Latest News Editor's Choice

Opinion / Columnist

Dialogue is critical but requires sincerity and progressive mindset

07 Feb 2019 at 15:56hrs | Views
Political dialogue takes place in many forms, it is initiated and facilitated by a variety of actors. One cannot be an initiator and actor at the same time. Four main types of political dialogue have been identified and these are high level summit dialogues, track two interventions mainly by civic society or leaders that provide discreet and relatively low risk opportunities to explore options, build trust and mutual understanding. The third one is political dialogue that takes place as indispensable aspect of planning, peace building, state building and development. The anchor of dialogue is sincerity and honest. Allow me to express my views with sincerity as an academic and development practitioner. What is it that we want to achieve through political dialogue? Which we have not achieved in the past? How many dialogue initiatives have propped up in the past? Any key result area? It is very critical to look at the implementation part and the objectives of the dialogue. Remember we had a commission on 01 August 2018 events, we thought that chapter was closed, a fortnight ago, we lost 12 lives, and so should there be another commission? Is it about dialogue or it's about sincerity with progressive mindset as a key factor and component. This will entails our situation and were we are heading at the moment. Everyone wants to initiate dialogue, is it about sincerity or opportunity to harvest from the nest. Remember this will accompany with state resources. There is hope amongst Zimbabweans that this dialogue initiative will give birth to an inclusive arrangement, and the sentiments on the ground are an inclusive approach. The issue of dialogue needs clarity. Dialogue cannot be a rushed idea or concept, there is need for proper legal and economic framework that will define the terms and references pointing to limitations.

Preconditions of successful dialogue

Political dialogue is a complex political and psychological process. For success it relies on sincerity, honest and integrity. An underestimation of its complexity contributes to failure and distortion of information and ideas. Moreover, pursuing dialogue in inappropriate manners and at inappropriate times may do harm because of the way it reduces confidence, increases cynicism and contributes to what has become known as "dialogue fatigue". The preconditions for success dialogue will be as follows, conducting an objective, reliable analysis of the conflict and parties interests and fears. Learning lessons from the past experiences. What people don't realize is that the chaotic 2008 situation was so harmful to our nation and progress was derailed. When the 2008 talks gave birth to an inclusive arrangement there was political and economic stability and this instilled confidence in the market when the GNU was deactivated in 2013, the economy was a bit fragile followed by economic problems. So when coming up with such initiatives this must be followed. It is also key to design an appropriate process, clarifying and allocating roles of different support actors. Setting up a support structure to deal with funding, logistical arrangements and financial management. Then a question comes, who is sponsoring this dialogue? Is it the mother church body? Is it the state? Is it USA? Is it UNDP? Parameters must be set and clear before any hurried meetings takes place. Never underestimate the influence of people and it is critical to involve people in such initiatives. The issue of dialogue in Zimbabwe is not about Mnangagwa and Chamisa but it is about the people of Zimbabwe, neither it is about Zanu PF nor MDC Alliance but people as a whole. There should be assurance of the following in their sequence form, there should be credible facilitation, it is critical to have a skilled facilitator for the dialogue to carry weight. Judging by the events which took place 48 hours ago, we don't have dialogue yet in Zimbabwe, if proper channels are not followed it will suffer a fatal blow at infancy level.

Sufficient political commitment is key – political will must be shown between Zanu PF and MDC Alliance. I specifically mentioned these two political giants mainly because they have a huge following. There have been social media rants following Chamisa's snub at State House, and most Zanu PF were calling for progress and ignoring Chamisa, which they dismissed as a non-factor. Dismissing Chamisa at this juncture will be political suicide. Those small political outfits which attended State House function were meant to do decorate the political shroud. For now the game is between Mnangagwa and Chamisa. Political will is influenced by internal and external political pressure for now, if Mnangagwa budge he will be viewed by his stalwarts from his revolutionary party as "sell out". So his meeting with political actors which chaired at State House was strategic for him and Zanu PF, though he knew that Chamisa was a key player. Basically what that means is that, he is bargaining for key areas ahead of series of dialogue meetings in the near future. Another key factor is collective responsibility and leadership capability. A critical factor determining the success of dialogue is the capability of leaders to form coalitions across political and social divides in order to implement decisions that have been made through the dialogue process. Adequate inclusion is also key for genuine dialogue. The aspect of inclusion is of critical importance because exclusion is often a major of conflict. It is in most cases, contentious issue, and in reality difficult to satisfy all. In this current scenario it will be difficult to leave out Nelson Chamisa and Emmerson Mnangagwa. The above named two are political heavy weights who command a huge following.

AU Meetings
It was strategic for ED to call for dialogue at State House considering that there will be AU meetings in the few couple of days. There is regional and international pressure over the brutality and alleged abductions, torture and killings that took place last month. Mnangagwa might want to be viewed as a changed man who accommodates other political players. Don't forget that Kagame and Ramaphosa are under immense pressure from Western countries over Zim situation. In fact EU and other countries have threatened to withdraw aid over Zim crisis. In my personal view ED is under internal and external pressure over the recent political and economic developments in Zimbabwe. He was aware that Chamisa would not attend but he did it "with political courtesy" to paint a good picture to the international community. Diplomats were apprising the international community with latest political and economic developments in the country. Remember work is being done behind the scenes to avert a situation, were Zimbabwe will be tabled on the agenda, and this will put Zimbabwe under spot light. There is a risk that Zimbabwe agenda might be sneaked into the meeting considering the political machinery within and outside Zimbabwe. Mnangagwa would also want to strengthen his position as State President. No one would want to lose presidency at this juncture, so by positioning the dialogue meeting at State House, he is just reminding all political players that he is the State President, negotiations can be done outside this "key position". That is what I have always asked, is it about current positions or reforms? Dialogue component must be clear.

Chamisa's dialogue position strengthens his Presidency

Don't forget that Chamisa faces an internal election ten months away from now. There are internal forces who may want him to fail considering that he took over from the late Tsvangirai in 2018. Though he does not have a string contender, but he also wants to shield his presidency by playing the game in a smarter way. Remember there were accusations widely read that Chamisa is viewed as a Zanu PF sympathizer, so by accepting to go to State House was going to be viewed by many as sympathetic to Zanu PF and particularly Mnangagwa. He would not want to mess up politically at the time when his political career is on the horizon. For now he is playing his cards in a smarter way. In fact it will be suicidal to challenge Chamisa ahead of the elective congress. His position on dialogue has strengthened him politically and well strategic. Judging from his sentiments and political utterances, this dialogue initiative may hit a brick wall, considering the political ideologies he has with his arch-rivalry. Remember Chamisa has internal enemies who would want to see him failing so that they will find an excuse to challenge his presidency. There are also the tapinda tapinda crew who are around him, well positioned in case of an inclusive arrangement, they would also want to be part of the cabal.

Tinashe Eric Muzamhindo writes in his personal capacity as an academic and Policy maker within and outside Zimbabwe. He is also a leading consultant in Project Management and he is studying Doctor of Philosophy at Women's University of Africa. He holds a B.A Solusi University, M.A University of Lusaka, Zambia. He holds a certificate in Project Management (UZ) He can be contacted at

Source - Tinashe Eric Muzamhindo
All articles and letters published on Bulawayo24 have been independently written by members of Bulawayo24's community. The views of users published on Bulawayo24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Bulawayo24. Bulawayo24 editors also reserve the right to edit or delete any and all comments received.