CELEBRATED African novelist Chinua Achebe writes in his novel “Things Fall Apart”: “When we gather together in the moonlit village ground it is not because of the moon. Every man can see it in his own compound. We come together because it is good for kinsmen to do so.”
At the invitation of President Mnangagwa, the 2018 Presidential aspirants on Wednesday did exactly that when they converged at State House to commit themselves to the spirit of national dialogue, a process that will see the nation moving forward.
This was followed by a prayer meeting attended by the various political leaders, convened by the Zimbabwe Council of Churches, the Evangelical Fellowship of Zimbabwe, Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops’ Conference and the Union for Development of the Apostolic Churches in Zimbabwe (UDACIZA).
We question why MDC-Alliance leader Nelson Chamisa was conspicuous by his absence, but preferred to attend the breakfast meeting, which is chasing the same goal.
Inter- and intra-party dialogue has been a critical aspect of Zimbabwe’s growth as a nation state, showing that although there might be dis- agreements, sitting down and talking is healthier than the unproductive fighting.
Thus all players should be applauded for putting the national interest before their personal and/or parties’ interests. That the political leaders represented both large and small interest groups is neither here nor there. That they have different ideological inclinations is also not an issue.
What is critical is that they made that first step to find each other and commit themselves to finding solutions to the innumerable socio-economic and political problems the nation currently faces. This is because the environment had become too toxic, a situation that might have led to unwarranted external intervention.
We have already heard a British peer calling for the recolonisation of Zimbabwe. Leader of the Democratic Alliance in South Africa Mmusi Maimane has also been on Zimbabwe’s case, calling for an International Criminal Court indictment.
Failure to appreciate the importance of exchanging ideas leads to polarisation and stagnation, a scenario that the country is grappling with at the moment. It also creates disunity and lack of progress, when everyone should be putting shoulder to the wheel.
The discourse that began on Wednesday opened a historic chapter in the Second Republic. Operation Restore Legacy unlocked spaces for all the people, just like in 1980 after the historic Lancaster House Agreement. The 1987 Unity Accord is another important milestone which arose from dialogue.
Even though the 2000 draft Constitution did not make it, it was another product of national discourse. In 2009, the Global Political Agreement was signed between Zanu-PF and the Movement for Democratic Change, leading to the Government of National Unity. The new Constitution is also a product of dialogue.
Why should the current initiative fail, considering that the people and various stakeholders are giving it a thumbs-up?
They managed to come up with four committees during the first meeting, and if that momentum and commitment is sustained, we will soon be speaking of a focused and united Zimbabwe — an “Operation Restore Value” of the Operation Restore Legacy.
President Mnangagwa has been part of all the major national dialogues, and if he realises that the way forward is national dialogue, he understands the implications for this and future generations. “Let us all put dialogue over conflict, and collaboration over confrontation. Individually we are a drop, together we are a mighty ocean,” he wrote on his Twitter account.
Some in our midst should swallow their pride and realise that we owe it to future generations that when disagreements arose, we did not resort to armed conflict or invite external aggressors to meddle in our internal affairs, but that we sat down and talked with the understanding that a journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.