‘Zim must draw lessons from neighbours on national dialogue’

A leading human rights lawyer, Yasmin Sooka, has urged Zimbabwe to take a cue from its neighbours` handling of the national dialogue process in order to promote inclusivity and solve the political impasse.

Sooka, the former chairperson of the Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan, made the recommendation while addressing delegates at a Transitional Justice Dialogue Series in Bulawayo on Tuesday.

The meeting was organised by National Transitional Justice Working Group.

President Mnangagwa called for talks involving presidential candidates who participated in last year`s general elections amid a worsening political and economic environment in the country.

MDC Alliance presidential candidate Nelson Chamisa who narrowly lost to the incumbent boycotted the talks, calling for the appointment of a neutral arbiter to lead the process.

Sooka said African countries such as South Africa, Mali and South Sudan had managed to come up with a working national dialogue structure.

Drawing parallels with the 1990 political talks in South Africa, Sooka, said the national dialogue process was effective because all major political parties participated in the dialogue.

“The process was inclusive and it draws on the lessons learnt from CODESA I and II,” she said.

“The lessons learnt included “the importance of having a simple structure with one negotiating and one decision-making body; the use of technical experts to enable ‘interest-based’ discussion; the establishment of a trusted ‘coordinating committee’ to function as guardians of the process, anticipate and pre-empt problems; and the seminal role of deadlock-breaking mechanisms that the parties had agreed on beforehand.

“Apart from extreme Afrikaner parties and the Azanian People Organization, all major political players participated.”

She also emphasized the importance of civil society`s involvement in the national dialogue process.

“The civic society successfully advocated against the so-called “secret clauses”. They also consulted the communities on the proposed amnesty bill, which resulted in the victims accepting the difficult political compromise.

“Victims and communities were ready to avert their right to justice in exchange for truth and reparations, and they did it believing that if President Mandela was ready to do so having spent 27 years in prison, they could make this sacrifice too”.

Sooka added that in Mali, on 26 March 1991, the trade union, together with civil society actors, initiated the National Dialogue as part of the democratization process.

The human rights lawyer said interested parties should not lead the process that is why the South Sudanese refused the then president to be the patron of the dialogue.

“In South Sudan, the National Dialogue has been the immediate result of a resurgence of violence in July and August 2016, and the devastating economic situation in the country. It was launched in December 2016, and President Kiir declared himself a patron of the dialogue, a decision that he later reversed in response to the criticism,” said Sooka.



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