In February, State media quoted President Emmerson Mnangagwa as having said: “I cannot talk to someone who says, ‘l don’t recognise you because you are an illegitimate President’, as then the talks will be illegitimate. I don’t want to see myself exchanging words with (MDC leader Nelson) Chamisa. l don’t want to sink to that level.” But barely four days later, the same Mnangagwa invited leaders of different political persuasions to a meeting so they could map a way forward and allow for dialogue do begin among all Zimbabweans, Chamisa included. What has now changed, if one may ask?
BY Prestige Dube
Exactly 41 years ago, an increasingly paranoiac Ian Smith (now late) also asked leaders of different political parties to attend a discursive meeting.
As the guerrilla warfare intensified and sanctions took their toll on the Smith regime, prospects of losing the war on all fronts became apparent.
The Chimurenga had morphed into a multifaceted war: Including being civil, economic and political.
As the late Rhodesian Prime Minister ironically made clarion calls for dialogue, thousands of political prisoners languished in prisons across the country, and without even being granted an opportunity to be heard through fair judicial processes.
Meanwhile, the Patriotic Front – a combination of Zanla and Zipra guerrilla fighters – had its influence spread right across the country, including those outside as they now literally received global support.
History is littered with great lessons, and it is by far the greatest and wisest teacher.
Events are repetitive, and no one scenario is new at all.
But why has it been necessary to bring in the Smiths experience?
There are, obviously, very close similarities between yesteryear experiences with those Zimbabwe is going through.
Faced with the imminent shutdown of Western diplomatic space and growing political, economic and diplomatic pressure, Mnangagwa has had revisit and take a leaf from the late Smith’s tactics.
On February 2019, Mnangagwa called for what he said was an urgent dialogue, giving only a few hours’ notice for political leaders to attend – more of an ultimatum.
Twenty-one of the 23 political leaders who took part in the July 2018 elections attended, with the leader of the main opposition, Advocate Chamisa and Dr Joice Mujuru absconding.
Chamisa immediately published ten preconditions if he was to attend the talks, making look like he was reading from the same book with former President Robert Mugabe, on several occasions as the latter spurned the hard-pressed Smith’s invitation to talks. Events then and now resemble a soap opera, except that characters are different.
On March 3, 1978, an Internal Settlement was signed, giving birth to Zimbabwe-Rhodesia. The whole political settlement was, indeed, fraudulent.
And true to form, Mnangagwa is trying as hard as he can to emulate – whether by form or design – to rope in Smith’s Machiavellian politics. This is what losers across the political spectrum do when they want legitimation!
During the Smith era, there were two main opposition groups – Zanu and Zapu, while now have the MDC led by Chamisa and a splinter MDC-T under the purview of Thokozani Khupe, who is of the late Bishop Abel Muzorewa, Ndabaningi Sithole and Jeremiah Chirau typologies.
Some of the opposition parties are known Zanu PF surrogates, meant to sanitise all Zanu PF decisions and serving as pretence that there is now tolerance and inclusion of opposing voices.
Just as well, Smith wanted to use the Internal settlement to deceive the international community into believing that power now belonged to the majority while still perpetuating white repressive rule and fulfil his ‘not in a thousand years’ mantra.
In typical style, Mnangagwa intends to create an internal concession, in which he is the source of power, with other signatories just meant to sanitise his grip on power and lower down seething domestic and international tempers emanating from his government’s failure to bring about democratic rule in the country.
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