South African International Relations Minister Naledi Pandor with Zimbabwe’s Foreign Affairs Minister Frederick Shava in Pretoria last week.


SOUTH Africa’s wish for unity of purpose among Zimbabwe’s major political parties — while noble — could be a bridge too far at the moment, as the various contestants have their eyes firmly fixed on the looming 2023 national elections, analysts say.

In addition, they also said, no one among the country’s “Big Three” parties represented in Parliament — the ruling Zanu PF, the MDC and the Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) — appeared particularly interested in working with others becaue they had all adopted a “winner-takes-all” approach ahead of the crunch polls.

Senior consultant at the International Crisis Group (ICG), Piers Pigou, was among the analysts who told the Daily News yesterday that it was likely too late to expect unity of purpose and dialogue in Zimbabwe ahead of 2023, as wished for by the South African government.

“This call makes much sense, but in the current context of heading to elections in 2023 and an accompanying winner-takes-all mentality, it seems highly unlikely that common ground will be found.

“This reflects entrenched polarised thinking and analysis on multiple fronts, relating to the realities and nature of the challenges in play.

“Confluence will not happen when dishonesty and a lack of accountability is the order of the day,” Pigou told the Daily News.

“Naledi Pandor’s (SA minister for International Relations) call (for local unity of purpose) infers equitable responsibility from the key players, but ignores the asymmetries of power between those players. That asymmetry remains the primary obstacle,” he added.

Senior lecturer at South Africa’s Tshwane University of Technology, Ricky Mukonza, also said it would be difficult to see a change in the attitudes of the major political parties as the 2023 elections drew closer.

“This is the difficulty because of the personalities of those at the helm of the dominant political parties. The egos of these leaders prevent that unity of purpose to be realised for the common good of the country.

“I, however, place a bigger responsibility on the leaders of the ruling party as they have bigger control of the situation. They need to manage things better for that unity to manifest,” he said.

On his part, the professor of world politics at the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), Stephen Chan, said it was unfortunate that Zimbabwe was not keen to take the example of Zambia, where its leader Hakainde Hichilema had invited his predecessor Edgar Lungu to join him in a national effort to move the country forward.

“In Zimbabwe, whether there are positive regional examples of working together or not, the political parties seem adamant they will not work together except on their own terms.

“Each preaches dialogue, but each almost goes out of its way to ensure it doesn’t happen. The only way Zimbabwe can go forward is through a process of economic pain as it makes fundamental adjustments to its fiscal and economic regimes.

“Neither party wants to say that to the electorate with the 2023 elections getting closer,” Chan told the Daily News.

All this comes after South Africa, through Pandor, said last week that it was finding it difficult to assist Zimbabwe as its citizens continue to pay the price for its decades-long political and economic challenges.

Speaking in Pretoria, two years after South Africa failed to convince Zanu PF and the opposition to hold much-needed dialogue, Pandor said the toxic relationship between the ruling party and the opposition particularly made it difficult for solutions to the persisting local challenges to be worked out.

“By any account there are serious and seemingly intractable political factors that might need attention and in fact do need attention if solutions are to be effective or implementable.

“The political formations in Zimbabwe remain at loggerheads and have apparent deep antipathy towards each other, which makes joint decision-making and planning extremely difficult.

“We would be greatly assisted in playing a positive role if we knew there was a shared notion in Zimbabwe of what must be done,” Pandor said.

“And, this is an extremely important point for us because while indeed as the South African government we work very closely with the Government of Zimbabwe; it would be difficult for us to be seen playing the role with the government given the large nature of the problem.

“We are not going to achieve the economic resolution without resolving the political intractable hostility and lack of amity or social conjoining on finding a national solution,” she told a symposium on Zimbabwe in Pretoria.

“It seems clear that even as we support the call for an end to economic sanctions, the political dynamics that we observe are inextricably linked to the economic solutions and thus the politics and the economic as well as the social need to be confronted simultaneously.

“So, l think we need to be provided with a path that indicates that as we enter to provide support, all the parties, all the groupings, all the stakeholders in Zimbabwe are at one … and that assistance that support must be brought in.

“So I think conjoined collaborative solutions are going to be an important area for us to examine,” Pandor said.

“It is possible that Sadc might need to go beyond the resolution we had adopted and engage those who had imposed sanctions to agree on lifting the sanctions to support the recovery of critical sectors such as health, agriculture, finance and of course the social sectors of education,” she added.

Last week’s symposium on how South Africa could help Zimbabwe overcome its myriad challenges came after the ruling African National Congress (ANC) unsuccessfully tried to mediate between Zanu PF and the opposition two years ago.

This, in turn, came after talks between Zanu PF and an ANC delegation which were described as “friendly but frank” — an assessment that was later confirmed by both parties when they addressed the media.

At that ensuing media conference, ANC bigwigs implored both Zanu PF and the opposition to work together in the interest of the country, and to end Zimbabwe’s myriad challenges.

At the same time, Zanu PF gave the ANC the green light to meet with the opposition and other interest groups the next time they come to Zimbabwe.

The meeting between the two liberation movements came as calls for President Emmerson Mnangagwa to hold national talks with all key stakeholders in the country intensified  — in the wake of Zimbabwe’s deepening political and economic crises.

The ANC delegation, which included its suspended secretary-general Ace Magashule and national executive committee member Lindiwe Zulu, was of the firm view that there was need for dialogue among Zimbabweans to end the country’s challenges.

The ANC stalwart also said they had agreed with Zanu PF that while Zimbabwe was facing challenges economically and politically, that did not amount to a crisis. – Daily News