EMBATTLED President Emmerson Mnangagwa has called for dialogue involving the country’s main political actors, church and leaders of civic groups to find a lasting solution to the country’s deteriorating economic and human rights situation.
BY XOLISANI NCUBE/EVERSON MUSHAVA
Mnangagwa, who jetted into the country late Monday night after being forced to cancel his recent roam in Europe, said he was ready for discourse to solve the country’s crisis and ensure stability.
In a tweet, Mnangagwa said it was time to talk and resolve the economic crisis – months after he and his Zanu PF party had declared that they were not interested in dialoguing with election losers.
“I invite leaders of all political parties as well as religious and civil leaders to set aside our differences and come together. What unites us is stronger than what could divide us. Let’s begin a national dialogue. Let’s put the economy first, let’s put the people first,” Mnangagwa said.
But opposition MDC leader Nelson Chamisa, who insists he was robbed of his victory in last year’s presidential elections, yesterday said genuine dialogue could only begin after Mnangagwa has stopped persecution of civilians by State security agents. Chamisa also demanded unconditional release of hundreds of his supporters, including MDC MPs who were arrested in connection with last week’s protests against fuel price hikes.
The protests, which later turned violent, were triggered by a 150% fuel price hikes announced by Mnangagwa shortly before his foreign trip, a decision the Zanu PF leader has justified as tough, but necessary.
The violent protests led to the death of at least 12 people, while 78 others were hospitalised for gunshot injuries as State security agents descended on the protesters.
Chamisa said he has always been ready for dialogue with Mnangagwa, adding that the talks should be preceded by the release of “all prisoners of conscience and political detainees whose rights continue to be violated”.
“When people die, we come together and mourn together. We console the bereaved and show compassion. Leaders console, comfort and apologise for wrongs that they have done. It is not the time for a catalogue of excuses, explanations or justifications. We must show respect to Zimbabweans.”
He said the MDC had long offered a hand to resolve the crisis.
“Regrettably, this hand has been spurned and mocked. It is sad that some seem to have reluctantly come to this realisation following the loss of lives. It doesn’t have to be that way, but such is the price of arrogance,” Chamisa said
“We continue to mourn our lost relatives and empathise with the wounded and displaced fellow citizens. Our solution to the crisis requires sincerity, honesty and compassion for those we lead. It is not about lofty words or wordplay, unsupported by conduct on the ground.”
Mnangagwa promised to investigate the conduct of security forces involved in last week’s fatal shootings, but opposition parties dismissed his remarks as “mere political grandstanding”.
“Likewise, violence or misconduct by our security forces is unacceptable and a betrayal of the new Zimbabwe. Chaos and insubordination will not be tolerated. Misconduct will be investigated. If required, heads will roll,” Mnangagwa said.
Both Mnangagwa and Chamisa have previously publicly expressed a willingness to close ranks, but remained deeply entrenched in their hardline party positions despite offers by church organisations to broker the talks.