The time for statesmanship is nigh

American theologian, James Freeman Clarke, once said: “A politician thinks of the next election; a statesman thinks of the next generation.”

As Zimbabwe’s socio-political situation attracts global attention, the country’s leadership—governing and opposition comes under the spotlight.

South Africa president Cyril Ramaphosa this week assigned two envoys—Sydney Mufamadi and Baleka Mbete to fly into Zimbabwe to be apprised on the state of affairs in the southern African nation.

This came after growing concerns over the country’s deteriorating human rights situation which civic organisations and opposition parties have flagged.

Authorities in Harare as well as the ruling Zanu PF party have trashed these claims. Images of security services assaulting citizens during the ongoing Covid-19 lockdown and reports of arrests targeting voices critical to President Emmerson Mnangagwa have been beamed to the world.

The African Union and African National Congress’ International Relations Committee Chairperson Lindiwe Zulu have also added their voices on Zimbabwe’s internal affairs. Botswana’s opposition is also closely following the events.

It is what appears like denialism on the part of authorities at home that has made many ask Zimbabwe’s commitment to addressing homeland problems.

While every sovereign state has the right to manage its internal affairs, Zimbabwe’s problems have far-reaching problems in the region with millions of Zimbabweans having migrated to South Africa and Botswana in search of greener pastures.

Peer review can make our democratic institutions more robust instead of wiping dirt under the carpet. Mnangagwa should go beyond the Political Actors Dialogue in addressing the challenges confronting Zimbabwe.

Zimbabwe’s problems now require national dialogue which goes beyond political rhetoric but nation-building guided by universally accepted governance principles.

Engaging neutral or rather eminent personalities such as former heads of state from the continent should not be seen as a weakness.

Zimbabwe is fractured—the hope that many had three years back has all but gone.

Statesmanship should guide Mnangagwa’s decisions at such a time as this.

Many are now living in fear; civil-military-relations in our nation are at their lowest.

All the efforts on normalising relations with the international community may come to naught should Zimbabwe continue to be in the media for the wrong reasons.

Focusing on the next elections is not desirable for now.

Reassuring Zimbabweans that their rights are protected and building strong institutions that uphold the country’s democratic values should form the bedrock of any dialogue that Zimbabwe undertakes.

The youth should take part in this dialogue and their views should be treated as important as that of any other Zimbabwean who wishes to make this country start talking to each other again.

Zimbabwe cannot continue to be in tears again, 40 years after Independence.

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