President Mnangagwa’s spokesperson George Charambahas has rejected claims by CCC leader Nelson Chamisa that his principal ever sought dialogue with the opposition leader or his party.
Speaking in an interview with State media, Charamba claimed that between 2018 and 2023, Chamisa sent various envoys who included journalists, businessmen and church leaders to open talks with Mnangagwa.
Charamba said all of Chamisa’s missions collapsed because they were based on deceit, dishonesty and double standards. He said:
"There is absolute consternation and disgust each time Chamisa repeats what he knows to be false, none of his initiatives came to fruition, and it is patently false and obscene grandstanding for him to claim that the President ever sought dialogue with him or his party.
The closest that the President got to doing that was after the 2018 harmonised elections when he invited Chamisa to put national interests above personal interests, the second was not by way of direct invitation but through the creation of POLAD, beyond that, I as the President’s spokesperson I am unaware of any overtures, and I can assure you, I am not ignorant."
POLAD stands for Political Actors Dialogue, a platform established by Mnangagwa in 2019 to facilitate dialogue and engagement among different political parties in the country.
According to Charamba, the intermediaries approached by Chamisa include Rev Kenneth Mtata, the secretary general of the Zimbabwe Council of Churches, Bishop Nehemiah Mutendi of the Zion Christian Church, and journalist Hopewell Chin’ono.
Charamba also claimed that when Chamisa’s strategy failed, he tried yet again to reach the President through Vice President Chiwenga. He said:
"Naively, Chamisa believed that he could play a divide-and-negotiate approach, the VP then briefed the President, and to test his sincerity, the President gave the overtures the green light to tag along and see how far Chamisa would go.
Chamisa soon realised that the Vice President was not going to be his interlocutor, he was told in clear terms that he should come up with a team that would meet with ZANU PF representatives."
ZANU PF reportedly appointed its Treasurer-General Patrick Chinamasa as its representative, while Chamisa appointed one Utsiwegota and lawyer Innocent Chagonda.
Charamba said when Chinamasa asked for a position paper from the opposition, instead of coming from the two interlocutors, it came from former Minister of State Enterprises and Parastatals Gordon Moyo. He said:
"Gordon Moyo indicated that he was just helping out and was not an emissary of Chamisa, there was no way of establishing the authenticity of the paper and so that idea withered on the vine.
Another approach was made directly by Chamisa himself directly to yours truly, we are related, he expressed his desire to reach the President through the VP and I advised him that in my experience, talking from experiences of the Unity Accord, I said he was overreaching by expecting to meet the President, I told him to organise a team to initiate the negotiations, beyond the discussions, which we had, nothing materialised.
A few months after that, he shifted tact and enlisted some businessman in the food industry, who he thought was close to the First Family, and guess who was his envoy, Hopewell Chin’ono, who was entertained.
However, it turned out that Chin’ono was more interested in his own welfare than in carrying the message of Chamisa. As in previous instances, the interactions died before conception."
Chamisa reportedly adopted another approach where former Harare Mayor Jacob Mafume was the interlocutor.
Mafume reportedly approached Bishop Mutendi who taught with his father, and a request for dialogue was made through Bishop Mutendi but nothing came out of it. Said Charamba:
"When we sat down to collate and assess these multitudes of approaches, they were distinct features that emerged.
Foremost, it was clear Chamisa deeply mistrusted fellow members of CCC. He never wanted anyone within CCC to know that he was making overtures, which is why all his overtures were drawn from outside elected party officials in his party.
Chamisa consistently and persistently stayed clear of officials in the CCC. He did not even mind meeting very junior people from ZANU PF personally.
I said to him but you are a whole leader of the opposition why don’t you come up with a team, and he said whoever the President appoints he was willing to talk to them personally.
He wanted everything to be held under the veil of secrecy even proposing night meetings. On reflection, it was clear he did not want his party to know he was interested in personal interests over broader notions of national stability, taking a stand against sanctions, engaging financial institutions, and re-engaging hostile nations.
Those issues were not just incidental but peripheral to the theme of the opposition leader."
On Saturday, a prominent opposition figure, Freeman Chari said Chamisa’s “strategic ambiguity”, that is, failure to have structures (party positions occupied by members elected at a congress), a constitution, and an ideology, has been CCC’s weakness.
Chari warned Chamisa that he risks finding himself in the political dustbin if he continues to centralise and personalise the party while excluding other senior party members.