The leader of the opposition MDC, Nelson Chamisa told former South African President Thabo Mbeki the Zimbabwe military should be part of the dialogue with President Emmerson Mnangagwa as part of moves to rescue the economy.
The Thabo Mbeki Foundation is handling dialogue between Chamisa and Mnangagwa with the support of the South African government, according to a local publication.
Mbeki was in Zimbabwe in December and met Mnangagwa, Chamisa and other fringe political players that make up the Political Actors Dialogue (Polad). Chamisa has refused to join Polad insisting for bilateral talks with Mnangagwa.
Chamisa told Mbeki the military should be involved in the talks. On the eve of the 2002 Presidential election, the military — headed by then Zimbabwe Defence Forces commander Vitalis Zvinavashe — said the presidency was a “straitjacket” and they would no support anyone without liberation war credentials to occupy the office.
This was in apparent reference to then MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai.
The military has not retracted that statement. Linda Maso, South counsellor for political affairs at the South African Embassy in Harare, said Chamisa has raised the issue of the military.
“We understand that Chamisa has raised a lot of matters in the dialogue including the issue of the military during his meeting in South Africa last week with former President Mbeki, but we were not in the meeting in Pretoria since it was a private meeting,” Maso said.
“But we are being briefed by our government in Pretoria to help to facilitate for further meetings in Harare as Mbeki promised to come back to Zimbabwe when he left in December.”
Added Maso: “We are now waiting for further instructions from our government to know when former President Mbeki is coming back for the dialogue to resume.
We saw Chamisa interviews on television in South Africa and also heard his radio interviews and about the dialogue and we are ready to facilitate with the logistics of the dialogue that includes former President Mbeki if he comes back to Zimbabwe.”
But Presidential spokesperson George Charamba dismissed the call by Chamisa to involve the military in the dialogue saying it was unconstitutional.
“He now seeks to introduce the military into the dialogue without realising that he is running foul to the Constitution.
At one level, you can’t be saying security forces must be apolitical, but at the same time you are making them a stakeholder in a political dialogue.”
Charamba said. Chamisa’s spokesperson Nkululeko Sibanda said: ” My principal raised serious matters in his meeting with Mbeki including the matter of the military, but we cannot talk much at the moment as we don’t want megaphone dialogue and the statement shall be made at the appropriate time by the respective leaders through their offices.
I am yet to be briefed on the date when Mbeki will come to the country by my principal.”
Chamisa was in South Africa at the invitation of Mbeki and as a follow up to their meeting in December.
“Chamisa brought to the table matters for discussing including that the military had also to be consulted in the dialogue.
It is a very sensitive and delicate matter that has to be handled in a diplomatic manner and this is a major decision to involve them and there is no part that is willing to comment on anything about it,” said the source.
“We know that the matters are very sensitive and the leaders are now talking about wanting SADC and the AU to also understand the situation.”
Analysts say dialogue between Mnangagwa and Chamisa would halt the economic decline.
Zimbabwe is facing its worst hunger crisis in a decade with nearly 8 million of the population food insecure, according to the World Food Programme.
The UN agency plans to double the number of Zimbabweans it assists up to 4.1m but will require over US$200m in the first half of 2020.
Mbeki was midwife to the inclusive government that ran from 2009 to 2013.
This came after Mbeki secured the Global Political Agreement in which Zanu PF and the two MDC formations agreed to work together after the disputed 2018 elections.