Religious leaders tell politicians to 'find each other', put Zimbabwe first
A day after snubbing an invite from President Emmerson Mnangagwa to set up a framework for dialogue, Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) leader Nelson Chamisa took part in a prayer meeting organised by the Zimbabwe Council of Churches in Harare.
But absent from that meeting was his arch-nemesis, Mnangagwa, who instead was represented by senior government officials.
They included Monica Mutsvangwa, the information minister, Cain Mathema, the home affairs minister and Obert Mpofu, the Zanu-PF secretary for administration.
Heightened political tensions and a worsening economic environment since the outcome of disputed polls held in July 2018 have resulted in increased calls for dialogue among the country’s political and civic society leaders.
Bishop Nehemiah Mutendi, leader of the Zion Church of Christ said in his address that Mnangagwa and Chamisa had to find each other in order to take the country forward, citing the progress made in the country’s troubled history whenever talks were held.
Mutendi said progress was made after unity talks in 1987 between former president Robert Mugabe and the late nationalist Joshua Nkomo.
He also cited the 2009 unity talks between Mugabe and the former MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai.
"We are happy Chamisa is here. President Mnangagwa was at the table when former president Mugabe sat down with Nkomo to forge a unity accord after political disturbances in Matabeleland. What is it that is preventing Mngangwa and advocate Chamisa to unite and take Zimbabwe forward?" asked Mutendi.
Bishop Ezekiel Guti, a highly respected senior clergyman, said the two political protagonists had to put the interests of Zimbabwe first.
"At times it is necessary to lose one's interest to accommodate another. It is like in a marriage, couples give up some of their interests to stay together," said Guti.
Selo Nare, chairperson of the National Peace and Reconciliation Commission, said the promotion of national reconciliation and peace needed to involve every Zimbabwean and the church had a role to play.
In his address at the prayer meeting, Chamisa said he had snubbed the invite from Mnangagwa because he felt that holding the event at State House was not a neutral venue and a neutral arbitrator was needed to oversee the process.
"It should not be difficult for me and Mnangagwa to talk ... Any minute longer is time wasted. I would love to meet here and in any room. The fundamental problem is we need peace and unity . Mnangagwa and myself need to meet. As it is, my legislators can't sleep and my people have been brutalised," said Chamisa.
"This country is very important. If we are to dialogue, the church is appropriate to lead this dialogue."