On February 7, the church under the aegises of the oldest ecumenical unison the Zimbabwe Council of Churches (ZCC) convened a breakfast meeting with various stakeholders to start the national dialogue process aimed at offering a remedy on the ongoing unbearable economic challenges and social unrest in the country.
They said this was the more surprising as the two had played leading roles in discussions which led to the formation of the nation-saving government of national unity (GNU) in 2009.
Not so much about the dialogue was heard after the breakfast meeting as the country’s two political protagonists continued to hold the nation at ransom by continuing to play impossible while Zimbabwe burns.
With ambiguity and uncertainty over-saturating the country as citizens wonder what happened to the dialogue, ZCC Secretary-General Rev Dr Kenneth Mtata (RM) recently gave Zimbabwe Independent (ZI) reporters Tinashe Kairiza and Lisa Tazviinga an interview in a tender to understand how the much-anticipated National Dialogue process will unfold and what it seeks to achieve.
Below are excerpts from the interview:
ZI: The breakfast meeting was followed by a national training workshop in Basel, Switzerland. What was the purpose of the training and what does it mean in the context of the broad national dialogue process?
RM: What we needed to do on our part was to be a little more scientific in the engagement. National dialogue is not an arbitrary process. You need to be thinking about it in a more systematised way and to make sure that we follow precedence from other countries that have carried this out. You want to learn from them so that you can design your own process. So, we think that this was a very good training for us to prepare ourselves for this process. We don’t want to get into a process to which we do not have a full understanding. This training was mainly meant to equip us for the process.
ZI: We understand that the training workshop was attended by representatives from the National Peace and Reconciliation Commission, Zimbabwe Council of Churches (ZCC) and government officials. Who was coordinating this trip?
RM: We were invited as ZCC and then we decided to invite others to come and join us so we thought the whole national dialogue process will require different actors and we know that the office of the Vice-President Kembo Mohadi has a responsibility for the national dialogue and national healing process. We know that the National Peace and Reconciliation Commission has a responsibility, so we invited them. We also know that there are things to do with the MDC-Alliance; we also invited them to give us one person, so that is what ended up making up the composition of the participants.
ZI: Why was invitation limited to those individuals?
RM: It was financial, actually the invitation was only extended to ZCC and then we said since we had the possibility of sending four people, it would be pointless for us to send all four from ZCC; can we not broaden the participation and have more organisations attending?
ZI: Can you briefly take us through the chronological steps that we should expect after the breakfast meeting and the national training workshop? What’s next?
RM: We now need to finalise our own national dialogue framework draft now. The one that is being produced by the churches is going to be produced in the next few days. We want to share this framework with different civil society actors because we need to share this national agenda with other actors. Once it gets the input and recognition and finalisation, then it will be launched. Once it is launched, different tracks will be opened up for dialogue, because national dialogue requires different tracks.
ZI: How is that convergence going to happen?
RM: We will find each other. Right now everyone is anxious. When we are having dialogue everyone is anxious: what does this mean? What will people think? How do I make sure that I protect myself? So many people have been showing interest. The problem is when negotiations are for a very small cake, everyone is trying to see how they can have the biggest piece, but the more people will realise that national dialogue is producing a bigger cake, everyone will start to see the benefit. Right now people think this is a dialogue that is going to produce winners and losers because this is the nature of our politics — winner takes all, but if the outcome of a national dialogue benefits the majority of Zimbabweans, many people will locate themselves. That is why we think at some point, everything is going to converge.
ZI: Are there any specific outcomes that the church intends to achieve?
RM: The bigger picture is so that Zimbabweans can have peace, justice and unity. These can be broken down into more concrete structures; related to governance, we hope that if this dialogue becomes a success, we will not have an election result that can be contested. Economically, we hope there will be less corruption stories and those who are reported should be prosecuted. Socially, we hope that hardworking Zimbabweans will get equal opportunities, not someone who is connected to some political party. We hope to have individuals who work hard, who are patriotic. On the merging of relationships, we hope that we are going to have closure to past conflicts that separate Zimbabweans and Zimbabweans will say we think that the past is gone and we think that justice has been attained and we are satisfied.
ZI: What is the timeline of the national dialogue process?
RM: We cannot determine the timelines. National dialogue takes long and I think if we want to answer those questions comprehensively, we must allow the process to run its course.
ZI: Should atrocities committed in the past be discussed as part of the national dialogue?
RM: Actually, the national dialogue must mark those who committed crimes to be able to say that they are sorry about what happened. It must enable those who were wronged to say “I forgive you”. It should create an environment that brings about closure. I know that sometimes there is tension between justice and peace. But should we say to those who committed crimes “now we have the opportunity to put you all in prison”, or should we say “if you just confess what happened, you are going to walk scot-free”? That is the reason why we need dialogue because it allows us to bring those issues to a closure which many people agree on and identify with. At the moment we haven’t reached that point and that is why we cannot say we need to go the peace route or the justice route, what we need is dialogue.
ZI: Does the church hope to get a coalition government as an outcome of the dialogue?
RM: That is a structure that comes out of a dialogue. Who can know about the outcome? That is why we do not agree with people, who come with prescriptions of what we need, we need a conversation among Zimbabweans which must culminate in agreed content. The agreed content must then determine structure. We think content must inform structure and structure must be informed by processes.
ZI: The issue of Mnangagwa’s legitimacy has come under the spotlight; do you think this is a key issue the national dialogue should also discuss?
RM: No, I think what we should talk about is the legitimacy of processes, because the legitimacy of President Mnangagwa is a symptom. The real question is, why is it after elections someone questions the legitimacy of the President? Because, today we can question the legitimacy of President Mnangagwa, tomorrow we will ask the same question when someone comes. For us, as the church, the question we must ask is: how do we make sure that no one’s Presidential legitimacy is ever questioned? This is the pertinent question.
Read the full interview here
Hallelujah Magazine is committed to publishing reliable, trusted, quality and independent Christian journalism. Our journalism is free from commercial bias and is not influenced by wealthy people, politicians, clerics or shareholders. We value our readers’ feedback, suggestions and opinions. Have something to add to the story? Share it in the comments below.