At the same time, Mnangagwa also hailed his party’s engagement with South Africa’s ruling African National Congress (ANC) – which recently dispatched a high-powered delegation to Harare for talks aimed at assisting Zimbabwe as its political and economic crises deepen.
All this comes as calls for much-needed national dialogue have now reached a crescendo, amid the determined efforts by South Africa to help end Zimbabwe’s recurrent problems. Addressing the Zanu-PF politburo yesterday, Mnangagwa repeated his calls for dialogue among Zimbabweans, to 2engender local peace.
“This morning I was pleased to receive a delegation from the Zimbabwe Heads of Christian Denominations which comprised the leadership of the Evangelical Fellowship of Zimbabwe, Catholic bishops, Zimbabwe Council of Churches and the indigenous churches.
“Dialogue must be encouraged throughout all inceptions of our society in the spirit of constructive engagement, among others.
“This is the culture of the second republic, of national building … peace… harmony … unity and love as we develop the Zimbabwe we love,” Mnangagwa said.
The meeting with clerics, especially the Catholic bishops, came after they issued sharp criticism of the government’s handling of the foiled July 31 mass protests. In particular, the Catholic bishops’ letter in which they said “the march is not ended”, was not received well by the government – which issued a strong warning against clerics dabbling in politics.
In an address to the Zanu-PF politburo last month, Mnangagwa said the ruling party had generally always enjoyed cordial relations with the Church, dating back to the years of Zimbabwe’s liberation struggle.
“However, it is most unfortunate when men of cloth begin to use the pulpit to advance a nefarious agenda for detractors of our country. Those who want to enter the political realm are welcome to do so.
“They must come out and form political parties. As Zanu-PF, we are ready for the 2023 elections. We are a people’s party, a party that believes in unity, love, peace and in championing development.
“We fought for the empowerment of our people. Zanu-PF is a party that fought for democracy, upholds constitutionalism and the rule of law. Those that choose otherwise will be exposed and rejected,” Mnangagwa said.
In their stinging letter, the Catholic bishops also accused the government of carrying out human rights abuses and instilling fear among the populace. They said the country was suffering from “a multi-layered crisis” – including economic collapse, deepening poverty, corruption and human rights abuses.
“Fear runs down the spine of many of our people today. The crackdown on dissent is unprecedented. Is this the Zimbabwe we want? To have a different opinion does not mean to be an enemy,” they said.
All this came as the government was accused of launching a brutal crackdown against the organisers of the thwarted July 31 mass protests. Rights groups later claimed that dozens of opposition figures and activists had been tortured and assaulted in a retributive exercise by suspected State security agents.
On its part, the government refuted the allegations – claiming instead that the opposition is working with foreigners to destabilise the country.
Yesterday, Mnangagwa heaped praise on the clerics despite them having been part of various groups which criticised his administration and also called for him to hold much-needed national talks with the opposition and other key stakeholders.
During his address to the politburo yesterday, Mnangagwa hailed the ANC for its recent visit. “The party (Zanu-PF) received a delegation from our sister party, the ANC and as we continue as former liberation movements to show experiences and strategies in view of the on-going onslaught by our detractors and neo-colonialist, solidarity and exchanges must be strengthened across all the leagues of our parties.
“As I explained before, the truth must be told that presidential envoys must remain presidential envoys from one president to another.
“Party envoys must remain party envoys from one party to another. Those who dream otherwise are allowed in democracy to dream,” Mnangagwa said in a clear dig at the opposition that hopes to meet both President Cyril Ramaphosa’s envoys and the ANC.
This comes as the ANC this week also praised Zanu-PF for allowing it to meet with the opposition and civil society groups in future – a decision which it described as “constructive”.
Ramaphosa, apart from sending the ANC delegation to Zimbabwe, has also appointed his own special envoys who met Mnangagwa in the capital last month, as part of South Africa’s push to help its neighbour to emerge from its long-standing crises. Earlier this month, Mnangagwa also said the country’s deepening challenges required unity of purpose among all Zimbabweans to mitigate them.
Speaking at a meeting of the Political Actors Dialogue (Polad), he said the door remained open for MDC Alliance leader Nelson Chamisa and others who had snubbed the platform to join him there and work together to deal with Zimbabwe’s problems.
“I wish to unequivocally state that there is no crisis in Zimbabwe as elections were held in July 2018 and a winner was declared in terms of the country’s Constitution.
“All contestants were invited to join this dialogue in the national interest. The door is still open for those outside … Let me say the challenges facing our country call for continued unity of purpose across the political divide.
“Your continued commitment to the call to serve the country is acknowledged and will surely result in making our country great,” Mnangagwa said, emphasising that all dialogue would be held under the auspices of Polad.