SENIOR STAFF WRITER
MANY Zimbabweans and outsiders alike will be watching closely, and waiting to see what happens during and after this week’s visit to Harare by a delegation of the top brass of South Africa’s ruling African National Congress (ANC).
This comes as Zanu PF has welcomed the trip and said that it is ready to engage the visitors, who arrive in the country today for talks aimed at assisting Zimbabwe end its decades-old political and economic crises.
Speaking to the Daily News yesterday, Zanu PF secretary for administration, Obert Mpofu, said they were looking forward to hosting their counterparts, adding that there were no issues between the two former liberation movements.
“The ANC delegation is welcome. They have asked to meet with us as the ruling party, and we have agreed to meet with them.
“We are going to engage them and hear what they have to say. We are sister parties. So, there is nothing odd about this engagement.
“I am not aware of any other programmes that they (the ANC delegation) may have lined up as part of their visit,” Mpofu told the Daily News.
However, political analysts warned that it was unrealistic to hope that the visit would necessarily lead to national dialogue — especially if this did not involve President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s Political Actors Dialogue (Polad).
In the meantime, well-placed sources told the Daily News yesterday that the ANC’s meeting with Zanu PF would also likely discuss the “offensive behaviour” of one of Ramaphosa’s special envoys when that team was in Harare last month.
One of the sources said local authorities had been peeved by the envoy’s “surprise attempt” to include meetings with the opposition — as had happened last year when former South African president Thabo Mbeki came to Zimbabwe.
Another source said tomorrow’s meeting between the two ruling parties would also deal with “worrying lapses” by some ANC bigwigs — who stand accused of “consorting” with members of Zanu PF’s vanquished Generation 40 (G40) faction who are in self-imposed exile.
“Of course, the issues of the economy, alleged human rights violations in Zimbabwe and the general state of things in the two countries will be on the table.
“However, there are not likely to be many take-aways for the ANC delegation because what was told to the special envoys will not be materially different from what will come out of this fact-finding mission,” the second source told the Daily News.
Meanwhile, respected University of Zimbabwe politics expert, Eldred Masunungure, said it was highly unlikely that the ANC delegation would be able to nudge Zanu PF and the opposition towards holding the much-needed national dialogue.
“We should not be too optimistic … a breakthrough is what is needed between the main antagonists that are President Mnangagwa and MDC Alliance’s Nelson Chamisa.
“I don’t think that there will be any settlement outside the Political Actors Dialogue.
“The government and the ruling Zanu PF will tell the ANC delegation that the starting point is that we have Polad in place, and we know that for the MDC Alliance, that platform is a non-starter,” Masunungure told the Daily News.
“The positions are actually hardening instead of softening … it is going to be very difficult … to engage in any meaningful fact-finding while also trying not to be seen as going beyond what has been set.
“This party-to-party engagement will likely be about combating the situation so that the ruling party (Zanu PF) can retain power.
“The government has been under increasing pressure from international players — including the EU (European Union) and the USA — and these players have also been calling on South Africa to do something about Zimbabwe’s situation.
“At most what we will see is the delegation getting a concession from the ruling party and not anything that is near what civil society or the international community are demanding,” Masunungure further told the Daily News.
All this comes as South African President Cyril Ramaphosa has been pressing to for an end to Zimbabwe’s long-standing challenges — which were recently brought to the fore again after authorities were accused by the opposition and pro-democracy groups of gross human rights violations.
Last week, the South African leader confirmed that he would do everything in his power to assist Zimbabwe end its problems, which had put a huge strain on Pretoria — Harare’s biggest trading partner.
“ANC secretary general Ace Magashule will lead a delegation to engage Zanu PF with the intention to develop a fuller understanding of the situation in Zimbabwe and to determine how the government and the ANC can assist.
“It was also agreed that the ANC must speak to all parties and stakeholders as well,” he said.
Ramaphosa also revealed then that Mnangagwa had recently expressed a desire that the ANC meets with the Zanu PF politburo.
“In my discussions with President Mnangagwa, he informed me that their politburo wanted and desired to be in conversation with the ANC to discuss the situation much more fully in Zimbabwe, and we agreed that this delegation must now proceed.
“The NEC (the ANC’s national executive committee) expressed a deep desire that when they get there they should have an opportunity of meeting other stakeholders in Zimbabwe.
“Clearly, it is important that we get as broad a view of what is happening in Zimbabwe as we possibly can,” Ramaphosa added.