THE EU’s recent attempt to persuade the ruling ZANU PF to hold talks with the MDC Alliance is a desperate premise to save the opposition party from losing relevance following an authoritative report that predicted it is going to lose the 2023 general elections.
Informed sources revealed that the frantic efforts by the EU to push for talks between ZANU PF and the MDC Alliance were premised on the impending exit from the EU by Britain on October 31 2019 and the recent report by the Economist Intelligence Union (EIU) which said ZANU PF will wallop the MDC Alliance in the 2023 elections.
These factors would save the MDC Alliance which is reeling under factionalism that is likely to tear it apart.
There have been serious fights and discontent in the MDC Alliance over control of the party and the direction which it is taking under the leadership of Nelson Chamisa.
A dead MDC Alliance leaves the ever intrusive EU with nothing to clutch onto.
And the EU’s coming on board to push for dialogue is unlikely to find takers from ZANU PF at the current moment.
The EIU is a research and analysis unit of the influential British publication The Economist and was established in 1946.
Its report was published on October 9 2019, a day after EU Ambassador to Zimbabwe Timo Olkkonen curiously visited the ZANU PF Headquarters to cajole the Party to hold talks with the MDC Alliance, a suggestion which was duly and flatly rejected.
ZANU PF cited the conditions which the MDC Alliance has raised as one of the reasons behind their refusal to entertain the push by the EU.
The MDC Alliance claims, among other things, that President Mnangagwa is an ‘illegitimate’ President who was not elected by the people and, as such, cannot recognise him as the country’s leader.
These factors, the sources say, have brought the EU’s credibility to question since the Western bloc has said little or nothing about the untenable conditions that the MDC Alliance has raised in its faltering bid to get into power.
Further, the exit of Britain from the EU and the opening up of democratic space and business opportunities by the new dispensation will leave the EU exposed, hence their frenetic last ditch attempt to smuggle the MDC Alliance to the table.
“By taking sides with the MDC Alliance, which wants to come to the table with conditions, the EU is effectively playing the role of a biased arbitrator if at all anyone pays attention to what the bloc is trying to do,” one of the sources said.
“You will also remember that Olkkonen has become the de facto MDC Alliance spokesperson through his reckless utterances which have infuriated the authorities.
“All this brought together naturally mothballs into a not so hidden attempt to interfere in the country’s affairs.
“Add to that the complexity of the departure from the EU by Britain and the report by the EIU, then the pieces fall into place.”
This comes as information at hand shows that while the EU, through Olkkonen, has been employing the ruse that talks will ‘save’ Harare, the reality is that they are bent on undermining President Mnangagwa’s presidency by smuggling in the legitimacy issue.
Since being trounced by President Mnangagwa during the July 30 2018 elections, opposition leader Chamisa has been claiming the country is facing what he says is a ‘legitimacy crisis’.
This is despite a ruling by the courts that President Mnangagwa fairly won the elections.
In addition, President Mnangagwa has initiated inclusive dialogue under the auspices of the Political Actors Dialogue (POLAD) which was launched on May 17 2019.
POLAD brings together political parties that participated in last year’s presidential elections.
The initiative seeks to unite the nation
and turn around the country’s economy.
But the MDC Alliance insists that Chamisa holds one-on-one talks with President Mnangagwa since he cannot be part of a grouping of ‘jokers’, in apparent reference to the POLAD drive.
And ZANU PF secretary for administration Obert Mpofu, who met Olkkonen, told a local daily that the MDC Alliance must drop its legitimacy issue if talks were to happen between the two parties.
“We had a meeting with the EU Ambassador and a representative from the Zimbabwe Institute,” Mpofu said.
“The meeting was very cordial, but tense. The meeting was initiated by the EU Ambassador.
“They were engaging us on issues to do with dialogue between ZANU PF and the MDC. They said President [Emmerson] Mnangagwa should speak with Chamisa to end the current crisis and we told them that dialogue to discuss the national question had already been initiated by the President under POLAD which invited all Zimbabweans to come to the table.”
While Olkkonen was harping about talks between ZANU PF and the MDC Alliance, the EIU was releasing a document that gave credence to the widely embraced view that the ruling Party does not need the opposition to extricate the country from the prevailing economic malaise.
“In the most recent presidential election, in July 2018, Mr Mnangagwa won 50,8 percent of the votes, just enough to avoid a run-off against his nearest rival, Nelson Chamisa of the MDC,” reads the report in part.
“Mr Chamisa secured 44,3 percent of the vote, with the remainder spread across the other 21 candidates.
In the legislative election, which was held at the same time, ZANU-PF secured a two-thirds parliamentary majority, with 179 out of 270 seats.
ZANU-PF remains in a dominant position because any group splitting from the ruling party would lose access to the benefits of incumbency.
Nevertheless, the emergence of divisions within ZANU-PF cannot be ruled out as the economic situation remains perilous.
The opposition has little political authority or ability to hold the government to account.
The next presidential and legislative elections are due to be held in 2023.
We expect ZANU-PF to win comfortably given its stranglehold on the political scene.
Because of the ruling party’s dominance, we deem early elections to be unlikely, despite significant political and economic tensions.”
The EIU report also predicted that the country’s currency will gain strength, going to Z$7.1: USD$1 by 2024.
As the so-called Brexit (Britain’s exit from the EU) gathers momentum, Zimbabwe has started initiating processes for the aftermath of that momentous event by ratifying bilateral trade signed with Britain.
Zimbabwe is one of the countries that Britain has lined up to do business with as relations between the two nations are thawing following almost two decades of brawling over Harare’s Land Reform and Resettlement Programme of 2000.
The Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Affairs, Ambassador James Manzou, told The Sunday Mail that Zimbabwe is very much a target of Britain’s overtures to look for post-Brexit markets.
“Britain is planning on exiting the European Union. Zimbabwe and other East and Southern African countries are signatories to a partnership agreement with the EU called the EU-ESA agreement,” said Ambassador Manzou.
Now that Britain is pulling out of the EU, it means the EU-ESA can no longer trade with them under the terms of that agreement. However, our trade agreement with the rest of the EU continues under the terms of the EU-ESA agreement.
This now means there is need for a separate agreement for countries such as Zimbabwe to continue to trade with the UK.
The UK put forward a draft partnership agreement which is similar to the EU-ESA agreement so that countries like ours can continue to trade with the UK.
It is our practice that when an agreement has been signed, it has to be ratified. At the moment, Zimbabwe is going through the ratification process.”
As Zimbabwe forges ahead with its home grown solutions to its problems, it must be wary of moves by the likes of the EU to interfere in its internal affairs.
ZANU PF must also be on the lookout for infiltrators who are regrouping and angling to destabilise the Party.