Wither ED, Chamisa talks

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THERE is an old African saying that “when elephants fight it is the grass that suffers” and it rings true for penury-weary Zimbabweans who have been counting on talks between President Emmerson Mnangagwa and opposition leader Nelson Chamisa to break the political and economic logjam.

Although both Mnangagwa and Chamisa have expressed willingness to talk neither have walked the talk, consequently, efforts by the regional body Sadc, which in December last year dispatched former South African president Thabo Mbeki to bring the two adversaries to the table, have thus far bore nothing.

Like Sadc, the church also tried to cajole the main political protagonists to put the people first and their interests behind, but met a brick-wall from the politicians who now stand accused by political observers of being selfish and myopic.

According to the World Bank, Zimbabwe’s economy is expected to have contracted by 7,6 percent this year with prospects for growth dim due to a number of factors, such as endemic corruption and failure to attract foreign direct investment.

A deadly cocktail of high unemployment that stands at over 90 percent, the devastating effects of a drought that has left more than 5,7 million people exposed to extreme poverty and inflation that stands over 500 percent only means that for nostalgic Zimbabweans the past where a unity governance brought some stability to the economy is more ideal.

But yet, the politicians are pulling in different directions — something that observers say exposes the gulf between the haves and have-nots in Zimbabwe.

Last December wistful Zimbabweans dared to dream when Mbeki, the man who brokered the unity government between Zanu PF and MDC during 2008-2013 which brought some modicum of economic stability, job creation and political stability, tried to bring Chamisa and Mnangagwa together.

But he may never come back as hardliners in Zanu PF have since slammed and bolted the doors.
Political analyst Maxwell Saungweme told the Daily News on Sunday that egos instead of practical consideration for the suffering of the broad masses have stymied any chances of Mnangagwa and Chamisa meeting.

“Mnangagwa and Chamisa are not Zimbabwe, but two privileged people who have access to resources and are detached from reality the multitudes of Zimbabwe reeling in penury and poverty are. The two are not Zimbabwe, but part of the problem, if not the problem,” Saungweme said.

A brief history perhaps: After coming to power in controversial elections in 2018, a magnanimous Mnangagwa invited his bitter political rival and opposition Chamisa to join him in building a new Zimbabwe, however, more than a year after the polls the two leaders are yet to meet.

Mnangagwa, who succeeded the late Robert Mugabe who had been deposed through a coup in November 2017, portrayed himself as a reformer and a modern leader who was prepared to embrace foes and friends alike, including those in the opposition.

However, Chamisa who has of late been the most desperate of the two political protagonists to seek political engagement, initially declined to recognise Mnangagwa’s legitimacy, an issue seen as a stumbling block to effective engagement.

Chamisa has made concessions over the past months, the issue of legitimacy is no longer a precondition for dialogue, but a condition that should be discussed, he is amenable to having an internal mediator as long as that does not mean him joining the Political Actors Dialogue (Polad), a brainchild of Mnangagwa where fringe political parties meet periodically with the Zanu PF leader.

Hardliners in Mnangagwa’s Zanu PF have said Chamisa “can stew in his confusion all he wants unless if he sees light and joins Polad”, but professor of World Politics at the London School of Oriental and African Studies Steven Chan said dialogue should reflect the outcome of the 2018 polls.

In 2018, Mnangagwa polled a little more than 50 percent of the total vote, while Chamisa had 44 percent (he disputes the figure) and the smaller political parties, who are part to Polad, had less than two percent.

“The Polad platform is flawed. Talks should involve the two principal parties and their leaders. Leaders of very minor parties could only be a distraction and the EU (European Union) sees their inclusion as intended deliberately to distract while impersonating open dialogue,” said Chan.

Chan also chastised Chamisa for refusing to recognise Mnangagwa at a time when his legislators are beneficiaries of trinkets doled by the government of the day.

“Chamisa cannot ask to talk and at the same time refuse to recognise the person to whom he wishes to talk.
“But refusal to recognise Mnangagwa does not in any way hinder his and Zanu PF’s continued rule in Zimbabwe.
“It’s a hard decision for Chamisa, but a temporary suspension of MDC policy might be well-advised if talks have the prospect of some breakthrough.

“Having said that, it may be that breakthrough is on no-one’s agenda.

“Offering Chamisa a Cabinet post, or even some rerun of the grand coalition idea, won’t solve anything without greater plurality in the securitised apparatus that stands behind Zanu PF.

“That backdrop is Chamisa’s real problem,” said Chan.

While Mnangagwa through his spokesperson George Charamba has rejected the mediation of Mbeki as sought by Chamisa, Chan said such a hardliner stance is ill-advised and could further isolate Zimbabwe.

“Zanu PF was itself ill-advised in rejecting Mbeki’s intervention. It may be Mbeki had no new ideas, but his being chairperson of talks involving Mnangagwa and Chamisa on, let us suggest, neutral territory — Geneva, Qatar, Istanbul, or some such — might lead to at least some sense of partial progress.

“Some Sadc involvement is in fact required as the outside world would watch very closely any Sadc support for change in Zimbabwe.

“Without the sense of some change and some progress, there will not be any significant reinvestment. Zimbabweans know what that means,” said Chan.

On the other hand political analysts Rashweat Mukundu said Mnangagwa would lose nothing by engaging Chamisa.

“Mnangagwa has a national responsibility to resolve Zimbabwe’s long standing political crisis and he loses nothing by reaching out to Chamisa rather than capitulation, this gesture will raise his political stock and put him in the league of progressive African leaders.

“I think the South Africans as represented by Mbeki are increasingly frustrated with Zimbabwe and will nudge the two to resolve their issues.

“The dialogue does not have to centre on the political differences but on the common national interest issues and what the two need to do to prepare for future elections and more importantly how to resolve the current economic and social crisis.

“What Zimbabwe needs now is common purpose from its leaders and only Chamisa and ED can bring that through dialogue.

“The regional community must nudge the two towards this process.

“ED does not need Chamisa endorsement to talk to Chamisa as he is sitting at State House as president and what more does he want,” said Mukundu.

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