The much-awaited dialogue in Zimbabwe involving the country’s socio-political leaders could soon commence after it emerged this week that former South Africa President Thabo Mbeki, who is expected to take a mediatory role, has finished reviewing proposals submitted by the country’s main political actors.
Zimbabwe’s economy is faltering with calculations by independent economists showing that annual inflation could be hovering around 500%. Dialogue between the country’s main political parties, according to observers is expected to end the country’s political impasse which has been blamed for the floundering economy.
Linda Maso, counsellor for political affairs at the South African embassy in Harare, told Business Times that Mbeki had finished studying and analysing the various proposals from the country’s political protagonists and was ready to commence his role as a mediator.
The Thabo Mbeki Foundation is handling dialogue between President Emmerson Mnangagwa and MDC leader Nelson Chamisa with the support of the South African government of President Cyril Ramaphosa, the current African Union chairman.
The Thabo Mbeki Foundation is not for profit organisation that was launched by Mbeki when he ended his service to the South African government in 2008.
“We understand that former President Thabo Mbeki had finished studying the proposals and he is ready to come back .
The Thabo Mbeki Foundation has been involved a lot in the matter but we do not want to speculate when he will come back.
I know that Zanu PF, MDC presented their proposals to him as well as the churches. We wait for him, I know that he has a busy schedule,” Maso said.
“I know that many people in the country are waiting patiently for the dialogue to resume but we don’t want to speculate on the date and timetable as it is being handled by the Thabo Mbeki Foundation.
We are still ready to help with the logistics and we are keeping in touch with the Thabo Mbeki Foundation and our government in Pretoria.”
Mbeki was in Zimbabwe in December and met Mnangagwa, Chamisa and other leaders of smaller political parties who are currently dialoguing with Mnangagwa under the ambit of the Political Actors Dialogue (Polad).
Chamisa, who has questioned Mnangagwa’s 2018 election victory has refused to join Polad insisting on bilateral talks with the Zimbabwean leader. Mnangwagwa wants the dialogue to be done under the umbrella of Polad.
Recently Chamisa was in South Africa on the invitation of Mbeki and as a follow up to their meeting in December and told Mbeki the military should be involved in the talks.
Debate on whether or not the military should be involved in the talks is gaining momentum following the historic role that has been played by the army on issues relating to governance. On the eve of the 2002 Presidential election, the military — headed by then Zimbabwe Defence Forces commander Vitalis Zvinavashe — said the presidency was a “straight jacket” and they would not support anyone without liberation war credentials to occupy the office.
In 2017, long-time leader, the late Robert Mugabe resigned following a military-assisted intervention. Mnangagwa and Chamisa have been haggling on the modalities of the talks.
Mnangagwa wants the talks to be conducted under Polad. But, Chamisa’s MDC is opposed to the participation under Polad arguing the bulk of the parties that constitute the grouping have no political relevance as they have no any representative in Parliament.
This has seen Chamisa snubbing Polad meetings demanding to attend any dialogue convened by an international statesman as an arbitrator preferably a former president and Mbeki fits in the shoes.
While the parties haggle over the modalities of dialogue, the economy has taken a battering with rising prices which have eroded the purchasing of the local currency pushing the majority to the brink.
Churches under the ambit of the Zimbabwe Council of Churches (ZCC) have been ratcheting up pressure for Chamisa and Mnangagwa to dialogue which is billed to halt the economic freefall amid fears of unrest over the deteriorating environment.
ZCC general secretary Kenneth Mtata said churches last December made presentations to Mbeki and is hopeful to meet the former South African leader when he returns to Zimbabwe anytime.
Last month, a UN agency said Zimbabwe is facing its worst hunger crisis in a decade with half of the population (7.7m) food insecure. World Food Programme spokesperson Bettina Luescher said that almost US$300m was needed urgently to supply some 240,000 tonnes of aid to avert hunger caused by a climate disaster and economic implosion. Mbeki was midwife to the inclusive government that ran from 2009 to 2013.
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.