Zim churches in renewed push for inclusive dialogue

By  Tafadzwa Muranganwa

HARARE-VARIOUS church organisations on Thursday attended a national prayer breakfast meeting to launch a national dialogue initiative in a bid to find a lasting solution to the current economic and political crisis bedevilling the country.

The event which was organised by Zimbabwe Council of Churches (ZCC) and included the Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops  Conference, Evangelical Fellowship of Zimbabwe and UDACIZA was Defence minister Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri who was representing President Emmerson Mnangagwa, MDC Alliance leader Nelson Chamisa, several top officials of Zanu PF,MDC Alliance, other opposition political leaders and civic organisations’ representatives.

The gathering comes after Wednesday’s invitation by President Emmerson Mnangagwa of all opposition political party leaders who participated in last year’s 2018 elections which Chamisa snubbed.

In his opening remarks Reverend Father Simba Mutandwa acknowledged the plethora of problems affecting citizens and took time to reflect on how national dialogue has always been the panacea in restoring peace and fostering development in the country.

“The last few days have confirmed what the churches have always viewed as three diseases affecting the well being of our nation that are, an unhealed and broken relationships, week foundations of constitutional democracy and an ailing economy.

“Though not imperfect, dialogue  among Zimbabweans has in the past produced recognisable peace, unity, justice and prosperity  like the Lancaster House ,talks during the Gukurahundi that birthed the 1987 Unity Accord, the dialogue that brought the government of national unity (GNU) in 2009 and the broad national consultations that culminated in the 2013 constitution,” Reverend Mutandwa said.

Various church leaders including Zion Christian Church(ZCC)’s Bishop Nehemiah Mutendi and Zimbabwe Assemblies Of God Africa(ZAOGA)’s Ezekiel Guti  implored political leaders to bury the hatchet and work in harmony for the betterment of the citizenry.

ZCC leader Nehemia Mutendi challenged President Emmerson Mnangagwa of the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (Zanu PF) and opposition leader Nelson Chamisa of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC Alliance) to take a cue from their predecessors who sat for a dialogue after the 2008 electoral stalemate culminating in the setting up of the GNU.

“Tsvangirai made peace with Mugabe and he did not consider it humiliation but he did it for peace. When Mugabe made peace President Mnangagwa was his right hand man, when Tsvangirai made peace Chamisa was his right hand man so why can’t it happen now?” Mutendi asked.

The MDC Alliance   president  Nelson Chamisa   applauded the efforts by the churches to bring together him and his political nemesis  President  Mnangagwa but  described the absence of the Zanu PF leader as unfortunate.

“I have always said I am ready to dialogue any time and want to applaud the church for creating this platform which is neutral but I am very disappointed that my competitor in the last election is not here because he should have heard my concerns for us to have a successful dialogue,” chanted the opposition leader.

The 41-year-old leader also reiterated that legitimacy of the 2018 elections remain one of his party’s contestations which must be dealt with the national   dialogue.

In response to Chamisa on the sidelines of the breakfast meeting, Deputy Minister Energy Mutodi   explained that there was nothing amiss by the absence of President Emmerson Mnangagwa as he was ably represented by cabinet ministers and his top party members.

“President Emmerson Mnangagwa did send us to represent him so there is nothing wrong about that,” queried the controversial minister.

The former Rhumba musician described Chamisa’s demands as ‘meaningless’   and believes the ED-led administration is in the right course to economic recovery.

“What Chamisa said is meaningless we can’t dialogue when someone gives us pre-conditions for the talks to happen.

“People should bear with us because the changes being implemented in the Transition Stabilisation   Programme come with some difficulties but we are on course for economic growth,” argued Mutodi.

Meanwhile , Zimbabwe Council of  Churches (ZCC) general secretary Reverend Kenneth Mtata said  they will be sending emissaries to President Emmerson Mnangagwa so that he can meet with Nelson  Chamisa for a dialogue following the affirmation by the opposition leader’s willingness  to engage as long as there is a neutral convener.