If there is one thing that stands head and shoulder above other ones in Zimbabwean politics today, it is the fact that the much-hyped talks between Zanu PF and MDC remain just, but a storm in a teacup.
The hype has so much been on the talks and the chief principals, but little remains in the way of what exactly is to be achieved by this national dialogue. The subject continues to ring with indignation in various media, but it is imperative that a holistic approach is adopted. The tattered economy raises emotions and naturally, people would want to see stability in the economy at the soonest possible moment. But the question remains as to whether two ideologically opposed political parties can form a functional government.
Various entities continue to chorus the pressing need for MDC leader Nelson Chamisa and incumbent President Emmerson Mnangagwa to meet in dialogue. Even business executives in the country have called for a national dialogue to address the challenges facing the country. Even the international community led by the United States have also added their voice, saying the talks should be mediated by a neutral arbiter.
In the opening remarks of the 6th CEO Africa Roundtable conference in Victoria Falls, emphasis was made on the need for collective action to address the country’s challenges.
Church leaders as well have voiced the need to hold the talks as the economy titters on the brink. The MDC led by Chamisa has consistently failed to meet for the purported dialogue, outlining conditions before commencement of the dialogue.
It is undeniable that the country’s challenges need to be addressed collectively, but it doesn’t seem to be occurring to those calling upon this initiative what exactly is meant to be achieved by this much talked about dialogue. Are governments of national unity sustainable? How far can they go? Do they offer lasting solutions?
Dialogue is very critical, but it is more critical to appreciate what precisely the point of the talks is. Every sane Zimbabwean, no doubt, unites in the need for economic stability, but it is key that we be clear on what is to be the point of address. Do the talks seek to amalgamate the major political parties as happened between Zanu PF and PF Zapu in 1987? Is it the objective of the dialogue to have a Government of National Unity (GNU) as happened between Zanu PF, MDC-M and MDC-T in 2009?
Many in modern times will recall the stability that immediately came after the late MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai consented to the GNU, but the burning conern moves around is how long it lasted.
The framework for the called-for dialogue between Mnangagwa and Chamisa seems vague; the only thrust is on economic revival. But how exactly should this be achieved, given the gigantic political ideological differences between the two parties?
Already, in an apparent show of how this dialogue is likely to end, Chamisa has described the proposed dialogue as “meaningless”, insisting that Mnangagwa’s government should halt the arbitrary arrests and persecution of his party members.
While we may all clamour for dialogue between Chamisa and Mnangagwa, it is vital that we start with the end in mind. It is vitally urgent that we truthfully do a self-introspection as to what we wish for. Chamisa and Mnangagwa wield polar and opposite political ideologies, and it is precisely this fact that the talks may work in the interim.
But problems are sure to follow as happened between the now late Tsvangirai and deposed former President Robert Mugabe. Under intense pressure, Tsvangirai forged an alliance with Mugabe, but the deal went awfully wrong along the way.
Tsvangirai, as the chief minister in government, was disrespected by Mugabe’s ministers. He kept being insulted. Without clarity as to purpose, we risk having a replica of the scenario which played out in the so-called “marriage of convenience” between Tsvangirai and Mugabe. The process did not start with the end in mind. Finally, we saw Tsvangirai being at loggerheads with Mugabe again. The arrangement is temporary and people with ideological differences will always conflict.
While I don’t seek to foment disunity, it must be appreciated that Zimbabwe has been at this place before; they have seen it all. Zimbabweans know where GNUs finally lead to. The road is littered with impediments. The rivalry between Mugabe and Tsvangirai came back renewed with vigour — after the collapse of the GNU.
It is for this reason that a plausible objective must be set out regarding the dialogue. We have been here before and we know for a fact where this route leads. Zimbabweans have suffered for a long time and no longer need piecemeal solutions to their prolonged suffering.
If this dialogue is to have meaning and yield a positive outcome, then there is more that should be looked at than simply the urgent need to stabilise the economy. The culture of having State resources being used in the repression of the masses must truly end. What this simply means is that political parties with different perceptions will try to run a country concurrently. It is this recipe which breeds disaster.