Is dialogue the solution?

Tapiwa Mashakada

THE term dialogue means different things to different people. Some call it “negotiation” while some choose to call it “engagement”.

By Tapiwa Mashakada

The quest for an inclusive, unconditional national dialogue has been made by some political parties, churches, civil society and some interest groups.

Political dialogue is different from national consultative forums.

The difference between the two is that the former seeks power sharing or power transfer provided there is a political or military crisis.

In most cases, there is a mediator who acts as an arbiter.

Different political parties or warring factions are brought to the table to negotiate.

Political dialogue is normally done by State actors, meaning parties that have won seats in parliament and or local government.

As I said, the objective is to resolve political conflict peacefully through a negotiated settlement.

This happened in 1978 during the internal settlement when Ian Smith negotiated with Muzorewa, Sithole, Chirau and Ndiweni in a bid to stop the liberation war.

Before that various political talks had not materialised, for example Malta, Geneva and Victoria Falls.

The 1979 Lancaster House Agreement was the result of dialogue and similarly the Unity Accord ended civil strife in 1987.

In 2008, a GNU was negotiated between Morgan Tsvangirai, Robert Mugabe and Welshman Ncube.

The point I am trying to drive home is that dialogue can end a political and economic crisis.

It can be a solution.

Dialogue by political interlocutors is different from national consultative forums. State actors engage both the government and ruling party.

Non-State actors can be defined as interest groups, pressure groups, political parties not represented in Parliament, churches, civil society, social movements and media.

Their identity is that they are not represented in any of the three pillars of State. Their mission is not to remove the government outside elections although they may wish for a change in government. They have the will to transform and not the will to power.

Non-State actors talk to government only, not the ruling party. To the extent that non-state actors engage government outside an election, therefore, they seek transformation, good governance and better policies to improve the lot of society.

In fact they meet with the government as an exercise in national consultation. The meeting between government and non-State actors is some kind of a national consultative forum.

Examples of non-State actors forums include, but not limited to:

λ Polad

λ  Tripartite Negotiating Forum

λ National Convergence Platform

λ Heads of Christian Denominations

It would be amiss if I neglect to amplify Polad. Polad does not seek “regime change” outside an election.

The constitutive document of Polad is very clear. It is a forum of political players who participated in the 2018 presidential election. Therefore, strictly speaking it disqualifies some players like, for example, MDC-T leader Douglas Mwonzora.

For any dialogue to be genuine and meaningful in Zimbabwe, it must answer the question: Is Zimbabwe in a crisis?

If there is a political crisis in Zimbabwe, then there is need for an inclusive dialogue of State actors and non-State actors.

This is how democratic societies function.

It is only under military conflict that civil society and other non-State actors are excluded in ceasefire talks.

My point is that dialogue whose aim is the will to transform and not the will to power must include all relevant players.

In my respectful view that is the dialogue most Zimbabweans want — a dialogue for political, electoral and economic reforms outside an election.

This appears to be the only dialogue possible.

The other form of dialogue is the one which the MDC Alliance want and that is to summarily dismiss the government and get Nelson Chamisa installed as president.