This comes as life for ordinary citizens is worsening by the day, with the hapless Zimbabwe dollar crashing against major global currencies – setting off a fresh wave of price increases of basic goods.
Political analysts who spoke to the Daily News yesterday implored President Emmerson Mnangagwa to take the initiative to launch national dialogue to help end the country’s myriad challenges which they say could soon trigger civil unrest among fed-up Zimbabweans.
Analyst Rashweat Mukundu said Zimbabwe had now reached a stage where it could not move forward without political dialogue.
“Political dialogue will put an end to the political risk that the country carries and ensure that the country’s leaders speak from the same script on national developmental issues, even as they may differ on strategy.
“Zimbabwe is in a perilous economic crisis and needs international assistance, not only for Covid-19, but also for a comprehensive economic package.
“The current Zimbabwe crisis will also likely result in renewed protests as many families struggle to make ends meet.
“It’s in the interests of Zanu-PF and Mnangagwa that stability be brought back by engaging the country’s main opposition and agreeing on a reform package from which the two main political leaders can speak,” Mukundu said.
Professor of World Politics at the London School of Oriental and African Studies, Stephen Chan, said the indefinite extension of the current national lockdown was “a sign” that authorities were wary of “simmering tensions” in the country.
“Part of the indefinite extension of lockdown is genuinely to do with the coronavirus, but part is also due to maintaining social control as the economy continues to crumble.
“The call for engagement from the West does have a humanitarian component. The suffering of Zimbabwean people brings no benefit to the West.
“But President Mnangagwa seems to have no real capacity for pragmatism. There are ways of meeting the West halfway in terms of reform,” Chan told the Daily News.
“Either he is himself at fault for a lack of strategic imagination, or he is very badly advised. Mnangagwa has nothing to fear from the MDC right now. It’s far too busy tearing itself apart,” he added.
On his part, rights lawyer Dewa Mavhinga also said Mnangagwa needed to act quickly on the country’s worsening crises.
“Zimbabwe is sharply divided, highly polarised and needs healing that comes with an inclusive national dialogue that leads to finding common ground.
“Political dialogue is essential for presenting a collective national approach where all Zimbabweans are bound together by values of transparency, accountability, respect for the rule of law and human rights.
“This will help build public confidence and international trust in the government which is currently absent as Zimbabwe is practically viewed as a pariah State characterised by rampant corruption, widespread cases of torture, rape and abductions,” Mavhinga said.
Respected University of Zimbabwe political science lecturer, Eldred Masunungure, also warned that time was running out for Mnangagwa and Zanu-PF to resolve the country’s long running problems.
“The president has been in office for two years and he has not been able to find a viable political formula that can replace national dialogue.
“National dialogue is not something which must be called for by the European Union (EU) or the United States (US), it is something that should originate internally.
“It should not be an episode, it must be part of the national culture. ED has been fumbling for a substitute for national dialogue, but nothing has helped,” Masunungure told the Daily News.
“He tried the ‘Zimbabwe is open for business’ mantra, ‘I am a listening president’ mantra and the five-point plan, but all of them have not yielded any results.
“For most Zimbabweans, it’s not just the EU or the US, the domestic community is yearning for that dialogue. It is an imperative for the country to move forward,” Masunungure added.
“We as Zimbabweans should be at the forefront of calling for what the EU and US are calling for. And this should be supported by all Zimbabweans, including the media and civil society organisations.
“Civil unrest has been brewing for a while. Covid-19 probably deferred the protests after public gatherings were made illegal,” he said further.
“It is not coincidental that the lockdown was extended indefinitely. A lockdown has to have a timeframe, but this one is likely aimed at stopping dissent.
“We really have an explosive situation. When you have all the ingredients, it only needs a trigger to set the building on fire. The ingredients are accumulating,” Masunungure also said.
This comes as Zimbabwe is in the middle of a gigantic economic crisis which is stirring rising anger against the government.
The worsening economic and political crises also come as Zimbabwe is fighting the double whammy of the deadly effects of the global coronavirus pandemic and the regional drought that has left millions of people in the country facing starvation.
Despite showing early signs of efforts to turn around the economy, which had suffered from years of corruption and mismanagement under the previous ruinous rule of the late former president Robert Mugabe, Mnangagwa and his lieutenants are now finding the going very tough.
At the weekend, prices of basic consumer goods in the country went up sharply – on the back of the collapsing Zimbabwe dollar.
The Zim dollar was prematurely and ill-advisedly brought back last year by under-pressure Finance minister Mthuli Ncube – against the advice of economists and many people in government.
As Zimbabwe plunges deeper into turmoil, Western powers have reiterated the need for political dialogue – which they say is the only panacea to the country’s growing problems.
In a sign which sums up Zimbabwe’s worsening rot, the country is now once again experiencing acute fuel shortages despite the commodity being in abundant supply worldwide.
The shortages also come as international oil prices have fallen to record low levels.