Hawkish MDC-Alliance stalwarts are pushing for political, electoral and economic reforms and a transitional government to end the impasse between Zimbabwe’s main political parties that has had far-reaching socio-economic ramifications in the greater part of the year.
The opposition MDC-Alliance blames Zanu PF for the current economic meltdown. The MDC-Alliance also challenges President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s legitimacy, even after losing so dismally in the Constitutional Court.
This week, there was renewed hope after the former South African President Thabo Mbeki flew into the country, signalling the beginning of the much-anticipated political dialogue among the country’s main political protagonists. Mbeki will return to Zimbabwe after the Christmas holiday.
On Monday, Mbeki met President Mnangagwa, the MDC-Alliance leader Nelson Chamisa, and other minor political leaders under the banner of the Political Actors Dialogue (Polad).
Sources told the Business Times that opposition hardliners were opposed to the MDC-Alliance’s participation in Polad, saying the parties that constitute Polad have no political relevance and clout. They insist that the talks should be between the MDC-Alliance and Zanu PF. Zanu PF has a two-thirds majority in Parliament with 145 seats, MDC with 63 seats, and one seat apiece by Masango Matambanadzo (National Patriotic Front) and Temba Mliswa (independent candidate).
For the presidential elections, President Mnangagwa garnered 50.67% while Chamisa received 44.34%.
According to sources, the “MDC had briefed Mbeki that it was not prepared to participate in Polad which it views to have nothing to offer. Instead it wants dialogue between Mnangagwa and Chamisa. Some of the Polad players were not in disagreement with Mnangagwa but had endorsed him and have nothing to offer to end the political and economic problems, in the country.”
Last week, one of the Polad leaders, Brian Mteki, crossed the floor and joined Zanu PF.
Sources say the opposition is also not happy with a power-sharing arrangement, citing yesteryear attritions that existed in the Government of National Unity that existed between 2009 and 2013.
During the GNU, the MDC was led by the late Morgan Tsvangirai who was the prime minister. Other senior MDC members who were in government included Tendai Biti (Finance), Elton Mangoma (Energy) and Nelson Chamisa (Information and Communication Technology). The coalition also included the MDC splinter leaders Welshman Ncube and Arthur Mutambara.
Zanu PF was led by the late President Robert Mugabe, with Mnangagwa heading the Defence portfolio.
Several reforms earmarked during the time were not implemented due to political differences and bickering between Zanu PF and MDC. Insiders said the MDC now wants electoral and political reforms, leading to harmonised elections in 2023.
“We need genuine political and electoral reforms that are wholesome as we don’t want piecemeal reforms. We also need independent commissions and adequate constitutional amendments. We can’t continue to have a cycle of disputed elections as what has been happening in the past. The MDC can only participate in the elections with genuine reforms. The opposition is not seeking power sharing arrangement with any party but wants reforms and also a National Transitional Authority which the modalities can be worked out,” the source said.
Nkululeko Sibanda, the MDC spokesperson, said his principal Chamisa had briefed Mbeki to the effect that his party was keen to engage in political dialogue with Mnangagwa but with an international arbitrator.
“We are ready to engage with Mnangagwa and President Mbeki has asked to break the logjam between us and Zanu PF and make sure that Chamisa and Mnangagwa can meet and start the dialogue,” Sibanda said. “We have presented our agenda to him and he clearly understands our position and we now wait for the way forward and needs to know Zanu PF’s agenda before we can start the talks.
Sibanda continues: “Chamisa has not changed the party position that we want an international mediator and we are not going to be participating in the Polad talks. The matter of opening dialogue with Zanu PF is one of the resolutions that were mandated by our congress to Chamisa which he is executing.”
Zanu PF spokesperson Simon Khaya Moyo refused to comment on the matter and referred Business Times to Presidential spokesperson George Charamba. Charamba said Mnangagwa took the opportunity to brief Mbeki on the political, social and economic situation in the country and the progress he was making in Polad.
“He had come to the country on a social visit upon our invitation and he decided to meet MDC leadership here as he was supposed to meet them in South Africa. He also invited other Polad leaders to meet him. He took it upon himself to try to help as he once dealt with political talks of the country and wanted to understand what is happening this time around,” Charamba said.
“It is the MDC which is having political issues with us as we are discussing our political issues in Polad. MDC should not be trying to raise unnecessary matters that were not discussed by President Mnangagwa and Mbeki,” he said, adding that the government was waiting to know from Mbeki when he would be back to the country and resume the talks.
Mbeki was midwife to the 2009 GNU. This came after Mbeki secured the Global Political Agreement in which Zanu PF and the two MDC formations agreed to work together after the disputed 2008 elections.
Eldred Masunungure, University of Zimbabwe political science lecturer, said there was no trust between Zanu PF and MDC which had necessitated former Presidents Mbeki and Olusegun Obasanjo (of Nigeria) to come to Zimbabwe in recent weeks to break the impasse between Zanu PF and MDC.
“The problem we are having is that there is no trust between the two political parties and MDC are demanding a dialogue with Zanu PF being chaired by someone respected politically in the SADC region who is neutral,” he said.
“MDC has been trying to engage Zanu PF, but Zanu PF has been refusing since the disputed elections in July last year. Zanu PF has been arguing that it has started a political party’s dialogue with other political parties that Chamisa must come and join them rather than to seek a bilateral discussion with them,” Masunungure said.
Political analyst, Ibbo Mandaza said the MDC and Zanu PF had no option but to talk to each other in resolving the political problems in the country. “The MDC are pushing for a political dialogue with Zanu PF and eventually both parties must come to an agreement for political dialogue to resolve the political, social and economic problems facing the country, this is why these former Presidents are coming to try and mend the differences of the two political parties,” he said.
The talks come as the economy is buffeted by rolling power cuts, forex shortages and spiraling inflation – an unprecedented situation in an economy not at war.
Critics say there is low confidence which is key to the growth of the economy, which is now projected to contract 6.5% this year from the earlier projected 3%.