Former South Africa president, Thabo Mbeki, is not a facilitator of any political dialogue in Zimbabwe, and assumptions that he is, are a media construction, a senior government official has said.
This comes amid claims by opposition leader Nelson Chamisa that Mbeki is the supposed mediator in the Zimbabwean political standoff and that President Emmerson Mnangagwa has been dithering on committing to the talks.
Both Chamisa and his vice president, Tendai Biti have claimed President Mnangagwa committed himself to Mbeki but had been unavailable for dialogue.
“President Mbeki informed me he’s still waiting for Mnangagwa, he is not returning his calls. Yes, I am man of God and I speak under oath. Mbeki had gone to Mnangagwa and he requested to say I need to consult my people so that we have a one on one with Chamisa but he has not gotten back to Mbeki. Mbeki has tried to get hold of Mnangagwa and he’s been unavailable,” Chamisa said at the Bulawayo Press Club recently.
“Mbeki is still waiting for Mnangagwa’s confirmation for dialogue and that’s the correct position regarding the talks.”
Biti, also recently said, “President Mbeki was here in December. Mnangagwa said to President Mbeki he needed time to consult his party that was in December, we are now in February.”
But in an interview with CITE, President Mnangagwa’s spokesperson, George Charamba, said government is unaware that Mbeki was meant to lead any talks between the two political leaders.
Charamba, also Deputy Chief Secretary to the President and Cabinet, said “for the record” Mnangagwa met recently with Mbeki on the sidelines of the African Union Summit held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
“Really, if people are meeting face to face, is there need for them to meet telephonically. The MDC is agenda-setting because Zanu PF and other political parties are talking in POLAD,” he said, questioning where Chamisa derived authority to say Mbeki was the chosen mediator.
The presidential spokesperson stressed Mbeki was not a mediator and when he came to the country his invitation was not based on the need for him to mediate.
“There is a national dialogue involving Retired Judge, Justice Sello Nare and Margaret Sangarwe, the conveners of POLAD. The process is full proof. If Chamisa doesn’t want to engage in POLAD nationally and is waiting for talks, he is ‘Waiting for Godot’ meaning he is waiting for something that will never arrive,” he said.
He noted besides, Mbeki’s coming to Zimbabwe was after a long outstanding invitation as a friend during the liberation war days.
“Mbeki came in response to that,” Charamba said and also disclosed the government wanted to operationalise the decision by SADC in Dar Es Salam to campaign against sanctions.
“The sentiment was how a public showoff of anger of sanctions could be moved from the streets to the hallways of democracy and engage with America politically. Mbeki confessed he did not have any contacts with (US President Donald) Trump but did have with (former US President Barack) Obama. However, he indicated mechanisms could still be found.”
The presidential spokesperson revealed Mbeki said he “had been approached by different political organisations including Dr Thokozani Khupe, Professor Welshman Ncube and Chamisa to please accept to meet them in South Africa. In his wisdom as an ex-president, he didn’t think it was proper to meet them in a foreign soil and felt inclined rather to meet them in Zimbabwean soil.”
Charamaba added, “Mbeki then asked Mnangagwa if he would have any difficulty with him meeting these people in the context of his visit. Mnangagwa said by all means do and suggested he widen his canvass and meet other players such as civic society. This was so he could appreciate the politics of the country, not to mediate.”
The presidential spokesperson said this was so because POLAD had unfolded as a national dialogue.
“After Mbeki had met the various players, he came back with a report to Mnangagwa and said in fact Chamisa was desirous of dialogue and was ready to/prepared to drop the legitimacy issue as some members in his own party suggested he welcome the 2018 election result. This was also to allow the MDC to reorganise itself…The president was grateful to Mbeki for that report. Afterwards Mbeki picked his bags (as he on way back to South Africa). Before he left, Mbeki asked if he could do anything and said he was available. Mnangagwa responded that he was only a river away, if there was anything, he would be in touch but POLAD was proceeding well,” Charamba summed.
Rapporteur of the International Relations and Re-engagement subcommittee under POLAD, Kwanele Hlabangana quipped “they were unaware that Chamisa was appointed as Mbeki’s spokesperson.
He said if Mbeki wanted to communicate about dialogue, there were established channels and added POLAD was yet to meet him in South Africa in the next few weeks.