Let’s lock up Mnangagwa and Chamisa for a while, proposes Zimbabwe’s top peace negotiator

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  • Father Fidelis Mukonori says Emmerson Mnangagwa and Nelson Chamisa should be locked in a room until they come to an agreement.
  • Since the war of independence, political contestation has cost as many as 100 000 lives in Zimbabwe, he estimates.
  • Mukonori began the Government of National Unity talks that convinced Robert Mugabe and Morgan Tsvangirai to share power between 2009 and 2013, and also facilitated Mugabe stepping down during the coup.

A respected Zimbabwean religious leader has proposed incarcerating its president and his opposition rival in the name of peace.

It would take “courage and wisdom” for Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa and his rival, Nelson Chamisa, to put the interests of the country ahead of their own, but locking them up could help, Roman Catholic cleric, Father Fidelis Mukonori said.

In Conversation with media personality Trevor Ncube, Mukonori, suggested the following to solve the impasse between the two:

  • Let’s do it the Catholic way and put them in a house and they discuss and decide until they’re true.
  • Give them food inside, they eat, we lock the room, and you don’t come out until you are done.

He said Mnangagwa and Chamisa “know me well now” after he interacted with them separately over the years.

If he were to meet them again over the current political impasse, he would remind them that between 70 000 and 100 000 lives have been lost due to political contestations as far back as the war of independence in the 1970s, he said.

“Why should they play with human lives? This kind of ‘you stole my votes’, ‘I didn’t steal your votes’ can end up with people wanting to go back to the bush [to fight],” he said.

Mukonori has been a constant feature in Zimbabwean politics since the struggle for independence in the 1970s, and is credited with some of the country’s biggest negotiated breakthroughs.

He was involved in brokering the 2009 to 2013 Government of National Unity (GNU) that brought together Robert Mugabe and Morgan Tsvangirai.

Mukonori trained Tsvangirai during his formative years in the workers union space. Well before that, he was a sounding board for Mugabe and other nationalists during the war of independence.

Talks between Mugabe and Tsvangirai began in private with Mukonori at the centre before the Frontline States (FLS), a loose coalition of African countries from the 1960s to the early 1990s that was committed to ending apartheid and white minority rule in South Africa and present-day Zimbabwe, were involved.

As such, when former South African president, Thabo Mbeki, got involved, much ground had been covered, Mukonori said.

Drawing lessons from this, it could work if talks between Chamisa and Mnangagwa were home-brewed before a buy-in from the SADC region.

“I prefer to do things quietly. Once you go in public, politicians start grandstanding,” Mukonori said.

The last negotiation in Zimbabwe that Mukonori oversaw was when Mugabe stepped down in November 2017 after military tanks rolled into Harare, effectively ending his 37 years in power and the eventual rise of Mnangagwa.