as the decade came to an end, it was clear that the promise that 2010 gave us, was nothing but a false dawn and darker days lay ahead. The last decade, 2010 to 2019, is a lost one for Zimbabweans just because a certain group of people think only they have all the answers to the country’s problems, when history has proved otherwise.

In 2013, Zanu PF won the elections, bringing with it a new sense of triumphalism and unilateralism that saw Zimbabwe’s fortunes collapse almost immediately. On its side, the opposition was shocked by the scale of defeat; the predictable cries of rigging rang out loud and despondency set in.

The late former President Robert Mugabe was leading Zimbabwe to the precipice until he was removed by a coup in November 2017. Things did not get any better, as his successor, President Emmerson Mnangagwa has pushed Zimbabwe over the edge and the hapless country is in freefall.

No matter how we sugarcoat it, Zimbabwe is worse now than it was in 2010, 2013 or even in 2017, when the coupsters told us they were acting against Mugabe in an effort to save Zimbabwe from certain doom. The lesson that we should be learning from history is that unilateralism does not work and there is a need for everyone to come to the table to find a lasting solution.

Before 1980, after years of fighting, it was the negotiations that brought an end to the war and brought about Independence. When Mugabe threatened the nascent freedom that the nation had by unleashing bloodthirsty “genocidaires”, talks brought an end to the senseless killings that were commonplace in the western parts of the country and Zimbabwe was once again able to press the reset button.

But Mugabe still fancied a one-party State and soon went on the rampage crushing all opposition to his rule, culminating in the disastrous fast-track land reform programme. This belief that he could go it alone saw Zimbabwe literally collapsing with the lowest point being 2008, when the country literally ceased functioning. And guess what brought Zimbabwe back from the abyss; talks and negotiations. We are where we were some 11 years ago and its prudent for those in power to step back from their brinkmanship and see the value of a negotiated settlement.

It is not enough for Mnangagwa to say he won the elections and this was confirmed by the courts when the country is literally burning. He won the elections, but as it is, he is losing his country — economically and socially speaking — and that does not do him any good.

Mnangagwa and his supporters may proffer the self-serving argument that they have put in place the Political Actors Dialogue (Polad), but this tin-eared approach is not taking us anywhere, as collectively that grouping barely represents 5% of eligible voters.

Hoping that Polad will deliver us from this political, economic and social mess is a fool’s errand. Besides Zanu PF, all those parties in that grouping barely represent anyone and their mandate is non-existent. It is now time for Mnangagwa to be the bigger man, step back from the edge and invite the MDC leader for talks — it might not be good for his ego, but this is the bitter pill he has to swallow.

You may ask why Mnangagwa should be the one to reach out not the other way around, this is because he is the President, his legacy is going down the drain and he will only be remembered as the person who gave Zimbabwe hope only to utterly and almost irreversibly destroy the country.

Mnangagwa is now compared in less favourable ways than his predecessor, Mugabe — something that he surely detests — and the only way to salvage this is by reaching out.

When things were bad — not as bad as they are today — Ian Smith, the racist Rhodesian Prime Minister went for talks with people he regarded as terrorists; Mugabe for all his faults was dragged to the negotiation table and in both instances, there was an uptick in Zimbabwe’s fortunes. Mnangagwa can also learn from history. The onus is on him to reach out to Nelson Chamisa for the country’s sake, with no conditions.

The first step to this is to stop beating his chest in triumphalism by reminding the nation how he won the elections, and how he was confirmed by the Constitutional Court, this is water under the bridge now. The second thing would be to thank his friends and foes in Polad, send them packing, with a view of never reviving that pointless body ever.

If the MDC leader rejects this offering, then Mnangagwa can say at least he tried and history will be kinder on him.

 Nqaba Matshazi is AMH’s head of digital. He writes in his personal capacity. Feedback: Twitter: @nqabamatshazi