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Ace Magashule to lead Ramaphosa’s delegation to Zimbabwe

(The Southern African Times) – AS the local and regional push to end Zimbabwe’s purported political and economic crises, South Africa’s ruling African National Congress (ANC) will dispatch a high-powered delegation to Harare this week to see how Pretoria can assist the country.

Zanu-PF secretary for administration, Obert Mpofu, confirmed to the Daily News On Sunday yesterday that the heavy-hitters from the ANC were indeed coming to Zimbabwe – and would be led by their secretary-general Ace Magashule.

“Of course they are coming, on Tuesday. They are the ones with issues. So, we will hear from them. We are sister parties. So, we will exchange notes when we meet them,” he said.

This comes as President Cyril Ramaphosa has been expending much time and energy in a bid to try to end Zimbabwe’s long-standing challenges – which were recently brought to the fore again after authorities were accused of gross human rights violations by the opposition and pro-democracy groups.

Last week, the South African leader said he would do everything in his power to assist Zimbabwe to end its problems, which had put a huge strain on Pretoria – Harare’s biggest trading partner.

“ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule will lead a delegation to engage Zanu-PF with the intention to develop a fuller understanding of the situation in Zimbabwe and to determine how the government and the ANC can assist.

“It was also agreed that the ANC must speak to all parties and stakeholders as well,” he said.

Ramaphosa also revealed then that Mnangagwa had recently expressed a desire that the ANC meets with the Zanu-PF politburo.

“In my discussions with President Mnangagwa, he informed me that their politburo wanted and desired to be in conversation with the ANC to discuss the situation much more fully in Zimbabwe, and we agreed that this delegation must now proceed.

“The NEC (the ANC’s national executive committee) expressed a deep desire that when they get there they should have an opportunity of meeting other stakeholders in Zimbabwe.

“Clearly, it is important that we get as broad a view of what is happening in Zimbabwe as we possibly can,” Ramaphosa added.

This comes as President Emmerson Mnangagwa has said that the country’s myriad challenges will only be resolved by unity of purpose among Zimbabweans.

It also comes as there are growing calls from both within and outside the country for Mnangagwa and MDC Alliance leader Nelson Chamisa to set aside their differences and hold much-needed talks to extricate the country from its deepening crises.

On Friday, Mnangagwa once again reached out to Chamisa and other members of the opposition, to join him for talks under the auspices of the Political Actors Dialogue (Polad).

Speaking at a meeting of the Polad, he said the door remained open for Chamisa and other opposition leaders who had earlier snubbed the platform, to join him there and work together to deal with Zimbabwe’s problems.

“I wish to unequivocally state that there is no crisis in Zimbabwe as elections were held in July 2018 and a winner was declared in terms of the country’s Constitution.

“All contestants were invited to join this dialogue in the national interest. The door is still open for those outside … Let me say the challenges facing our country call for continued unity of purpose across the political divide.

“Your continued commitment to the call to serve the country is acknowledged and will surely result in making our country great,” Mnangagwa said, emphasising that all dialogue would be held under the auspices of Polad.

Both Mnangagwa and Chamisa have previously said that they were interested in dialogue, although nothing concrete has happened – primarily because of differences over the form and platform on which the talks should take place.

On his part, Mnangagwa has been consistent that any talks with Chamisa should be held within the Polad platform – where he regularly holds meetings with fringe opposition leaders.

Chamisa himself has ruled out joining Polad – demanding instead direct dialogue with Mnangagwa.

This comes as the government has recently implored all Zimbabweans to start believing that they have a role to play in efforts to try to resolve the country’s challenges, without relying on outside help.

On their part, some senior officials of the MDC Alliance have concurred that while South Africa could facilitate dialogue, Zimbabweans were ultimately the custodians of long-term solutions for the country.

“Ultimately, the only peaceful and lasting solution is a genuine, honest and bonafide dialogue among Zimbabweans in which players agree on issues and whether we have the capacity to resolve the problems we face.

“Unfortunately at this stage, we have some people (in Zanu-PF) who do not agree because they think by virtue of having participated in the liberation struggle they have exclusive rights to determine the country’s destiny.

“They fail to realise that the road they are choosing is a well-trodden road and that they will go nowhere,” MDC Alliance vice president, Welshman Ncube said.

“We, therefore, need someone who facilitates dialogue. But it cannot be passive facilitation. Facilitation and mediation are not mutually exclusive. They complement each other.

“I suggest that South Africa, wearing the hat of the African Union chair and as a Sadc member, can do both under the auspices of the regional framework – because if it acts bilaterally it might not have  sufficient influence,” he said further.

All this also comes as Zimbabwe is in the grip of a huge economic crisis – its worst in a decade – which has stirred anger and restlessness among long-suffering ordinary people.

So big are the local problems, that authorities have had several clashes with government critics who accuse the country’s leaders of failing to end the nation’s economic crisis and rampant public sector graft.

In July, authorities were forced to deploy security forces across the country to thwart mass anti-government demonstrations that had been called by the opposition and pro-democracy groups.

Rights groups have since claimed that dozens of opposition figures and activists have been tortured and assaulted in a retributive exercise by suspected security agents.

On its part, the government has refuted the allegations – claiming instead that the opposition is working with foreigners to destabilise the country.

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