Twenty-one opposition parties embrace Zimbabwe President dialogue overtures

HARARE – Twenty one (21) political parties have embraced the path of dialogue created by President Emmerson Mnangagwa under the political parties dialogue banner to find lasting solutions to the country’s challenges in various sectors.

The party leaders today met with Mnangagwa at State House in Harare for the first step of the historic engagement process and agreed to set up four committees that will come up with the framework for dialogue, the agenda, the implementation and review the processes.

In attendance were NCA leader Professor Lovemore Madhuku, Noah Manyika, Dr Thokozani Khupe, Daniel Shumba, Ambrose Mutinhiri, Brian Mteki, Dr Nkosana Moyo, Elton Mangoma, Lucia Matibenga, among other party leaders.

On the ruling Zanu PF side and government, there was Vice President Kembo Mohadi, Defence Minister Oppah Muchinguri Kashiri, Information Minister Monica Mutsvangwa, State Security Minister Owen Ncube Chief Secretary to the President and Cabinet Dr Misheck Sibanda and his deputy responsible for communications, George Charamba, among others.

Absentees at the dialogue were Nelson Chamisa of the MDC Alliance and Dr Joice Mujuru of the National people’s Party (NPP).

The meeting kicked off with opening remarks from the President, who said this inaugural dialogue should come up with a mechanism to facilitate constant dialogue among all political parties and other interest groups, churches and non-governmental organisations (NGO), in the interest of building the nation.

He also said the meeting was historic as it affirms Zimbabweans’ political maturity and their determination to hold higher the ideals of peace, unity and collaboration for the greater good of the nation.

“We need to unite because individually we are just a drop, but together we become a mighty ocean. It is imperative therefore that we reach out to each other always and resolve differences through peaceful means and dialogue. We should not to allow conflicts to destroy the future of us all. If there is unity of purpose among the leaders, we will be able ignite hope and build self belief among our people. So this dialogue by the political parties should provide a firm foundation upon which Zimbabweans without undue foreign interference can build the Zimbabwe they want. Outsiders can only come in to assist us but it is the Zimbabweans’ sole responsibility to develop their country. I would have wanted to have this meeting much earlier after the election but we did not manage. Some had reservations on who would chair the meeting,” Mnangagwa said.

The President concluded his address by urging the political party leaders to intensify engagement and re-engagement efforts towards the reintegration of Zimbabwe into the family of nations and for the total removal of sanctions against the country through pronouncements and actual engagements.

He also called on them to work on growing the economy creating durable livelihoods and attracting foreign direct investment (FDI).

A clergy man who had been chosen to chair the dialogue was dropped after he turned activist, and the President settled for National Peace and Reconciliation Commission (NPRC) Chairperson, Retired Justice Selo Masole Nare, who moderated the dialogue as it later went into closed doors.

Emerging from the closed door proceedings, party leaders concurred that dialogue is the way to go if Zimbabwe is move forward and develop.

The dialogue is a fulfillment of the pledge the President made on his inauguration to engage and consult all fellow presidential aspirants on ways to move Zimbabwe forward, as no-single individual has all the answers to the country’s challenges.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s main political rival and MDC leader Nelson Chamisa has said he will not attend the meeting with the President and other candidates of the 2018 presidential election to discuss a framework for post-election dialogue.

Mnangagwa, through the Chief Secretary to the President and Cabinet Misheck Sibanda, had on Tuesday invited all presidential candidates to the meeting scheduled for late Wednesday afternoon at State House.

However, Chamisa, who refuses to accept Mnangagwa as the duly elected President, posted on Twitter Wednesday morning that there was need for a credible convener to resolve the economic and political crisis bedeviling the country.

Fellow former candidate Noah Manyika of Build Zimbabwe Alliance said on Twitter Tuesday night that MDC spokesperson Jacob Mafume had told him that Chamisa would not attend the meeting until certain conditions had been met.

The party also wants an international mediator to convene such a meeting, Manyika said, adding that he did not believe that Mnangagwa had created the right conditions for dialogue.

“He (Mafume) said that the MDCA considers any talks meaningless when people are in jail. The MDCA is also demanding that soldiers must go back into the barracks before any meaningful discussions can start,” he said.

Mafume had also said that political dialogue should be held by presidential candidates that got votes and not just a huge group of meeting with no constituents to speak on behalf of.

Many candidates failed to win meaningful votes during the election and are deemed to have little relevance in the proposed dialogue.

Political commentator Pedzisai Ruhanya also questioned the need to invite all presidential candidates to the meeting.

More than 700 people were arrested following violent demonstrations that rocked several parts of the country after Mnangagwa announced fuel price increases of more than 150 percent.

Official figures put the number of dead people during skirmishes with the police and military at eight, although independent sources say at least 12 people died, one of them a policeman.