Zimbabweans in South Africa have called on President Emmerson Mnangagwa to ‘seriously’ consider engaging other political leaders to end the economic impasse and social turmoil that has gripped the country.
South Africa is home to millions of Zimbabweans who are in that country in search of greener pastures.
The call for dialogue comes after news reports that President Mnangagwa had distanced himself statement posted on his official Twitter page calling for a national dialogue amid the violent protests that hit the country last week.
In an interview from his base in Johannesburg, Zimbabwe Community in South Africa Chairperson Nicholas Ngqabutho Mabhena said Mnangagwa should engage other stakeholders, as he cannot resolve the economic challenges on his own.
“Why is the president backtracking on his words now? He was right that the country should embark on a process of national dialogue. This was a statement he made on January 22, 2019 and it was fine,” he said.
Mabhena also the reported brutality orchestrated by the army and police in major cities which have triggered widespread criticism from the international community.
Mabhena highlighted that the proposed national dialogue should be all inclusive and must involve the working class and trade unions.
“Zimbabweans here in South Africa condemn the fuel increase hence the solidarity demonstrations in South Africa. In fact, the leaders of trade unions are either under arrest or in hiding and we are worried about such developments,” he said.
Mabhena also advised Mnangagwa’s administration to retrospect and examine the cause of the protests.
“President Mnangagwa announced fuel price hikes without any consultation other than with the wealthy clique of Zanu PF leaders. Much of the violence that occurred, in particular looting of shops, came from people without enough to eat. Despite the calls by the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions leadership for a peaceful protest, there was an explosion of anger from people who are already finding basic survival difficult,” he said.
Zimbabweans who are eking for a living in South Africa know from experience and have pointed out that Zimbabwean workers do not go on strike for more money, but simply to be paid, Mabhena noted.
“There is now an entrenched culture by management both in the public and private sector to pay workers on the 45th of the month or not at all. Meanwhile management, even at local government level have been keen to award themselves huge pay increases. Zanu PF leadership has established themselves as a new feudal nobility.
“The government has written-off the urban working-class as supporters of the opposition while in the rural areas they build mansions among the mud huts from which they dispense patronage to those peasants who are willing to grovel before them. We cannot rebuild the economy with this kind of mindset,” said the chair of the Zimbabwe community.
Mabhena added that these concerns should be heeded seriously, for the growth of the economy and labour sector.
“How can the country grow if people or workers constantly have to think of various schemes to earn enough income for survival?” he posed.
“The slogan from Minister of Finance Mthuli Ncube, ‘Austerity for Prosperity’ is laughable. Exactly who is supposed to suffer the austerity? We note, of course that the salaries of the President and his ministers have been decreased by five percent yet the cabinet is not reliant on their government salaries. What is five percent when Mnangagwa and his two vice-presidents are already wealthy men? What is five percent when through the bond note and inflation all those employed by government have had wage cuts of around 67 percent? These are issues that are causing people to demonstrate,” Mabhena added.
He said Zimbabweans expected real dialogue, not for people to sit and listen to a government monologue.
“This can only begin when the government releases without charge the leaders of the trade unions, the basic organisations of the working-class and when conditions are made safe for other leaders to come out of hiding,” he said.
However, presidential spokesperson, George Charamba was quoted saying dialogue was already happening in Parliament and other platforms provided for under the constitution.
“When it comes to national dialogue, that’s a necessary accompaniment of any democratic system. But if it’s dialogue that is predicated on violence, on coercion, that will not fly,” he said.
Charamba claimed that Mnangagwa had called for dialogue soon after his disputed election win in August last year, claiming this offer had been “spurned because the opposition were still pursuing other avenues.”
Zimbabweans in the diaspora have been holding solidary marches in respective places, showing support to the ordinary people.
In South Africa, the Congress of South African Trade (COSATU) also reportedly threw its weight behind a planned march by Zimbabweans living in that country on February 1, against the Zanu PF led government.