HARARE – On Friday, President Emmerson Mnangagwa visited opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai who has been battling colon cancer since 2016.
Mnangagwa’s statesmanship shone through his unprecedented visit to the ailing Tsvangirai.
As noted by one analyst in our sister daily, the fact that he was with his deputy also shows that retired general Constantino Chiwenga too is moving in to assume the status of a national leader.
So kudos to both of them, they have shown maturity and that is something that should be commended. There is a great significance of handshake diplomacy.
It’s tough to resist the politics of “us versus them” that had become the stock-in-trade of Mnangagwa’s predecessor, toppled despot Robert Mugabe.
Mnangagwa’s visit and televised handshake with Tsvangirai was historic because it came after years of hostility between the two political sides. Any sign of amicability between the leading contenders in this year’s key election is important.
It becomes more so when it is a shared gesture. That the president chose Tsvangirai’s residence as the venue of the meeting exemplifies the trust between the two of them.
Yet, it would be premature to expect the presidential handshake to result in any immediate and concrete evolution of cross-strait relations. Mnangagwa must open the door to talk electoral reforms to ensure conditions for free and fair elections. A legitimate outcome is an essential perquisite for recovery.
It is not improbable that the logic of detente inaugurated by Mnangagwa will temper the hostilities between the ruling party and the opposition during this election season. But that remains to be seen.
We hope Friday’s meeting pushes back the possibility of a violent 2018 election. As a nation, we must abandon name-calling, finger-pointing and this habitual label and condemn disposition as natural currency in the transaction of politics in Zimbabwe. Hate language must be jettisoned from our political discourse and leadership vocabulary.
As pointed out by the MDC vice president Nelson Chamisa, we must stop these “pasi nanhingi,” “Roverai pasi ,hezvoko bwaa’’ politics. These connote violence. These are anti-peace slogans. We call for robust national debate on critical issues. If Zimbabweans must make a good choice in voting the country’s next president, they must be well informed and have a fair understanding of the platform the candidates are campaigning on.
It is for this reason that we call for presidential debates as an integral part of strengthening our democracy and the electoral process.
Zimbabwe can move past the toxic politics of the Mugabe era — but it won’t be easy.