By Hopewell Chin’ono
Dialogue is extremely important when a country such as ours is facing the kind of political and economic problems that are before us.
However that dialogue should be premised on honesty, transparency and not double-dealing by either the opposition parties or the ruling ZANUPF party.
The jury is still out on whether the 22 Presidential candidates should be holding the dialogue on behalf of the millions of citizens in the first place.
What are these 22 Presidential candidates bringing to the dialogue table and on what basis does someone like say, Brian Mteki feels that he should be on that dialogue table?
If I had a thousand dollars to pay to the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) and I ran as an independent Presidential candidate in the July 30 general election, I would also have been on that table yesterday.
Now is that a good enough reason to be included on that dialogue table and on whose behalf other than myself would I be speaking for?
There are two political leaders who represent millions of voters in this country, Nelson Chamisa of the MDC and Emmerson Mnangagwa of ZANUPF.
There are also two other Presidential candidates who ran but did not win as much votes as nelson Chamisa and President Emmerson Mnangagwa, but their inclusion on that table is absolutely necessary because of their understanding of issues and the general respect that they have earned from the citizens, they are Noah Manyika and Nkosana Moyo.
Thokozani Khupe’s party has an MP in parliament so her inclusion on the dialogue table is explainable on that basis. What about the rest?
There has been a lot of talk about Nelson Chamisa’s absence from the dialogue table yesterday and he explained it through his letter that gave a myriad of issues that he said the President should attend to before dialogue can begin.
But there is another reason that has not been explained in the public domain, there is a group of smaller political parties that calls itself the Progressives that includes Elton Mangoma, Lovemore Madhuku and Thokozani Khupe.
They held a meeting last week to discuss this national dialogue and they were supposed to hold another meeting yesterday, but they had to call it off after the President brought the dialogue meeting to yesterday instead of today as had been planned before.
This group was also aware of the Presidential dialogue meeting that was penciled for today ahead of everyone else according to other Presidential candidates who found out through Whatsapp messages that were circling and then leaked to journalists.
This has made other Presidential candidates feel that this group has been co-opted by the state to provide cover for its arguments when the dialogue begins.
This they say was further buttressed by how members of the Progressives group sang from the same hymn sheet about sanctions and the need to help the President.
Other candidates said that this group had clear advance notice of the dialogue meeting and that this has perforated holes into the process sowing a seed of mistrust because they argue dialogue is not about helping anyone of the political leaders but the country.
The other disgruntled Presidential candidates said that the Progressives group made an attempt to pass a resolution about the need for dialogue and that Elton Mangoma was already speaking about setting up committees.
Nkosana Moyo is said to have rejected the idea of committees arguing that there was a government in place and that the role of the opposition was to hold that government to account and not to be co-opted into its processes.
Daniel Shumba rejected the idea of any resolution that would give a mainstay to the dialogue process being passed until the demands presented to the President were met and agreed upon.
Now for this process to bear fruit there shouldn’t be any shortcuts or backroom deals for the political elites or by the opposition leaders.
The dialogue process should never be about jobs or opportunities for the politicians but about the suffering of the people and coming up with cogent and long lasting solutions to the country’s political and economic problems.
That should start by the Presidential candidates understanding that there can’t be any meaningful dialogue without President Emmerson Mnangagwa and Nelson Chamisa.
Those two party leaders are the main ingredients if this process is to bear any fruit and be accepted as a “national” dialogue by the citizens.
The second important thing is that it should not be about jobs or as what Nkosana Moyo called it, co-option.
That will be a waste of time and state resources because the world will not suddenly open a flow of money into Zimbabwe without the agreed political and economic reforms taking place first.
That is why I am asking whether we need 22 Presidential candidates to sort out these well-known issues that have been a stumbling block to Zimbabwe’s success even before President Mnangagwa took office.
The World Bank or the Paris club will not suddenly open the financing taps because a group of Zimbabweans have agreed that they will not fight each other anymore.
The dialogue should be about principles and values and how to implement them and agreeing on how that resolution will be monitored in the long run once it is put in place.
The opposition should remain in its role of holding the government of the day to account as argued by Nkosana Moyo at the meeting and it should never be a benefactor of any government largesse.
It is important that the opposition leaders who are there on the table be accountable to the people on the basis of agreed talking points and avoids grandstanding and seeing government through President Mnangagwa as a financial benefactor or feeding trough.
It would be absolutely useful and important if there is clarity of what should be happening on that dialogue table and also who should be there and why.
They should agree on what the dialogue objectives are and what the dialogue desired outcomes are and how they will they monitored once agreed upon.
I ask again, who should be on this dialogue table other than Nelson Chamisa and President Emmerson Mnangagwa and on what basis should these people be chosen?
Hopewell Chin’ono is an award winning Zimbabwean international Journalist and Documentary Filmmaker.
He is a Harvard University Nieman Fellow and a CNN African Journalist of the year.
He is also a Fellow at the University of Oxford’s Africa Leadership Institute.
Hopewell has a new documentary film looking at mental illness in Zimbabwe called State of Mind, which was launched to critical acclaim.
The recently departed music superstar Oliver Mtukudzi wrote the sound track for State of Mind.
It was recently nominated for a big award at the Festival International du Film Pan-Africain de Cannes in France. You can watch the documentary trailer below.