Long walk to GNU

Guest Column: Learnmore Zuze

ONE thing is apparently undeniable about the Zimbabwean situation; the economic paralysis that began soon after the disputed presidential elections of July last year has morphed into a threatening crisis. It kicked off with slight fuel price increases, whose gradual progression led to a proportional hike in the costs of other goods.

The anarchical state of things moved to a higher state, leading to a wave of protests that saw hundreds of people arrested, especially after incidents of destruction and burning of property earlier this year. The 150% price increases in fuel announced by President Emmerson Mnangagwa himself early this year ignited violent scenes in the capital. Since then, painful, long and winding fuel queues have become a permanent feature of Zimbabwean life. Since then, prices have continued to shoot through the roof every given month.

Health workers have constantly gone on strike and continue threatening to do so. Teachers have perennially been at loggerheads with the government. The civil service in general remains disgruntled and a demotivated lot. It would be an outright lie that all is well within the borders of Zimbabwe.

The dishevelled state of affairs in Zimbabwe has naturally led to calls for a government of national unity across the political spectrum although very little has been achieved in the way of national talks. The dialogue that is in motion has been spurned by the major opposition party led by Nelson Chamisa, leaving the insignificant opposition parties to dialogue with Zanu PF.

The clear result has been stagnation and Zimbabwe, as a country, remains stuck in a mental rut. While both the incumbent President and opposition leader Chamisa have at least verbally made statements to an end of any government of national unity, reality on the ground is a living testament of political stagnation which is feeding a long and growing economic crisis.

It is unfathomable how, despite calls for dialogue by both leaders, there is nothing that really materialises in the direction of the much-hyped national talks. It is not misplaced to postulate that there isn’t much commitment except political grandstanding towards serious national talks that would bring Zimbabwe out of its current political quagmire.

The delta between Mnangagwa’s Zanu PF and Chamisa’s MDC seems so colossal that there may be no real prospects of a meaningful dialogue in the near future. In fact, the gulf between the two chief political parties appears larger that the rift that existed between former President Robert Mugabe and his then nemesis, Morgan Tsvangirai.

At least the predecessors of both parties had the horse sense to realise that the country needed to move forward and that personal differences mattered little. Those who knew Mugabe at the height of his political prowess were dumbfounded how the man could engage the opposition in talks as he did in 2009, leading to a GNU.

Mugabe, who spitted venom against the opposition and branded it a puppet organisation had to come to the realisation of the necessity to liaise with the opposition. Tsvangirai, with a massive support base then, having won the first round of elections in 2008, again saw the necessity of coming to the table with Mugabe, widely branded as a despot during his time in office.

A national unity government was born in the unlikeliest of circumstances and through polar opposite ideologies. For the first time in decades of suffering, the Zimbabwean worker appreciated the value of work.

A salary made sense and prices of basic commodities maintained the same price for months on end. It made sense to have savings in the bank. The dignity of citizens was temporarily restored.

But today, after last year’s disputed elections, it is becoming clear by the passage of each day that the walk to a government of national unity may be a long and arduous one. Indeed, everything points to the fact that Zimbabwe may witness more months of instability and pain.

The current crop of Zanu PF and MDC supporters are ever in election mode. It is highly unlikely that common ground can be found. A clear example of the deadly rift between the two was the incomprehensible failure by MDC supporters to at least appreciate the help rendered by Mnangagwa at the memorial service held for Tsvangirai in Buhera last week.

Tsvangirai’s son, Edwin, was heckled and embarrassed for his remarks that encouraged a national unity government to ameliorate the suffering of Zimbabweans. Aside from the perpetual election mind of party supporters, Chamisa remains headstrong that Mnangagwa is an illegitimate President. This is largely the position of the opposition which influenced the booing of Tsvangirai’s son as he attempted to preach unity.

The present acrimony between the two parties points to the continued suffering of Zimbabweans. The walk to a GNU may presently be a long and onerous one. It’s high time the main political leaders came out of their hardline positions to allow national progress.

 Learnmore Zuze is a legal officer and writes in his personal capacity.

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