MDC-T secretary general Douglas Mwonzora could be headed on a collision course with President Emmerson Mnangagwa and Zanu PF after he said South Africa should play a mediatory role in pacifying Zimbabwe’s socio-economic crisis.
Mwonzora, who is currently one of the most senior opposition officials in Parliament, said Zimbabwe’s situation required assistance from outside.
His remarks contradict Mnangagwa’s assertion that there was no crisis and that Zimbabwe would not welcome South Africa to address her domestic affairs.
The southern African nation is battling rising inflation, critical shortages of medicines in public hospitals, high unemployment levels, hunger and political intolerance.
“There is no question that we have a crisis in this country. We have a crisis of the economy, we have a crisis of corruption, the social crisis—poverty and the crisis of contested legitimacy.
“Every time after elections, there is a contest on legitimacy and so on. We have a crisis that needs the help of our neighbours and we think that the coming in of South Africa is a very good initiative. It is part of the African diplomacy by a neighbour who is affected when something wrong happens in Zimbabwe,” Mwonzora said in an interview with Business Times.
“It is very regrettable that Mr. Chinamasa [Zanu PF acting spokesperson Patrick] says something like that. This is a neighbour who wants to help; this is a neighbour who is affected if something wrong happens here. Yes, Zimbabwe is not a province of South Africa but South Africa has played throughout history a positive role in Zimbabwe’s affairs.”
Pretoria played a crucial role in the mediation process that came after the contested 2008 presidential election runoff.
The negotiations led to the signing of the Global Political Agreement which gave birth to a coalition government which included Zanu PF and two MDC formations.
“We must thank them for being responsible neighbours; we must thank them for being concerned about what is happening in Zimbabwe.
To say that there is no crisis in Zimbabwe, that is very, very wrong because first of all the economy is not normal, we have unprecedented levels of poverty, we have debilitating corruption that is happening at local government level as well as national government level,” he said.
Mwonzora’s remarks tally with African National Congress chairperson of the International Affairs committee Lindiwe Zulu’s assertion that South Africa has every right to ask questions on the Zimbabwe crisis because the situation affects Pretoria too.
“I think we will stand by that statement (that there is a political crisis in Zimbabwe) until the situation has improved,” Zulu told Business Times last week.
“Let me also say that we must not be dragged into words, using those words at all. We must be able to first of all appreciate the situation because if the situation was happening in South Africa, we take it that Zanu PF would stand up and say hey ANC, you can’t afford to do the following things because they have a negative impact on us.” Zulu said this after the ANC had announced that it would soon engage with opposition parties, civic society organisations and the clergy as many look up to South Africa to assist resolving challenges in Zimbabwe.
Earlier on, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa sent envoys led by Sydney Mufamadi to meet with Mnangagwa over the prevailing political situation in the country.
However, South Africa overtures to the opposition have riled Mnangagwa and other hawkish Zanu PF officials who oppose the move saying Zimbabwe can resolve her domestic affairs.
Immediate past Botswana President Ian Khama has also waded into the crisis urging SADC to intervene.
“Forty years after independence in Zimbabwe the only thing that’s changed is the name of the country and leaders, in plain English, there’s a crisis in Zimbabwe, not just challenges and that’s why Zanu PF officials used the word crisis more than 40 times and Zimbabwean lives matter,” Khama said in a virtual meeting on Zimbabwe.
“I call upon Sadc to urgently convene a special summit on Zimbabwe. If they don’t do that they are culpable in the suffering of the people of Zimbabwe. I call on civic society organisations in other countries to get involved.”
After taking over from long-time ruler Robert Mugabe, Mnangagwa promised to tackle corruption in the public sector but his critics say his administration appears to have lost steam in this fight.
Mnangagwa has also clamped down on dissent leading to the arrest of opposition leaders and activists.
Commenting on the divisions within the main opposition party, Mwonzora said there has been an “ideological rupture” which he said would be fixed by the time Zimbabwe goes for the next elections in 2023.
“Former trade unionists went on one side then you have former student leaders and pro-capital people went on the other side.
This is an ideological rupture and that does not spell doom for opposition politics,” Mwonzora said.
“In 2005, the MDC split. It was split by Welshman Ncube as a result of very simple issues but it split nevertheless.
“But it 2008 posted its biggest win against Zanu PF since its formation in 1999—it won the presidential election, it won the Parliamentary election and it won almost all the local authority elections. The fact that there has been a problem in the opposition does not spell doom.”