Zimbabwean ruling party welcomes dialogue overtures from the opposition

The view of Harare from my room at the Rainbow Towers Hotel. The tall building to right (about 300 m away) is the headquarters of the ruling party, Zanu PF.
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AS THE country’s politics continues to mature, a powerful Zanu-PF bigwig says he is open to the ruling party meeting leading opposition figures outside the Political Actors Dialogue (Polad), if that will help resolve Zimbabwe’s decades-long political and economic challenges.

Speaking to the Daily News On Sunday yesterday, Zanu-PF’s national political commissar, Victor Matemadanda, said such necessary engagement may, however, need to be endorsed by current Polad participants for this critical dialogue to happen.

This comes as both opposition leader Douglas Mwonzora and Nelson Chamisa have, crucially, said that they are willing to hold unconditional talks with President Emmerson Mnangagwa, in a bid to help move the country forward.

All this also suggests that Zanu-PF and the opposition are beginning to find political convergence, as the majority of Zimbabweans pine for mature and less toxic national politics that has created gridlock over the past two decades in particular.

The forthright Matemadanda told the Daily News On Sunday yesterday that while Mnangagwa and the ruling party were yet to meet to deliberate on the opposition’s recent refreshing calls for unconditional dialogue, he personally would back the idea of such talks initially taking place outside Polad.

“I see that the opposition, particularly Mwonzora, is showing political maturity, and that is the right thing to do given that the MDC’s politics has been premised on polarisation.

“Any discussions can be done anywhere, but they do not become official unless they are done under an established platform, and in our case Polad. “It doesn’t mean that they (such talks) cannot be done outside Polad. They can be done, but at the end of the day, an established forum will make them official,” Matemadanda told the Daily News On Sunday.

“It must be understood that the president came up with Polad knowing fully well that he had won the elections. “But he felt strongly that other leaders who contested the elections had their own ideas of how to take the country forward, and that those ideas needed to be respected.

“They (the MDC) are not the only people who are interested in the affairs of this country. It is not about the people at the top of Zanu-PF and the MDC alone, but also the lower echelons of the parties as well as other stakeholders.

“They are all a vital component in any dialogue that can be deemed national. While we may have the MDC by whatever prefix or suffix, they fall in the broader category of the nation, and so Polad should eventually be the platform for dialogue.

“Suppose we have outstanding issues in Polad, where we do not agree, such issues can be put to a vote and the MDC’s voice will be heard,” Matemadanda further told the Daily News on Sunday.

“We appreciate that Zanu-PF and the MDC might be the biggest political parties, but it does not mean that they are more important than citizens, and so the question of discussion outside Polad, with due respect, is not important if we want to see each other as equal.

“I hope and trust that MDC leaders come to understand that. Imagine that some stakeholders even suggested an election sabbatical, if such a proposal were to be agreed between Zanu-PF and the MDC; it will not be sustainable because some will cry foul and say they have been left out,” Matemadanda added.

This comes as Mnangagwa has praised the MDC’s new political outlook following Mwonzora’s recent pledge to work with both Zanu-PF and other opposition leaders, to end the politics of hate and deep-seated polarisation in the country.

Upon assuming the leadership of the country’s largest opposition party last month, Mwonzora re-iterated the need for unity of purpose among political parties, which he said was critical to resolving Zimbabwe’s myriad challenges.

Last week, Mwonzora further lifted the spirits of long-suffering Zimbabweans when he said he would initiate much needed national dialogue – which would include other opposition leaders and all key stakeholders in the country.

“The resolution or the strategy of the MDC to engage in dialogue is as old as the formation of the MDC itself. It was taken in earnest after 2008, when we had a resolution as a party to engage in dialogue, which brought about the government of national unity (GNU).

“After the 2013 elections, we again made a resolution of the standing committee, in a town called Magaliesburg in South Africa – during one of our strategic retreats with our late great leader Morgan Tsvangirai – that we were going to make dialogue the mainstay of our political strategy.

“This was aimed at making the life of Zimbabweans better. In 2020, our national council also talked about the need to have dialogue in this country,” Mwonzora told the Daily News On Sunday’s sister publication, the Daily News then.

“And, of course, on our first national standing committee (held last week) … we restated that we must have dialogue in this country, and that this dialogue must be centred on those aspects that improve the lives of the Zimbabwean people.

“The standing committee then also said we must make sure that dialogue is initiated in this country. Of course, we have not received anything from the government but that does not stop us from initiating dialogue.

“In our view, this dialogue must be broad-based, inclusive, genuine and unconditional, and we are going to be initiating that dialogue with the government,” Mwonzora said further.

“We are also going to be dialoguing with other political parties within the opposition, those who see things the way we see them. “We will also reach out to civil society as well as the churches. We will also reach out to labour and business.

“The reason for dialogue is because we want to engage in a new type of politics. Gone are the days of the politics of hate, the politics of acrimony, the politics of rancour. We want to bring about politics of rational disputation,” Mwonzora added.

On Thursday, Chamisa himself appeared to give momentum to the current and strong national unity sentiment, recognising the work that the government was doing to fight the coronavirus pandemic.

He told his supporters in a Facebook address that it was time for politicians and their followers to set aside their differences and help fight the killer disease that has taken the lives of more than 1 000 Zimbabweans to date, while also infecting tens of thousands others.

“It is time we work together to stop the spread of Covid-19. Unity is key in the face of this pandemic. All of us must put aside our political jackets, remove our political robes, political differences and work together in this fight.

“It is not the time to score cheap political points. In fact, that score board is not there … Let us forget this politicking and sloganeering because this Covid-19 knows no slogan. “Together we will win, weather the storm … Let us not be divided by politicians,” Chamisa said in his virtual address. Our togetherness will define our collective future. We appreciate the various initiatives by different stakeholders and the government, the response of the ministry of Health in particular … is noted and appreciated.

“In this regard, we salute our warriors the nurses, doctors … We remain indebted to them and their families,” he added in his remarks that were notable for their departure from the politics of blame. We also honour our police, the military and prison and intelligence services as well, as all others who are providing essential services.

“We also thank our diaspora citizens for donations, assisting our hospitals. I am happy that it is not being politicised and there is no partisan agenda in their distribution,” Chamisa also said.

Source – dailynews