Protest leaders call for dialogue…as tension remains palpably high in Zim

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Blessings Mashaya
SENIOR STAFF WRITER
mashayab@dailynews.co.zw

IN A significant change of tactic — amid the ongoing crackdown on dissenting voices in the country by authorities — two prominent personalities linked to the foiled July 31 mass protests are calling for national dialogue to end Zimbabwe’s decades-long political and economic crises.

This comes as several of the organisers of the thwarted mass demonstrations, including the main convenor Jacob

Ngarivhume and daring MDC deputy national chairperson Job “Wiwa” Sikhala, have been arrested over their roles in the failed protests.

Speaking to the Daily News yesterday, expelled former Zanu PF youth leader Godfrey Tsenengamu and the president of the Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (Artuz) Obert Masaraure, said only genuine national dialogue would ease tensions in the country and help to resolve the nation’s myriad challenges.

“It is very unfortunate that authorities have decided to descend heavily on citizens for speaking out. I thought they would engage with citizens and hear out their concerns, but sadly we are being treated like terrorists.

“I think the authorities must reconsider their position on dissenting voices. That is the only sustainable way to address this.

“In the same way that authorities have re-engaged and engaged with the international community and the victims of the Gukurahundi disturbances in order to find common ground, they must also consider engaging with all,” Tsenengamu told the Daily News from his hideout.

The forthright former Zanu PF bigwig — who now leads the anti-corruption pressure group, the Front for Economic Emancipation (FEE) — warned last week that the government still faced a major uprising by fed-up Zimbabweans despite foiling last month’s protests.

He also claimed that President Emmerson Mnangagwa was increasingly under pressure in Zanu PF, where some senior party officials were allegedly no longer backing him.

“All I can say is that everything that has a beginning has an end. Mnangagwa must tread carefully. He must learn from history. The path he has chosen is not right, and I don’t think that it is sustainable.
“Though at some point Ian Smith and (the late former president Robert) Mugabe thought they would stay in power forever, their reigns came to an end.

“Those who lied to Mugabe and gave him a false sense of security abandoned him and he was all by himself, and he died a bitter man,” Tsenengamu told the Daily News then.

“He (Mnangagwa) seems to have forgotten this so quickly. This brutal system that he is using to purge others will be used against him in the same way it almost finished him off in 2017 (at the height of Zanu PF’s factional and succession wars).

“With the bigger part of the world making pronouncements on the situation in our country, while on the other side there is an agitated citizenry, Zanu PF knows that they are sitting on a ticking time bomb.

“They are just putting on a brave face … but they are on the back foot,” Tsenengamu said further.

“What also makes the leadership panic is the way they ascended to power. They are worried of a repeat of the same. They have no peace of mind,” he added.

Since his expulsion from Zanu PF over allegations of corruption that he made against some of the ruling party’s bigwigs, Tsenengamu has become an arch critic of Mnangagwa and his government.

He was among several opposition and pro-democracy activists who were mobilising for the July 31 anti-government protests, which they said were necessary to expose rampant public sector corruption.

Tsenengamu has been in hiding ever since the government arrested Ngarivhume, who has been denied bail thrice over fears that he would rally people for more protests if released.

Last Friday, Sikhala was arrested in Tynwald North, a western suburb of Harare — ending six weeks of evading authorities over his alleged role in the foiled July 31 mass protests.

Meanwhile, Masaraure — who was among those linked to last month’s failed demos — also called for national dialogue yesterday.

“All struggles should culminate into negotiations for parties to find each other. We, however, have to bring all stakeholders to the table. We can’t exclude anyone. We have to come up with a lasting solution.
“We have always sought to engage the government to negotiate better working conditions, among other issues,” Masaraure told the Daily News.

“The government has no appetite to engage, as evidenced by how they have suspended the National Joint Negotiating Council (NJNC) and the Tripartite Negotiating Forum (TNF).
“We have to give them an incentive to come to the table. That incentive is sustained people’s action,” he added.

Along with Sikhala, Tsenengamu and Masaraure, activist Makomborero Haruzivishe, Godfrey Kurauone, MDC youth secretary general Ostallos Siziba, Tajamuka/Sesijikile leader Promise Mkwananzi, former Harare councillor Denford Ngadziore, Allan Moyo, MDC-Alliance youth leader Obey Sithole, former Zanu PF youth leader Jimmy Kunaka, trade unionist Peter Mutasa, Artuz secretary-general Robson Chere and MDC Alliance youth spokesperson Stephen Chuma have also been put on the police wanted list.

Last month, opposition and pro-democracy groups planned to stage mass protests against the worsening political and economic crises, but were stopped by authorities who deployed hordes of security forces throughout the country.

Rights groups have claimed that dozens of opposition figures and activists have been tortured and assaulted in a retributive exercise by suspected security agents.

The government has refuted the allegations — claiming instead that the opposition is working with foreigners to destabilise the country.

The deepening crises have attracted the attention of both South African President Cyril Ramaphosa and the international community.

Recently, Ramaphosa sent special envoys — former South African vice president Baleka Mbete and ex-ministers Sydney Mufamadi and Ngoako Ramatlhodi — to Harare, to meet President Mnangagwa to find ways of assisting Harare find solutions to its problems.

The appointment of the envoys came after authorities were accused of gross human rights violations in the wake of the foiled July 31 protests.

South Africa and its leaders — including former presidents Thabo Mbeki and Jacob Zuma — have in the past successfully mediated in Zimbabwe’s political crises.

A decade ago, both Mbeki and Zuma helped to broker the stability-inducing 2008 government of national unity between former opposition giant Morgan Tsvangirai and former president Robert Mugabe — who are both late — following hotly disputed 2008 presidential elections.

Zuma also assisted in minimising Zimbabwe’s chaotic approach to the equally disputed 2013 national elections.

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