National dialogues have emerged as powerful tools for peace, nation-building and conflict resolution worldwide.
These discourses are used as mechanisms to bring the major stakeholders together when political institutions and governments are delegitimised or collapse. They are also increasingly used in transitional societies as a means of collective deliberation upon key issues essential to progress.
Nation-building and conflict resolution by the means of national dialogue is a demanding and arduous process with great possibilities – but only when attention to the details and process precedes action.
Recent reports in the local media have shown that the Zimbabwe Council of Churches (ZCC) has launched a fresh bid to broker dialogue between President Emmerson Mnangagwa and MDC leader Nelson Chamisa in light of the ongoing unbearable economic challenges and social unrest in the country.
ZCC, the biggest and oldest ecumenical merger by far, in its New Year statement, said it is a widely known secret that Zimbabwe is fast sliding into doldrums and offered to provide the framework to break the ice and allow the country’s two political protagonists to talk after the 2018 disputed presidential election narrowly won by the Mr Mnangagwa.
“We can choose the route of engagement or the route of conflict, the route of individual solutions or that of a shared vision, the route that entrenches greed or one that leads to the common good. As the Church of Jesus Christ, we serve as a sign of hope by being truthful in looking at the current challenges and their root causes,”
ZCC General-Secretary Dr Rev Kenneth Mtata said.
“We also remain committed to proffering solutions which are inclusive, realistic and sustainable. The church, therefore, commits to create a shared space for a collaborative national consensus-building process aimed at creating a space of trust in which all Zimbabweans can shape a new national imagination.”
In the same statement, Rev Mtata said a majority of citizens lack confidence in Pres. Mnangagwa and his administration’s capacity to solve the deepening socio-economic crisis which has been hard-hitting the country since the new millennium.
“Many people have a low opinion of the willingness and capability of government and other leaders to resolve pressing challenges due to lack of clarity of communication on the nature of the problems and how they are being addressed.”
He also noted with great concern that there was a clear sense of hopelessness and despondency among the citizens, and expressed an urgent need to address the deficit of trust and restore public confidence.
“Many Zimbabweans are suffering, standards of living are falling as people struggle to obtain the basic goods and services required for dignified lives. There is unrest among working Zimbabweans.”
However, ZCC said it will break the political impasse through a national dialogue.
“There is need to forge a renewed sense of shared national vision and social cohesion. We find that there is a lack of consensus on fundamental issues affecting the nation. The underlying tensions pit the rich against the poor, the young against the old, ruling party supporters against opposition party supporters.
We, therefore, call for a broad-based consultative process to come up with a national economic vision and a fundamental redistribution of wealth for the benefit of all Zimbabweans,” he said.
The call for national dialogue to resolve the unfolding crisis and political gridlock between Mnangagwa and Chamisa following last year’s July 30 disputed presidential poll results, have, since August 2018, been advocated by both analysts and the clergy from numerous church consortiums.
Mr Chamisa, who initially refused to recognise Mnangagwa’s victory, triggering serious legitimacy issues which had a contagion effect on the economy, has of late offered himself for dialogue “for the sake of the suffering masses”.
Zanu PF spokesperson Simon Khaya Moyo, who spoke to the Newsday, welcomed ZCC’s proposition to talk, but not without challenging the church to come up with parameters for the proposed engagement.
“In any case, the church has been praying for these problems that we are facing as a country, and if they think dialogue is the solution, they must lead the process in earnest. They have an edge over us because they are church leaders and it is their duty to lead the process, but with a clear agenda and roadmap,”
Since the country’s population is becoming more Christian, hopes are high on how this move by the ZCC can change the state of matters for the common good.
Suppose it succeed, it could plausibly become an ecumenical foundation of a faith-based-exercise that promotes national cooperation, sustainable development and economic justice.
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