No prospects of meaningful dialogue taking place in Zimbabwe

guest column:Learnmore Zuze

It’s all a farce; no dialogue will be taking place in Zimbabwe any time soon. A peep into history post-Robert Mugabe’s reign amply proves that Zimbabwe is far from the promised land.
Even recent utterances by Information deputy minister Energy Mutodi that Zanu PF was not interested in dialogue with MDC just but confirm the prevailing mindset in the political camps that we could reach 2023 still talking about “talks”.

Statements prejudicial to the formation of a national unity transition are getting louder.

The economic paralysis that began soon after the disputed presidential elections of July 2018 has morphed into a monumental crisis. It kicked off with slight increases in fuel prices whose gradual progression led to a proportional hike in the costs of other goods.

The anarchical state of things moved to a higher scale, leading to a wave of protests that saw hundreds of people arrested especially after incidents of destruction and burning of property earlier last year. The 150% increase in the price of fuel announced by President Emmerson Mnangagwa in January 2019 ignited violent scenes in the capital.

Since then, painful, long and winding fuel queues have become a permanent feature of Zimbabwean life. 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 to say that all is well within the borders of Zimbabwe.

The disorderly 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 by way of national talks. In fact, statements injurious to the formation of a government of national unity continue to be churned out.

The dialogue that began 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 Emmerson Mnangagwa and opposition leader Chamisa have at least made statements for the need of a government of national unity, reality on the ground is living testimony of political stagnation which is feeding a long 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 take 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 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 late predecessors of both leaders had the 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 as to how the man could engage the opposition in talks as he did in 2009, leading to a government of national unity (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.

On the other hand, 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 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 workers appreciated the value of work. The dignity of citizens was temporarily restored.

But today, after the 2018 disputed elections, it is becoming clear by the passage of each day that a government of national unity may be impossible. 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 an election mode. It is highly unlikely that common ground can be found.

A clear example of the deadly rift between the two is the persistence in politicians saying things that are prejudicial to the formation of a GNU. Aside from the perpetual election mode of party supporters, opposition leader Nelson Chamisa remains headstrong that Mnangagwa is an illegitimate president.

This is largely the position of the opposition which even at one time influenced the booing of those who may have wanted to recognise Mnangagwa’s presidency. The present acrimony between the two parties points to the continued suffering of Zimbabweans. It’s high time the main political leaders come out of their hardline positions to allow national progress.

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