HARARE - President Robert Mugabe’s Zanu PF said yesterday it was ready for face-to-face talks with opposition parties and civil society to find solutions bedevilling the country.
Zanu PF spokesperson Rugare Gumbo said dialogue was possible with former Prime Minister and MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai but first he has to drop claims that president Robert Mugabe and his party had rigged last July’s elections.
Gumbo spoke hours after Tsvangirai issued a statement dubbed “Personal Reflections” where he repeated calls for talks to help end the economic slide — part of a push by the opposition which fears the economic hardships could turn into a full-blown crisis and destabilise an already fragile country.
“The economic transformation that we want to achieve requires the voice of everyone, including the opposition and civic society,” Gumbo told the Daily News yesterday.
Gumbo however took exception to Tsvangirai’s blame game, saying “there is no point in pointing figures” but rather in working together in order to deal with problems besetting the country.
“He (Tsvangirai) has an agenda and he is just grandstanding,” Gumbo said.
“What we need to do as a country is to focus on economic issues affecting us. Many Zimbabweans do not understand the problems we are facing. Let us stop fighting for the sake of fighting.
“Let us eliminate criticism for the sake of criticism. It is a tragedy that Tsvangirai blames the president it is not a blame game. He just cannot open his mouth without uttering something bad. We want to change the landscape in our country.”
Zanu PF’s tone signals a shift in position, after initially out-rightly dismissing calls for dialogue to save the economy – describing Tsvangirai, who was in a four-year uneasy coalition with Zanu PF until last year, as a “daydreamer” desperately trying to worm his way back into government and enjoy the attendant perks.
This comes as Tsvangirai repeated calls for a multi-stakeholder national dialogue on the economy and there are growing concerns about Zanu PF’s capacity to turn around the economy.
The MDC rebels led Tendai Biti have also called for a “national transitional technical council (NTTC)” to run the economy.
“Naturally the NTTC must be a by-product of broad national dialogue,” said Jacob Mafume, spokesman of the so-called MDC renewal team.
“Further, the NTTC, cannot and should not be construed as a second government of national unity.
“As the MDC renewal team, we do not believe that a Government of National Unity right now, will be in the best interests of Zimbabwe contrary to the opinions of some of our former colleagues.”
In a recent report titled “Zimbabwe’s international re-engagement: The long haul to recovery”, London-based Chatham House (Chatham) warned that the Zanu PF government cannot single-handedly resuscitate the economy.
“The government… cannot reinvigorate the economy and this will require a truly national effort that – even if is temporary – brings together political parties, economic and social stakeholders in a collective effort to address the economic crisis. Otherwise, all the parties will lose credibility,” the independent policy institute says.
Since romping to an emphatic but controversial election victory last year, Zanu PF has been saddled by a myriad of problems, including managing public expectations, failure to pay its workers, provide clean water and electricity.
The ruling party is now banking on its economic blueprint, the Zimbabwe Agenda for Sustainable Socio-Economic Transformation (ZimAsset) to revive the economy, but the blueprint is stymied by a $27 billion funding shortfall.
Insiders said a meeting between Mugabe and Tsvangirai, which would be their first face-to-face encounter since the election last year that the ex-premier insists was rigged, would be “critical” to finally halting the economic decline.
Officials said such talks might take place soon, as long as Tsvangirai recognised Mugabe as a duly elected and legitimate president.
Gumbo’s statements are the clearest indication yet that Zanu PF is now eager to seek help to tackle the economy, including with groups hitherto classified as enemies of the State.
Tsvangirai predicted that the economic turmoil afflicting the landlocked nation would bring Zanu PF to the negotiation table.
“In January this year, I made a state of the nation address in which I spoke of the need for dialogue to address the debilitating economic and social crisis that we face,” Tsvangirai said.
“I notice the emerging consensus on my call for dialogue. The same call has been made by international institutions, Cabinet ministers, economists and civic society.
“Given our current economic paralysis, that national conversation to rescue the nation has become more urgent than ever before. There is an urgent imperative for a national conversation of more players than just political parties. The important aspect is that our dialogue must this time be broadened to include the trade unions, the church, students, industry and other stakeholders.”