Zimbabwe is at a crossroads as its political and economic crises deepen. Beyond offensive international diplomatic actions, court applications and protests, a national dialogue appears the best alternative to resolve Zimbabwe’s swelling socio-economic and political afflictions.
Last year, President Emmerson Mnangagwa called on political parties, churches and civil-society leaders to participate in a national dialogue. As it turns out, only political parties were invited to gather periodically under the Political Actors Dialogue (Polad) banner, a grouping of fringe political parties which performed in the 2018 elections. The actors met and adopted a code of conduct to promote conditions encouraging dialogue and political tolerance, mutual respect, consensus, information dissemination and commitment to principles outlined in the dialogue.
The platform has however suffered casualties as the Nelson Chamisa-led Movement for Democratic Change Alliance, a befitting protagonist in the dialogue, along with four other parties have snubbed the initiative describing it as “child’s play and a waste of time”. The party said it wouldn’t dialogue with President Mnangagwa, unless if he accepts their stance that he is not the legitimate leader of the country, despite the outcome of the Constitutional Court that upheld ZEC’s declaration that President Mnangagwa won the presidential election, having polled 50,8%, while Mr Chamisa garnered 44,3% of the vote.
Although government reports claim that Polad has had a positive impact on Zim’s political scene, vocal voices of the society have simultaneously criticised it for sidelining other crucial stakeholders of the community.
Catholic Commission on Justice and Peace in Zimbabwe (CCJPZ) chairperson Bishop Rudolf Nyandoro is the latest person to advocate for a multi-stakeholder platform, comprehensive and broad-based dialogue that includes churches, civil society, business and every Zimbabwean.
Last Friday Bishop Nyandoro told the Newsday on the sidelines of the launch of a meeting to foster co-operation between CCJPZ and the National Peace and Reconciliation Commission that dialogue to solve the political crisis should not be a preserve of politicians, but all citizens.
“Everybody should participate in the dialogue to find a lasting solution to the crisis bedevilling Zimbabwe. It shouldn’t be politicians’ affair only, but for churches, civil society, business and every Zimbabwean to participate and bring solutions to the country’s problems,” he said.
The bishop said the multi-stakeholder dialogue should bear the picture of everybody in the country for it to have a national buy-in.
“We should come to a position that every citizen puts a claim on the solutions proffered to lift the country from this crisis. In that way, we will have a lasting solution to the problems facing the country and enjoy peace and social cohesion,” he said.
National dialogues are a peacebuilding mechanism that can be used to bring together diverse stakeholders (state and non-state actors) when political institutions and governance systems have essentially collapsed, been delegitimised or when the survival of a government in power is in question, according to The Inclusive Peace & Transition Initiative (IPTI). Sometimes called national conferences, they may also be defined as broad-based, inclusive and participatory negotiation platforms involving large segments of civil society, politicians, youth, women, academia and peacebuilding experts.
They are ordinarily convened to negotiate major political reforms or peace in complex and fragmented conflict environments.
These dialogues usually happen in contexts where there is high socio-economic and political conflict beyond the containment of traditional security institutions, such as the police and military institutions.
In practice, national dialogue processes may last for long periods, depending on the complexity of issues being addressed and the attitudes of actors involved.
In the current Zimbabwe context, the Zimbabwe Council of Churches (ZCC) has commenced informal national dialogues, while President Mnangagwa has commenced the formal national dialogue processes.
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