Why do talks spook some?

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THIS past weekend, the Daily News On Sunday led its edition with a rather innocuous story on hopes for national dialogue to help resolve Zimbabwe’s decades-long political and economic crises.

Boy, did the story get some people’s goat, especially the usual cast of know-it-alls — among them a few feather-brained academics and pseudo journalists.

To be clear, people disagree all the time. But surely something is terribly wrong when a story that advocates peace, inclusiveness, nation-building and progress stirs this amount of negative emotion among people who fashion themselves as “progressives” and “democrats”.

But then again, this is Zimbabwe — where political conversations have become unnecessarily and exceedingly challenging with each passing year over the past two decades.

Indeed, it is a serious indictment of the nation and a sad reality of the current times that many fellow citizens who would like to be seen as educated and knowledgeable are rabidly intolerant to any opposing views — while still blissfully believing that their Taliban outlooks represent modernity.

Unfortunately, as a result, necessary compromise and consensus to foster national development has become more difficult to attain in this climate, where people who hold different views are treated as enemies.

All sane Zimbabweans, be they supporters of the ruling Zanu PF, or of the opposition, are alive to the destructive results of this culture.

In this regard, and the reprehensible poison rants of social media trolls notwithstanding, we at the Daily News firmly believe that political dialogue has never been more necessary and urgent in Zimbabwe — to achieve practical and peaceful solutions to the country’s long-standing problems.

Among other things, in this light, the role of national dialogue would be to strengthen the legitimacy of national institutions by building consensus on and trust in their proper functioning, and that of the whole society.

Anyone who thinks that this would, in any way, be a bad thing is, frankly, a fool.

National dialogue, by its nature, is an inclusive process which entails learning, not just talking.

If all of the country’s key stakeholders commit to national talks, as they should, and also participate in them honestly, the process will not just be about politicians sitting around a table, but about all citizens changing the way they talk to, think about, communicate with, and treat one another.

When this happens, such dialogue can facilitate Zimbabwe’s recovery from its myriad crises, as was seen after the inauguration of the stability-inducing 2009 government of national unity.

After two decades of national bleeding and the country lurching from one crisis to the next, surely this is a good thing that must be supported by all citizens.

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