Amid incessant pleas for an inclusive approach to the government proposed by various comprehensive and ecclesiastical unions in Zimbabwe, President Emmerson Mnangagwa has indicated an inclination to initiate a national dialogue with leaders of all political parties, religions and civic societies.
The president who reported home last night from a four-nation tour in Eurasia made the big announcement in a streak of tweets where he addressed the elephant in the room regarding last week’s grim events that left 12 dead, 78 gunshot wounds, hundreds of instances of assault or torture, and enough arrests to fill prisons beyond capacity.
These atrocities were the national defense’s response to the citizens who have taken it to the streets to protest their resentment of the government-implemented 150 percent price hike on fuel, health sector crisis, currency chaos, and valueless salaries, among other fiscal related issues tearing the nation apart.
Tackling all in one and making his maiden statement upon his arrival on Tuesday morning, the President called on all the key stakeholders in the society to be united and put the general populace afront, as, “what unites us is stronger than what could ever divide us.”
“One week ago, I announced measures to stabilise our nation’s crucial fuel supply. I was aware that these measures may not be popular, and this was not a decision we took lightly. But it was the right thing to do.
What followed was regrettable and tragic. Everyone has the right to protest, but this was not a peaceful protest. Wanton violence and cynical destruction; looting police stations, stealing guns and uniforms; incitement and threats of violence. This is not the Zimbabwean way.
Likewise, violence or misconduct by our security forces is unacceptable and a betrayal of the new Zimbabwe. Chaos and insubordination will not be tolerated. Misconduct will be investigated. If required, heads will roll.
I invite leaders of all political parties as well as religious and civil leaders to set aside our differences and come together. What unites us is stronger than what could ever divide us. Let’s begin a national dialogue. Let’s put the economy first. Let’s put the people first.”
The president’s call for an inclusive dialogue has given many people hope as this has been the cry of many Zimbabweans as channelled by the various denominations, church bodies, ministries, and para-Church organizations that represent them at national levels.
In a press statement dubbed, “The Journey to Rebuild Hope, Confidence, and Stability Towards the Zimbabwe We Want”, the largest church unison in the country, the Evangelical Fellowship of Zimbabwe, called the powers that be to convene for an urgent round-table dialogue with all stakeholders.
“As the Evangelical Fellowship of Zimbabwe: We strongly urge our Governing Authorities to URGENTLY convene a Round-table Dialogue Platform with ALL CONCERNED players, actors and citizen representative groups to discuss the root causes of the unrest and the way forward that is inclusive and sustainable in the immediate to midterm.”
The Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops Conference (ZCBC) last week were also in the political spree of calling the government and the opposition to put their differences aside and work together to free Zimbabwe from its current economic shackles and international isolation.
The prelates were convinced that a precedent of working together between government and opposition was set when the Government of National Unity (GNU) was formed by President Mugabe and former Prime Minister the late Morgan Tsvangirai under similarly difficult circumstances in 2009.
“Zimbabwe’s economy and prospects were positively revived and only began to regress yet again from the time the GNU expired in 2013…we call upon government to consult broadly and desist from unilateral imposition of policies that exacerbate the people’s suffering and to have policy consistency in order to instil confidence in investors, especially foreign investors,” wrote the bishops.
Before last week’s mayhem erupted, it was put under good authority that the Zimbabwe Council of Churches (ZCC), has launched a bid to broker a discourse between President Mnangagwa and Mr. Nelson Chamisa, the leader of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).
The 1964-established merger said it had become clear that Zimbabwe was fast descending into a crash, hence them submitting 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.
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,” said ZCC General-Secretary Dr Rev Kenneth Mtata.
Bulawayo-based preacher Prophet Blessing Chiza was not left out in all these pious rumblings to bring national order and political sanity into play. In his New Year’s annual crossover night homily, he warned Pres. Mnangagwa that he is likely to face ouster through mass protests unless he engages opposition leader Mr. Chamisa.
The cleric challenged the president to heed his prophecy, failure to which uprisings against his rule were impending.
“I was given verses James 4vs6/ James 4vs17 and the Lord said Mnangagwa must pray and humble himself for the sake of the Zimbabwean people he is leading and have a dialogue with Chamisa for this economy to change, because if there is no dialogue the people of Zimbabwe will continue to suffer. It’s a spiritual thing.
If the presidium does not heed this instruction, I saw Zimbabweans becoming very impatient, and protests that have never been seen in Zimbabwe arising which shall bring the whole nation out and they will send the government resigning because some of the people will not leave the streets demanding food from the president,” Chiza told his followers.
Although the ‘national dialogue’ talk seems to be picking up a positive bearing in the right direction now more than before, key stakeholders, particularly Zanu PF and MDC, have set provisions for dialogue, hampering any prospects for an effective leap.
Zanu PF spokesperson Simon Khaya Moyo has since embraced the Churches proposition to have a dialogue between the two political combatants, but not without challenging them to come up with specifications 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,” he said.
Mr. Chamisa, who initially refused to recognize Mnangagwa’s victory and thus triggered serious legitimacy issues with contagious effects on the economy; has of late offered himself for dialogue.
In a susceptible and complimentary statement issued via his similarly Twitter account, the 40year-old politician and cleric said that it was a regrettable development that President Mnangagwa had to heed to the howling of the populace following the cost of hallowed human lives.
Read the full statement below:
“We continue to mourn our lost relatives and empathise with the wounded and displaced fellow citizens. Our solution to the crisis requires sincerity, honesty and compassion for those we lead. It is not about lofty words or wordplay unsupported by conduct on the ground.
We’ve long offered a hand to resolve our national challenges. Regrettably, this hand has been spurned & mocked. It is sad that some seem to have reluctantly come to this realisation following the loss of lives. It doesn’t have to be that way but such is the price of arrogance.
When people die, we come together & mourn together. We console the bereaved & show compassion. Leaders console, comfort & apologise for wrongs that they have done. It is not the time for a catalogue of excuses, explanations or justifications. We must show respect to Zimbabweans.
Going forward, we must correct wrongs now. We call for an immediate end to the crackdown & terror that has induced insecurity across the country. We call for the unconditional release of all prisoners of conscience & political detainees whose rights continue to be violated.
No nation can make progress without the rule of law & peace. Zimbabwe can’t be open for anything without being open to its citizens’ concerns. In order to dialogue, one’s tongue must be free to talk. The tongues of the nation are tied in jails &many others by fear. This must end.
We must repair our value system and moral fibre, to value human life. We need morals revolution and values reset. Our laws mustn’t be abused. Why should a right to demonstrate be followed by flowing rivers of blood and tears? We can’t claim to love God without loving HIS people!”
Only time will tell if this national dialogue will fructify.
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