Opposition MDC Alliance leader Nelson Chamisa yesterday said he was ready to weigh any offers tabled by President Emmerson Mnangagwa to enable them to work together for the good of the country, but cautioned that dialogue would be centred around five key issues his party wants addressed first.
This follows Mnangagwa’s claim in New York, the United States, on Friday that he was proposing to officially recognise his nemesis as leader of the opposition leader and extend financial and material benefits due to him.
Mnangagwa told Bloomberg TV in an interview in the US that: “Under our Commonwealth parliamentary democracy, the opposition is recognised; we recognise the leader of the opposition in Parliament. This is what we are going to do ourselves.
“But under the former administration, there was no formal recognition of the opposition leader, but now under my administration, we are embracing the Commonwealth approach to parliamentary democracy, where we recognise the leader of the opposition, who is given certain conditions and perks in Parliament.”
Chamisa, however, yesterday said no formal offer to that effect had been tabled.
Through his spokesperson Nkululeko Sibanda, Chamisa said the MDC’s national council had already given the greenlight for negotiations to unlock the current political and economic logjam.
“President Chamisa got authority from his national council to enter into negotiations around five key issues, which we consider important to help move the country forward. He has publicly made an announcement that he is open to national dialogue and since then, nobody has knocked on the door,” Sibanda said.
“If a formal move is made, it means that there will be material office with facts and what is being offered, only then can we respond. Right now, it’s speculation, nobody knows what ED is saying and what he is talking about, the only reasonable thing we can do is we are sending back to him the reality on the ground, that there are five key issues which need to be addressed first.”
The five key issues Chamisa wants to discuss with Mnangagwa include ensuring that future elections are safeguarded so that they are held in a transparent manner and can never be disputed again, that there are moves to ensure the country returns to legitimacy and normalcy following what the opposition claims was a stolen July 30 election.
The opposition leader also wants to have dialogue centred around the economy to avert a complete meltdown.
The fourth issue is around national healing, starting from the Gukurahundi massacres to the August 1 shootings.
The MDC Alliance leader also wants measures put in place to allow constitutional Chapter 12 and 13 institutions — the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission, Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission and the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission, among others, — to have complete independence without undue influence from political players.
On this point, he includes implementation of devolution in full.
Mnangagwa’s climbdown has generated heated debate in the MDC Alliance, with some party hardliners saying Chamisa should not accept any such offer since the party has refused to recognise Mnangagwa’s electoral victory.
“He cannot accept that offer. It’s a kiss of death for the opposition. Remember, we walked out of Parliament when Mnangagwa was presenting his State of the Nation Address because we don’t accept his victory, so taking a salary and that recognition from Mnangagwa would be endorsing his presidency through a bribe. That should not happen,” a parliamentarian and senior official in the MDC Alliance said.
Other senior officials said it was not Mnangagwa speaking during that interview, but his public relations handlers, who asked him to act like a statesmen so that he secures the much-needed economic rescue package for his administration.
“Why would he make such pronouncements for the first time in New York? That line is not official. ED is known for lying. He just said that for the media and we are not yet sure what trick he wants to play. But his PR handlers have told him to appear as a statesman who is building the country, yet in reality, he is a repressive junta leader,” a highly-placed source said.
Other opposition sources, however, indicated that Chamisa was willing to recognise Mnangagwa as legitimate leader of Zimbabwe “in the interest of the nation”.
The sources said Chamisa wants Mnangagwa to approach him to end the current political stalemate.
“There are internal discussions between Chamisa and his inner circle. He is willing to compromise, never mind the public posturing. Chamisa is willing to put the country first.
The talk about dialogue is real, but, unfortunately, this seems to be coming a bit late because while Mnangagwa might have considered this just after the election, Chamisa squandered his chance with not only the Constitutional Court petition, but also his pronouncements against the legitimacy of the elections,” another insider said.
MDC Alliance spokesperson Jacob Mafume said Chamisa’s call for talks was meant to provide Mnangagwa with the legitimacy the Zanu PF leader “badly needs”.
“The position of the president (Chamisa) is that there should be dialogue to deal with the legitimacy issue. That dialogue is not premised on us being in some governing arrangement with Zanu PF or that we should recognise Mnangagwa, but on the need to have a truly democratic nation. A need to have a clear road-map for reforms and the restoration of a normal economy,” he said.
“Anything else is mere speculation without basis. We note that Mnangagwa has been all over the world looking for legitimacy and still has none. We should remind him that legitimacy is acquired from the governed. We are the people he wants to govern, so he must sit down with us.”
NewsDay has been told that, in fact, the opposition has three options it would want to agree with Mnangagwa.
“There are three options that are being considered and that the MDC would be agreeable to. First, we can have a transitional authority with Mnangagwa as leader, but with a limited time frame of at least three years. There must be clear signposts that must be followed,” another source said.
“(Former President Robert) Mugabe imposed an election on the country in 2013 without reforms, which is where (late MDC leader Morgan) Tsvangirai had wanted to go when Mnangagwa visited him last year. We can then have concrete reforms. We raised the 10-point plan for reforms that was never agreed to by Zanu PF.”
Mnangagwa visited an ailing Tsvangirai early this year amid speculation the two had cobbled an agreement for a transitional government that would have deferred elections.
As fate would have it, Tsvangirai lost a two-year battle with cancer of the colon in February, paving the way for Chamisa to take over after an acrimonious battle with co-deputy president Thokozani Khupe, leading to another split.
The MDC-T, then under Tsvangirai, agreed to a Government of National Unity with Mugabe in 2009, but was waylaid into an election in 2013 in which it lost heavily.
While Chamisa is reportedly also considering this as an option, he, according to his lieutenants, is aware of the pitfalls of working with Zanu PF.
Reports have also claimed that former colonial master Britain is involved in behind-the-scenes talks to bring Mnangagwa and Chamisa into a working arrangement. It has emerged that other Western countries seem to be nudging Chamisa in the same direction.
“This is what the British have been pushing for, a scenario in which Chamisa would assume a position as leader of the opposition in a Westminster style arrangement,” another source said.