The invitation by the President, Emmerson Mnangagwa for presidential candidates who participated in the 2018 elections to discuss a framework for dialogue and interaction is noted coming as it does during a period of deteriorating economic and political crisis. The ERC reiterates that any form of dialogue, with or without a crisis, must be a permanent feature of Zimbabwe’s democracy.
The ERC recognizes that the invitation of politicians to discuss the framework for dialogue and interaction acknowledges that the conduct of the 2018 election may in part form the basis for the need to engage and dialogue. That being the case, the ERC notes that the invitation for 2018 presidential candidates to discuss a framework for dialogue is coming 6 months after the Constitutional Court decided the outcome of the election which full judgement is yet to be released.
Without downplaying the need for engagement, the ERC insists that given the high levels of polarization and mistrust in the country, especially following the January protests and the ongoing clampdown instigated by the state against elements alleged to have instigated violence, an impartial model to set the framework for engagement must be drawn up through an inclusive and consultative manner. While politicians must be involved in deciding the parameters for engagement, they alone cannot conclude the basis on which they should occur.
The sincerity of the initiated engagement will be measured on the basis of the strength of the foundation being created. A strong foundation for engagement must include inclusivity in planning and consensus on the convening and moderation of the discussions.
The environment in which dialogue is meant to take place is also very crucial. It is almost impossible to have any meaningful interaction while the civil liberties and human rights of citizens are being violated.
A rushed pursuit of engagement and dialogue without getting the fundamentals right will not proffer a sustainable solution to the Zimbabwean crisis. The principle of dialogue is not in dispute. The approach should be as multi sectoral as far as possible.
The ERC stands in solidarity with the stance taken by civil society organisations on national dialogue in the implementation of electoral and political reforms in a bid to advance democracy and economic development. The call for a multi sectoral dialogue is of supreme importance.
Source: Election Resource Centre