HARARE, February 7 ‑ Opposition leader Nelson Chamisa on Wednesday snubbed talks called for by President Emmerson Mnangagwa to discuss possible solutions to Zimbabwe’s worsening economic crisis.
Astronomical fuel price hikes last month sparked unprecedented street protests. The ensuing brutal clampdown by security forces left 12 people dead and as many 68 others with gunshot wounds. More than 1,000 people have been arrested so far.
Unemployment is estimated to be as high as 90 percent, shops and industries are struggling to stay open, shortages of essential drugs and equipment are the norm at state hospitals, civil servants are restless, some teachers have gone on strike and banks have no money to pay out withdrawals.
Mnangagwa, who came to power through the “military intervention” in 2017 that deposed long-time leader Robert Mugabe, called for the talks to try and save the situation largely blamed by his detractors on his legitimacy.
The 76-year-old former guerrilla fighter nicknamed the “crocodile” narrowly won disputed election last year in August – since then the economy has been in free fall.
With little wiggle room, Mnangagwa this week called for urgent talks, which he had previously said would only take place if Chamisa recognised his presidency.
However, on Wednesday Chamisa, the leader of the largest opposition party, snubbed the talks.
At least 12 other political figures who contested in the elections met Mnangagwa at State House.
“Nobody has a monopoly on good ideas, and we all have a part to play towards the prosperity and well-being of our country and our people,” said Mnangagwa at the meeting.
“As the adage goes, ‘individually we are just a drop, but together we are a mighty ocean’. We thus have more to gain from unity than from individualism.”
The embattled Zanu PF leader challenged losing presidential aspirants to accept the results of last year’s elections as a legitimate expression of the will of the Zimbabwean people. Chamisa still insists he is the rightful winner of the polls.
“As is the nature of most contests, only a single candidate will emerge, which in this case happened to be me,” Mnangagwa said.
He pleaded with opposition leaders to join him in the re-engagement and re-integration efforts of Zimbabwe into the family of nations.
Western countries, led by the US and Britain, imposed targeted sanctions on some Zanu PF leaders for human rights violations at the height of the country’s chaotic land reform programme in the year 2000.
South Africa President Cyril Ramaphosa recently called for the lifting of these sanctions, which he said made it difficult for Zimbabwe to fix its economy.
At the talks on Wednesday, Mnangagwa called on opposition leaders to help him grow the economy as no Zimbabwean, regardless of their political affiliation, “can thrive in an environment of poverty”. He also called for peace, unity and constitutionalism.
In a statement late Wednesday, Chamisa said: “In this respect, the MDC believes that genuine dialogue can only take place if regionally facilitated and mediated by SADC and guaranteed by the AU and the UN.
“It is also our view and position that genuine dialogue can only take place when a conducive environment has been created for the same.”
Chamisa, who turned 41 at the weekend, called for an immediate stop to all forms of violence, including rape, killings, shootings, torture, abductions and the bringing to book of those responsible of trampling on human rights.
He also called for an immediate stop to arbitrary arrests, mass trials and violations of the rule of law.
Former vice-president and National People’s Party leader Joice Mujuru did not attend.
– African News Agency (ANA)