By Tafadzwa Masango
THE idea of a national dialogue is not new to Zimbabwe, or any nation for that matter.
Opposing voices are continuously having conversations, be it on the economy, politics or social issues.
For years, Zimbabweans’ dialogue on national issues, especially those of a political nature, were restricted to whispers in closed circles.
One can say the largest platform for national discourse has been the Tripartite Negotiation Forum (TNF).
The TNF has been in existence since 1998 as a voluntary and unlegislated chamber in which socio-economic matters are discussed and negotiated over by the social partners.
Since its formation in 1998, the TNF has pursued dialogue on many issues affecting the socio-economic landscape of the country.
This has ranged from economic stabilisation to the promotion of a broad common national vision for development.
On the political front, since 1978, Zimbabwe has had three significant national dialogues leading to the Lancaster House Agreement, National Unity Accord (1987) and the Government of National Unity (2008).
When Zimbabweans came together in 2017 and, through political processes, ushered in a new era under the leadership of President Emmerson Mnangagwa, a new leaf was turned in terms of national discourse.
While the first three national dialogues were driven by major events and their participants were limited to a few political actors, the latest round of national dialogue is not only inclusive but is driven by national interest and not the need for political settlements.
National interest is shaped by national discourse
National conversations are an integral part of any successful nation.
A quick glance at how Zimbabweans have come together on the issue of the irreversibility of the Land Reform Programme (LRP) exemplifies the importance of national dialogue in the development of the country.
Stakeholders, including the media and political parties have made strides in articulating the significance of land to the Zimbabwean story and this has shaped the agenda on the land issue, thus providing platforms for debate.
It can safely be said that since the inception of the LRP, the majority of Zimbabweans from all walks of life and from across the political divide are speaking with one voice.
‘Zimbabwe is Open for Business’ and dialogue
Right of the bat, President Mnangagwa came on the scene with one message; that Zimbabwe is open for business.
He then added that not only is Zimbabwe open for business, it is also open for dialogue with former and current friends.
He did not just take this message to the international community, but also opened the door for business and dialogue locally.
For a country which had been polarised over the years, we are in need of truthful conversations.
We cannot dialogue with the outside world and yet fail to have conversations among ourselves.
We cannot attain upper middle-income economy by 2030 without a shared vision.
“My administration continues to push for greater national peace, unity and harmony and cohesion, fully aware that a nation at peace with itself is a nation that can achieve socio economic development.
As such, a national dialogue platform has been established to allow a broader cross section of the political players to express their views and input into the governance discourse of this country. We are therefore committed to dialogue at home, across the entire region and beyond. Together we shall create a new reality for our people.
Today, Zimbabwe is in a process of transformation and national renewal. We are making steady progress with regards both economic and political reforms in Zimbabwe. The fiscal and monetary policies we have introduced in Zimbabwe are also humble successes of where we want to go,” said President Mnangagwa on February 28 2019 in Harare, at the inaugural Zimbabwe-Botswana Bi-National Commission.
National dialogue for national building
There are those who have unfortunately misinterpreted the national dialogue platform as an opportunity for political settlements, possibly because they are still living in the past where dialogue was about political negotiations and not national interest.
The era for personalities has passed. Zimbabweans have more pressing needs that cannot be solved by grandstanding rhetoric, but by servant leaders who understand that political office is about service, not personal glory.
Said Professor Lovemore Madhuku: “The purpose of politics is to bring to the public domain the various useful ideas that society needs.
The fact that people are in an opposition party or small groups will not take away that they might have constructive ideas that might be used by those in power.
After an election, it is not the case that society must fall on the basis of what is in the ruling party.”