President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s re-engagement efforts with the United States and European countries has hit a brick wall with the diplomats engaged by his emissaries in the Political Actors’ Dialogue (Polad) insisting that MDC leader Nelson Chamisa should be involved in the negotiations.
Polad is a dialogue series initiated by Mnangagwa and leaders of fringe parties who participated in the 2018 presidential elections. Chamisa, who refused to endorse Mnangagwa’s July 2018 electoral victory, has refused to be part of Polad.
Mnangagwa’s grouping has been trying to engage the international community to end the country’s years of isolation through its sub-committee on international relations and re-engagement led by MDC-T leader Thokozani Khupe.It has, however, emerged that most of the diplomats and organisations engaged by Polad so far asked tough questions about Chamisa not being part of the dialogue process, to which no answer was given.
A report by the Khupe-led committee presented by Kwanele Hlabangana and gleaned by NewsDay Weekender revealed that the team met British ambassador to Zimbabwe Melanie Robinson, US ambassador to Zimbabwe Brian Nichols, European Union ambassador Timo Olkkonen among others, and the issue of Chamisa not being part of the process kept coming up.
“In key issues raised by the diplomatic community in our recent engagements, although they applaud and appreciate the great initiative taken by His Excellency ED Mnangagwa and the political leaders that participated as presidential candidates in the 2018 harmonised elections, that of coming together to establish Polad, they are all of the view that the on-going dialogue process should rather be broad-based, with key stakeholders that include the MDC Alliance, civic society, religious groups, white commercial farmers and business,” the report read in part.
“Both the US and EU ambassadors emphasised their desire to have South Africa play a leading role in the dialogue process with former President Thabo Mbeki as the mediator.” Sources who attended a meeting with the United Nations Development Programme team that was on a fact-finding mission, said the UN team also raised concern over the absence of the MDC in Polad.
Chamisa has refused to be part of Polad, saying it was “Mnangagwa’s choir” insisting on the need for genuine dialogue preferably led by a South African mediator. The opposition leader had warmed up to Mbeki following his December visit where he met the two Zimbabwean political nemesis and promised to come back for more engagements.Mbeki has not returned since then. The Mnangagwa administration has, however, insisted there will be no dialogue outside Polad.
Addressing journalists after yesterday’s Polad meeting at State House, Mnangagwa said the platform had been forced to cancel its engagements due to the coronavirus outbreak that has become a global crisis. Mnangagwa was set to dispatch a re-engagement team to US, Europe and other parts of Africa.Mnangagwa said though he was pleased with the ground covered by the Khupe-led committee, their efforts had been dragged by the coronavirus that started in Wuhan, China and is now spreading across the world.
Several countries, including the US, where the Zimbabwean delegation had targeted have closed their borders in the wake of the scourge that has so far killed 5 111 people with more than 138 941 infected.
“The re-engagement committee, they are doing fantastic work and I wasn’t aware. They have done a lot and they had made plans to travel outside Africa, but of course, because of the coronavirus, they are likely not to proceed until they are cleared,” Mnangagwa said. Khupe confirmed the dilemma, saying they had lined up important meetings in and outside Africa, including the US, but they have been forced to put that on hold because of the deadly virus that has been confirmed as a pandemic by the World Health Organisation.
“It is still on but unfortunately because of COVID-19, our trips had to be rescheduled otherwise we had secured meetings in America, in all these countries in Sadc region and others so that we engage collectively to say we are asking for a second chance to go back to the family of nations,” Khupe said.
On the Lovemore Madhuku-chaired committee on governance and legislative agenda sub-committee, Mnangagwa said the report was well-received, but there were some disagreements with government on other aspects.Madhuku said they will meet Mnangagwa next week as Polad leaders after he has presented the reports to Cabinet.