‘Dialogue should not be a preserve of political elites’ says Margaret Dongo

By Lynette Manzini
War Veteran  and former politician Margaret Dongo has recommended that dialogue premised around rescuing the country from the current political and economic crisis should not be confined to the political elite but extended to across the board.
Since the ouster of the late Robert Mugabe in November 2017,  the country has been under the Emmerson Mnangagwa led ZanuPF whose rise to power was aided by the military.
Mnangagwa’s reign initially resulted in the opening up of the democratic space which changed after soldiers shot, injured and killed civilians in August 2018 before the July harmonised election results were announced.
The civic space continues to shrink  resulting in arrests of numerous activists, politicians and journalists. 
The political crisis the country is currently  entangled in has negatively impacted the economic development and contributed to the unemployment rate and poor living standards for the citizens.
Speaking during an online launch of the research report entitled- A Citizens Perspective on Dialogue- Dongo said, ” During the liberation war there were critical differences between ZIPRA and ZANLA forces and each time they met they would stop fighting the enemy and start fighting each other, this was a crisis on it’s on.
This crisis was easily resolved through dialogue, so i want to emphasize the importance of the dialogue, ” Dongo said.
The research was carried out by the Alliance of Community Based Organisation (ACBO) in a bid to capture the citizens voices in regards to their position on dialogue and whether citizens view it as a solution to solving the pending crisis.
Findings of  the research indicate that the majority of the citizens agreed that the crisis has led to the deteriorating of the socio-politico-economic environment and dialogue was the preferred route to disentangle the nation from the crisis.
In May 2019 a dialogue platform known as the Political Actors dialogue (POLAD) was launched by Mnangagwa of which 17 out of the 23 political party leaders are members, with the exception of the president of the MDC Alliance Nelson Chamisa who narrowly lost the presidential election 2018.
The dialogue platform has been blamed for excluding civic society organisations, churches, youths and women groups. This gave rise to the National Convergence Platform which was inclusive of politicians, activists, technocrats, Civil Society Organisations and the church.
During the launch of the report Linda Mpofu -Community Youth Development Trust- project officer- emphasised that prior engagements benefited the political elite and neglected the issues ordinary citizens considered important.
“As far as dialogue is concerned Zimbabwe had a dialogue that ended up forming the  Government of National Unity (GNU) but it only benefited political party leaders leaving the people that matter the grassroots, ” she said.
“Most people feel that should there be a dialogue that is inclusive, it should be led by the church. They feel that the church is honest, neutral and truthful, a position that has been influenced by the truth and reconciliation commission in South Africa that was led by the church, ” Mpofu added.
“Citizens want to actively and effectively participate in the dialogue process because if they do so this will ensure that the national dialogue is democratic and will prevent political leaders from making partisan decisions that do not serve the interests of the citizens,” Mpofu said.
However, academic and Chairman of the Southern Africa political Economy Series (SAPES Trust) Ibbo Mandaza was of the opinion that a National Transitional Authority (NTA) would be a better option.
“This regime has no capacity to turn things around either politically or economically. If that is the position what is dialogue going to be about especially when they have remained resistant to any kind of discussions.”
“If we have a situation such as we have, which has become more pronounced since we first talked about the idea of a National Transition Authority (NTA) in 2015.”
Mandaza urged community based organisations and civil society organisations to look into and discuss the idea of the proposed NTA transition as dialogue alone would not bring about the much needed reforms.