First hurdle for Mbeki as talks begin

December 19, 2019


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%.

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