Zimbabwe News and Internet Radio

Luke-ing the Beast in the Eye: ED’s four failed dialogue initiatives

Dialogue is an important aspect of life. Indeed, relations and relationships can only be enhanced by the irreplaceable spice called dialogue. When God, the ultimate Deity himself, says “ Come let us reason together ” (Isaiah 1vs 18), it means discourse can only be an inimitable concept if the Almighty himself is prepared to converse with us, the lesser mortals.

This week’s piece is heavily borrowed from Dr Godfrey Kanyenze’s seminal book, Leaving So Many Behind , published in 2021 by Weaver Press. In chapter 7 of that book, Dr Kanyenze makes reference to Mr Emmerson Mnangagwa’s four failed dialogue attempts that he initiated in 2019 following protests by restive citizens in the aftermath of a disputed election and a downturn in the economy.

Mr Mnangagwa’s four dialogues that have spectacularly collapsed like a deck of cards include the Political Actors Dialogue Platform (POLAD)), the Presidential Advisory Council (PAC), the Tripartite Negotiating Forum (TNF) and the Matabeleland Collective.

This week, we look at the fate of these so-called dialogues that began with so much aplomb and received spangled banner coverage in the State-captured so-called public media.

ED’s dark legacy of failed dialogue initiatives

Related Articles
1 of 79

1. The POLAD dialogue initiative

On 22 January 2019, in the immediate aftermath of citizen protests over the deteriorating economic situation, Mr Mnangagwa invited the 22 leaders of political parties that had contested the Presidential election to attend a political dialogue platform at State House on Wednesday, 6 February 2019.

This saw the birth of POLAD.

However, Nelson Chamisa refused to be part of POLAD, insisting as a condition that the abuse of the citizens had to stop and that the platform needed to be chaired by a neutral, independent, external mediator agreed to by all the parties.

Though it began amid much fanfare, with the political leaders who chose to attend lavished with cars and other trinkets, most of the leaders have since opted out of POLAD, an expensive talk-show whose purpose appeared to be just good optics for the outside world.

I have always publicly maintained that a prudent dialogical platform can only be that of people with some kind of disagreement. The opposition party leaders that attended MrMnangagwa’s POLAD were in agreement with him, except Chamisa, who had challenged ED’s disputed victory in court and had opted out of the presumed dialogue farce. And since he was talking to people who were generally in agreement with him, including leaders of surrogate political parties, Mnangagwa was basically talking to himself in what was essentially a monologue and not a dialogue.

I have argued that POLAD was Mr Mnangagwa’s crude form of political masturbation in which ED was certainly doing it to himself!

Today, POLAD as a dialogue initiative has largely failed as most of its original members have withdrawn from it. This has marked the failure of ED’s dialogue initiative number 1.

2. The Presidential Advisory Council ( PAC ) as a dialogue initiative

On the 29th of January 2019, ED constituted a 26-member Presidential Advisory Council to assist in formulating policies and strategies that would assist in advancing Vision 2030. The 26 members were professionals from diverse sectors including the media, agriculture, business, tourism, education, faith-based organizations, among many other sectors. It was supposed to be the President’s “sounding board” on key economic and other reforms.

Again, PAC as a dialogue platform has largely collapsed and some of its members have withdrawn, notably Trevor Ncube, who had hoped the platform would assist his Alpha Media Holdings to acquire radio and television licences. It appears instead it was Mnangagwa who benefited from the association as his son-in-law is now a shareholder in Ncube’s publishing house in what has been a State capture of a privately-owned media house.

As a prudent platform of offering advice to Mnangagwa, the PAC has largely failed to make any mark, showcasing the failure of ED’s second dialogue initiative.

3, The Matabeleland Collective as a dialogue initiative

On 21 March 2019, ED met with the Matabeleland Collective, an ensemble of churches and civic society organizations from Bulawayo, Matabelaland South, the Midlands and Matabeleland North provinces to discuss, among other issues, matters of development in the region, devolution as well as Gukurahundi .
The meeting sought to build consensus and to influence national and regional policies in a manner that would enhance healing, peace and reconciliation.

Yet again, this dialogue initiative has not yielded anything tangible on the ground.

In his book, Dr Kanyenze makes the point that this dialogue initiative has largely been viewed as the regime’s attempt to control the narrative, especially on the festering wounds of the Gukurahundi genocide, a solemn grievance that remains unresolved over 40 years later.

4. The Tripartite Negotiating Forum as a dialogue initiative

The Tripartite Negotiating Forum (TNF) was always a platform in which labour, business and government discussed matters of mutual interest. But on 5 June 2019, ED signed the TNF Act into law, a move which formalised and transformed the TNF into a statutory body.

The TNF Act requires the State to consult and negotiate with the TNF on social and economic matters and make recommendations to Cabinet.

Shockingly, despite the existence of the TNF Act that demanded consultation between the partners, at its very first meeting on 26 June 2019, the three partners led by the Minister of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare signed a joint statement decrying lack of consultation when government had unilaterally abandoned the multicurrency regime and adopted the Zimdollar as a mono currency.

The parties, interestingly including government as represented by its Minister, urged the government to review Statutory Instrument `142 as it violated section 13 (2) of the Constitution which demanded that government consults people in the formulation and implementation of policies and programmes that affect them.

This means the TNF as a dialogue platform failed from day one of its implementation.

In his book, Dr Kanyenze makes the point that there could have been no sincerity in this initiative, which has in some quarters been viewed as having been part of a grand but sinister plot by the regime to decouple the then formidable labour-backed MDC from its labour base.


It has thus been a legacy of failure in all the four dialogue initiatives of the Mnangagwa regime.

It appears, as rightly noted by Dr Kanyeze in his seminal book, all these dialogue initiatives appear to have been meant to coerce the political opposition into accepting the regime’s legitimacy.

However, it’s zero out four. All the four ED-initiated dialogue platforms appear now to be dead in the water.

Maybe charity should begin at home. Before attempting to negotiate with anyone outside his own party, ED should seriously consider first negotiating with his own deputy, given the now palpable fissures that seem to confirm the collapse of the civil-military coalition that ousted Mugabe from office in 2017.

That internal dialogue over allegations of betrayal on their secret pact dare not fail as signs point to an imminent implosion in this zero hour where the nation is teetering on the brink of what is likely to be yet another disputed plebiscite.

Luke Tamborinyoka, a citizen from Domboshava, is a journalist and a political scientist by profession. He is also a change champion in the Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC ). You can interact with him on his Facebook page or via the twitter handle @ luke_tambo.