BY BLESSED MHLANGA
RESPECTED Roman Catholic Church cleric Father Fidelis Mukonori has called on President Emmerson Mnangagwa to start talks with MDC leader Nelson Chamisa, joining a growing chorus for inclusive political dialogue to save Zimbabwe’s economy from total collapse.
Father Mukonori, a Jesuit priest who was a close friend to former President Robert Mugabe who died on Friday morning in Singapore, mediated a graceful exit for the former guerrilla leader after the military grabbed power in a coup in November 2017.
“To be a leader is one who agrees to sit down with the others and talk, a leader who is uncompromising is not a leader. Leadership is to compromise. Compromise is not a sign of weakness, (but) it is a sign of strength,” Mukonori told NewsDay at the weekend.
Mukonori said the violence and abductions that have characterised Zimbabwe’s political environment, need to stop.
“God had a clash with the devil, but
God never destroyed the devil, he is still there. You don’t have to destroy your enemy; you don’t have to destroy your political competitor; you don’t have to destroy your business competitor, no! You don’t have to destroy someone who does not belong to your party, no! You collect the positives that these people have, which you realise you don’t have.
“That is what leadership is about. But if you just swing with your jacket and say I am not going to talk to nobody, then nobody will not talk to you and you will never run a country if you don’t talk to nobody. We are the buddies that make Zimbabwe. You don’t go around with pride and pomposity, no; if you do that you are not a leader.”
Mukonori added that because of poverty many had lost self-worth and dignity. “If you look at a person and you say that man is failing to go to hospital because she cannot pay, she cannot buy the drugs, the drugs will be there, but she cannot buy, that husband is failing to be a successful husband because he has not been employed for the last 15 to 20 years, he is embarrassed to be a husband; he is embarrassed to be a father. You listen to that person, you give that person something to do, assist that person to do something that is what, in my view, we mean running a country,” he said.
The cleric said Zimbabwe’s current leadership lacked empathy and common sense.
“My mother used to say don’t laugh or criticise those behind you because, tomorrow it will be you. She said instead help them. She never went to school, but she had a good work ethic, better than some people today who swing with half dozen certificates and degrees and fail to run a country,” he said.
He called on citizens to also play their part in extracting the country from the jaws of collapse.
“It’s not the job of the Head of State, it is the job of you and I, he has to lead us, and we have to follow. If you lead an unleadable nation you have a problem. We have to learn to be led and to learn to be led is not a sign that we are just sheep, we are not sheep we are people.
“But when you lead an intelligent people you have to be sure you talk to people as much as possible, you listen, even to the ones you think are simple no matter how simple you think they are they have something to say, something that is reasonable, something that is sensible,” Father Mukonori said.
“You may be surprised that the people you speak least to are the people who give you the best ideas and factual issues than people who become professional speakers; professional orators whose faces want to appear on TV every day. We have a great country, but we are making ourselves a laughing stock.”
Meanwhile, The Elders, an independent group of global leaders who advocate for peace, justice and human rights met with Mnangagwa, Chamisa and opposition leaders in Harare over the weekend and said only real national dialogue was the way forward for the country.
“The Elders today called on Zimbabwe’s political leaders and all figures in authority to commit to a truly inclusive national dialogue and prioritise the economic and social needs of ordinary citizens over party politics, factionalism and self-interest,” they said in a statement yesterday.
Ireland’s first woman President, Mary Robinson, who chairs the body, lamented the sad state of affairs in the country.
“Last year, I visited Zimbabwe on the cusp of landmark elections to find people determinedly optimistic about the future. Today, that optimism has gone amid a worsening economic crisis, entrenched political polarisation and a culture of fear, paranoia and State violence.
“Yet, I have been heartened by courageous women and church leaders from across society who are meeting to nurture dialogue and re-imagine their country’s future. They offer an example that all Zimbabweans should follow,” she said in the statement.