OPPOSITION leader Douglas Mwonzora has now appointed a formal MDC committee to work on a strategy to engage the ruling Zanu PF and other key stakeholders in the country, as his push for all-inclusive national dialogue moves a gear up.
The Daily News was informed yesterday that when the main opposition’s standing committee met virtually on Wednesday, a six-member committee led by the party’s secretary-general and former deputy Labour minister in the inclusive government, Paurina Mpariwa, was set up to examine strategic options for the much-talked about national dialogue.
At the same time, MDC spokesperson Witness Dube has once again reiterated the party’s commitment to inclusive national dialogue.
“Dialogue must be inclusive, genuine and unconditional. To that end, a committee to look at the dialogue strategy, as well as the main issues for the dialogue has been set up,” he said.
While Dube did not divulge the members of the committee, a national standing committee member who had spoken to the Daily News earlier said former Economic Planning minister and MDC treasurer general, Tapiwa Mashakada; as well as his deputy Chief Ndlovu; deputy national chairperson Giles Mutseyekwa and Masvingo senator Tichinani Mavetera are among the members of the committee.
The Daily News is also reliably informed that the party’s former interim leader, Thokozani Khupe — who has not yet officially taken up her new role as the MDC’s vice president — is slated to be the committee’s sixth member.
“Their mandate is to identify concessions that the party intends to extract from the dialogue, not for itself only, but for the generality of Zimbabweans, as well as those it is prepared to sacrifice inorder to get what it wants.
“The committee will also examine specific issues upon which the dialogue will be premised as well as the specific position of the party on certain things.
“After it is done, the committee will report to the president and ultimately to the national council before formally approaching Zanu PF and other stakeholders,” the senior party official said.
Meanwhile, the dialogue committee members are set to be officially announced tomorrow, after ratification by the MDC’s national council.
This comes as many of Zimbabwe’s top clerics are scheduled to meet next week, in a bid to help kick-start the much-talked about national dialogue involving President Emmerson Mnangagwa, the opposition and other key stakeholders.
Speaking to the Daily News on Wednesday, the executive secretary of the Zimbabwe Heads of Christian Denominations (ZHOCD), Kenneth Mtata, confirmed the planned meeting — which will also work out the modalities for stakeholder negotiations.
This comes after Mnangagwa, Mwonzora and MDC Alliance leader Nelson Chamisa recently signalled their preparedness to end Zimbabwe’s toxic politics of the past two decades, in the interests of the country and its long-suffering citizens.
Mtata said after their crucial meeting, the clerics converging under the ZHOCD banner would also seek to involve the regional Sadc bloc in a bid to nudge Mnangagwa and the opposition to work together.
“The Zimbabwe Heads of Christian Denominations executive is meeting next week, on a date yet to be agreed on, and the issue of dialogue and the possibility of engaging Sadc are high on the agenda in view of the prevailing political climate in the country.
“The meeting will discuss how, as the Church, we can go about ensuring that the talks become a reality, rather than mere talk.
“This is because the position of the Church has not changed since we brought up this idea way back in 2016 … The challenges facing the country can only be resolved through a broad-based national dialogue.
“While I cannot preempt what will come out before the meeting has been held, we will have a definitive position next week after the ZHOCD executive meeting,” Mtata told the Daily News.
ZHOCD is made up of the leaders of most of the influential churches in the country, which include the Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops’ Conference (ZCBC), the Zimbabwe Council of Churches (ZCC) and the Evangelical Fellowship of Zimbabwe (EFZ).
On its part, the ZCBC said in addition to being part of the ZHOCD initiative, it was also working on a separate process to help thaw the frosty relations between Mnangagwa and Chamisa — which stemmed from the disputed July 2018 presidential election.
“We have been working on bridging the gap between President Mnangagwa and Chamisa. We have, however, not been able to do much as of now because of the Covid-19 pandemic and its attendant restrictions on meetings.
“Given this reality (the parties’ latest apparent willingness to talk), we will probably have to ramp up our engagement through online forums,” ZCBC secretary-general, Frederick Chiromba, told the Daily News.
This comes after the outspoken leader of the Zimbabwe Divine Destiny church, Bishop Ancelimo Magaya, exhorted his colleagues earlier this week to utilise the thawing of relations between Mnangagwa and the opposition to push for national dialogue.
“The fact that political parties are warming up to the idea that no transition can be achieved without dialogue is welcome.
“Zimbabwe Heads of Christian Denominations has since last year been pushing for dialogue and has even met some of the political leaders, including President Emmerson Mnangagwa.
“While we have not been able to make headway in that direction, I can confidently say that the Church, given the latest indications, will be spurred into action and is going to take up the initiative through the ZHOCD.
“We are sure this will succeed as long as there is political will,” Magaya said.
“We emphasise that the talks must, however, not be limited to political players, but must include the people.
“We have had dialogues before involving Zanu and Zapu, MDC and Zanu PF which had their successes, but were short-lived because they did not involve the people … which are partly why we are here today,” he added.
Before this, analysts had suggested that the clergy would most likely be acceptable as mediators for the talks, if the leaders of the ruling Zanu PF and the MDC were not currently speaking in forked tongues on the urgent need for dialogue.
University of Zimbabwe political scientist, Eldred Masunungure, was among the analysts who told the Daily News earlier this week that the Church needed to step in again to engage all key local stakeholders, as well as Sadc to kick-start the talks.
“It is encouraging that the protagonists are showing signs of willingness to engage. So, a combined effort of the Church and Sadc taking the lead in bringing the relevant parties to sit down should see us through as a country.
“The Church should initiate the talks because someone has to take the lead in shepherding the dialogue.
“They must approach the protagonists, as well as the Sadc region to set up the parameters for the talks, because on its own the Church may not have the necessary gravitas to tackle political organisations.
“We only hope that Zanu PF and the two MDCs are not speaking in forked tongues and have a genuine appetite for the talks,” Masunungure told the Daily News.
Stephen Chan, a professor of World Politics at the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies, said the much-discussed talks could be set in motion by an ice-breaking meeting involving Mnangagwa, Mwonzora and Chamisa on their own.
“Given conditions in Zimbabwe, dialogue is the only sensible way forward, but both MDC factions need to be involved and the dialogue needs to be transparent and even-handed.
“Having said that, formal talks might well be beneficially preceded by an informal meeting between the ‘Big Three’ — Mnangagwa, Chamisa and Mwonzora — something like a Kariba Houseboat meeting of the sort once brokered by South Africa.
“In short, an ‘ice-breaker’ sort of meeting is required. The very early talks to end Apartheid in South Africa were exactly of this sort of informal, ice-breaking and confidential nature,” Chan told the Daily News earlier this week.
“No one says anything in public afterwards, except to announce that a formal process of dialogue will begin. And, yes, there is no reason why the Church should not act as hosts for a Kariba Houseboat Mark Two,” he added.