THE death of former strongman Robert Mugabe — who led Zimbabwe from independence in 1980, first as prime minister before becoming executive president in 1987 — in a way eclipsed the visit by The Elders last Friday.
The reason fort the visit by The Elders — an eminent group of global human rights and peace campaigners — was to talk to President Emmerson Mnangagwa and MDC leader Nelson Chamisa on the need to commit to inclusive national dialogue aimed at solving the current economic and political crises bedeviling the nation.
However, The Elders’ visit must have reminded the two leaders of the importance of prioritising the economic and social needs of the people of Zimbabwe ahead of their own personal interests.
Zimbabweans have endured a lot since 1980 when Mugabe took over the stewardship of the country. Currently, the worsening economic crisis, entrenched political polarisation and a culture of fear, paranoia and State violence are a sad reminder of Mugabe’s reign, despite the glimmer of hope in the country after the coup that deposed the former dictator in November 2017.
There was hope in citizens that Mnangagwa would indeed change Zimbabwe and the lives of its people. The people saw an opportunity for revival. They hoped this revival would bring smiles back to their faces like had happened during the short-lived government of national unity between 2009-13.
The Elders’ voice may as well prove an important addition to several pleas that have emerged on the need for all-inclusive dialogue in the country. Chamisa has continued to question Mnangagwa’s legitimacy, alleging the former Mugabe deputy had stolen the vote. This is despite the fact that the victory was upheld by the Con-Court, which ruled that Chamisa had failed to provide evidence that he had won the election.
For The Elders, inclusive national dialogue has the potential to bring about a peaceful and democratic future for Zimbabwe but this is threatened by the rounds of inflammatory language that perpetuates and exacerbates cycles of confrontation between Mnangagwa and Chamisa.
During their visit, The Elders noted that Zimbabwe had wealth and entrepreneurial, resilient citizens who deserve to live in dignity and prosperity, something that has remained a mirage since Mugabe’s days.
Perhaps what the two leaders must realise is that the crises may only be ended through the united efforts of Zimbabweans and as such, they have to dump personal egos and work towards the achievement of all citizens’ desire.