Mnangagwa in surprise Chamisa cheer

 Mnangagwa in surprise Chamisa cheer
Published: 17 September 2019 (326 Views)
AMID calls for authorities to use the recent death of former president Robert Mugabe to unite the deeply divided country, President Emmerson Mnangagwa yesterday reached out to opposition leader Nelson Chamisa - congratulating the MDC on its 20th anniversary, the Daily News reports.

The rare but welcome gesture by Mnangagwa comes as there are growing calls - including from the church and Western powers - for the president and Chamisa to bury their differences in a bid to extricate the country from its deepening political and economic crises.

Among the influential organisations that are cranking up the pressure on Mnangagwa to use Mugabe's death to unite Zimbabweans and end the destructive polarisation in the country is the Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops Conference (ZCBC).

Apparently "touched" by Chamisa's decision to postpone the MDC's 20th anniversary celebrations at the weekend to join thousands of Zimbabweans in mourning the death of Mugabe, Mnangagwa sent a congratulatory message to the country's main opposition yesterday, on its 20th anniversary.

"Congratulations to MDC on your 20th anniversary this week. Though we have our differences, this is what democracy is all about.
"I look forward to many more years of debate and dialogue. Makorokoto! Amhlope! Wishing all the people of Zimbabwe a blessed Sunday," the Zanu-PF leader wrote on Twitter yesterday, as he also celebrated his own 77th birthday.

The MDC was supposed to have held festivities marking two decades of its existence at the weekend - having been formed in September 1999.

In a much-praised move, Chamisa decided to defer the celebrations to the end of this month to pave the way for his lieutenants and supporters to join others in mourning Mugabe - who passed away in Singapore on September 6.

Mnangagwa has been at loggerheads with Chamisa since last year's hotly-disputed elections, which the youthful opposition leader alleged were rigged in favour of the Zanu-PF leader.
But Mnangagwa's victory was later upheld by the Constitutional Court, which ruled that Chamisa had failed to provide evidence that he had won the polls.

Mnangagwa and Chamisa's brawling has also drawn the attention of Western powers, after Zimbabwe's edgy authorities ruthlessly crushed an opposition demonstration in Harare last month to protest the country's worsening economic rot.

Apart from the savage attacks on protesters, Mnangagwa's government also went on to ban other protests that had been earmarked for other provinces.

The clampdown on the MDC also came at a time that dozens of activists and civil society leaders were being abducted by armed men - in barbaric developments which the government attributed to a "third force" linked to Mugabe's sympathisers within Mnangagwa's administration.

The deteriorating political climate also prompted a sharp rebuke from the United Nations, which said it would dispatch its special rapporteur to Zimbabwe to assess the political and human rights situation in the country.

On September 6, an eminent group of global human rights and peace campaigners, The Elders, also visited the country and held meetings with both Mnangagwa and Chamisa - in a bid to engender dialogue between the two rivals.

The Elders were represented by its chairperson and former president of Ireland, Mary Robinson, as well as her deputy Gra├ža Machel. They also met with civil society leaders and the church.

"I am convinced that Zimbabwe can chart a path to a peaceful and democratic future, but only if a broad, inclusive national dialogue is given the space to flourish and resonate among all citizens," Machel said at the end of their visit.

On her part, Robinson urged both political parties and security forces to commit to abide by the country's constitution, the rule of law, freedom of speech and protection of human rights.
"Last year I visited Zimbabwe on the cusp of landmark elections, to find people determinedly optimistic about the future.

"Today that optimism has gone amid a worsening economic crisis, entrenched political polarisation and a culture of fear, paranoia and state violence.

"Yet, I have been heartened by hearing from courageous women and church leaders from across society who are meeting to nurture dialogue and re-imagine their country's future. They offer an example that all Zimbabweans should follow," Robinson said.

Meanwhile, the ZCBC has said that Mnangagwa should engage Chamisa in talks - just like the late Mugabe did in 2008 when he agreed to a political settlement with the late MDC leader, Morgan Tsvangirai.

"We call for genuine dialogue at various levels of society ... it is only in a genuine meeting of hearts that we can tolerate each other and have a lasting solution to our problems.

"We need, as in 2008, a political dialogue which will settle the impasse that has reduced our country to two warring camps. President R. G. Mugabe has also left us a legacy of political dialogue.

"If he could talk to Tsvangirai and come to a settlement, surely the successors of these opponents, for the good of the nation, can do the same. The churches are ready to facilitate such dialogue," the bishops said.

Mugabe and Tsvangirai agreed to share an uneasy coalition following the violence which fearful Zanu-PF apparatchiks unleased on the MDC supporters in the run-up to the 2008 presidential run-off.

This was after Mugabe had received a heavy shellacking in the first round of elections on 29 March 2008, in which Tsvangirai was controversially said to have failed to achieve an outright victory.
But former Zanu-PF bigwigs later admitted openly that in fact Mugabe had been trounced soundly by Tsvangirai in those polls.

In their statement, the bishops also told Mnangagwa that it was time his government probed all cases of abductions of his opponents, as well as state-sponsored violence and human rights violations.

"We believe engagement and dialogue will bring about the desired transformation of our nation.
"We are deeply concerned about the reported nocturnal visits by unknown masked men, beatings, torture, sexual assaults, abductions, harassment of dissenting voices and violent repression of demonstrations by police.

"Such acts contradict the positive narrative of Zimbabwe's Second Republic, have no place in a democratic society and there should be no impunity for those who commit these crimes.

"We particularly request security forces to refrain from heavy handedness in restraining unarmed civilians. The Zimbabwe Republic Police must investigate all cases of torture, abductions and wanton beatings and bring the perpetrators to trial," the bishops said further.

- dailynews

Tags: Mnangagwa,

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