Amid rising tensions locally and abroad, President Emmerson Mnangagwa seems to have followed the voice of reason by taking the first steps towards national dialogue. On 6th February 2019, President Mnangagwa was set to meet leaders of all political parties which participated in the Presidential race of July 2018. Whether this is a genuine call for dialogue or an act to appease us remains to be seen.
Framework for post election dialogue
An invitation letter from the Chief Secretary to the President and Cabinet Dr Misheck Sibanda says, “The President of the Republic of Zimbabwe, His Excellency Cde E.D. Mnangagwa is inviting leaders of political parties in the Presidential elections of 30 July 2018 to a meeting to discuss a framework for dialogue and intervention. Each Presidential candidate is expected to bring three delegates and for those candidates with parliamentary representation, one extra delegate can be from Parliament.” This means that all political parties will be represented. It should be noted that the actual dialogue is not starting at this meeting but the methodology of how the dialogue will be done is top of the agenda here. The first of many more dialogue meetings perhaps.
While some have welcomed this invitation, others have expressed serious reservations. MDC Alliance leader Nelson Chamisa who also came a close second to President Mnangagwa tweeted, “Dialogue not games… The Presidency is disputed. We need genuine dialogue under a credible Convener and mediator to solve the crisis. Stop citizens abuses, beatings and arrests.” It is not yet clear whether Nelson Chamisa will attend the meeting. Dr Noah Manyika, President of Build Zimbabwe Alliance confirmed his attendance but says, “In my view, real and meaningful dialogue that will lead to the change we desperately need in our country can only happen if the people wrongfully detained have been released and the army is withdrawn completely from the streets and from manning roadblocks.” In his view, conditions for meaningful dialogue are not yet conducive. Already, there are those who believe that losing candidates who did not poll considerable numbers have nothing to offer to the dialogue. Others feel that dialogue should not be for politicians only but should include business, the church and civic society.
Since late last year, calls for dialogue have been growing. Churches and civic organisations have been at the forefront of such calls. On his return from the Eurasian trip, President Mnangagwa admitted that dialogue was needed but nothing happened after his admission, at least in the public eye. Events in the country where violent protests have led to deaths, injuries, arrests and damage to property only serve to strengthen the need for a lasting solution. International pressure has also been rising with the United Kingdom now contemplating blocking Zimbabwe from Commonwealth re-admission and the imposition of more painful sanctions. Add to that the impending SADC and AU Summits and we have a President who is under pressure to be seen to be taking inclusive and decisive action to diffuse simmering tensions. It looks like our government is cornered. However, if this is a genuine call for dialogue, the President should be commended. Time will tell.
It is good that government seems to be taking action to curb continued economic problems. The sincerity of the calls for dialogue may be in doubt but some kind of intervention is long overdue. Everyone hopes the meeting will be successful in dealing with our problems.