Farirai Machivenyika and Michael Magoronga
AN air of camaraderie characterised the Political Actors Dialogue (Polad) meeting in Kwekwe yesterday to mark National Unity Day.
The meeting started at mid-morning at President Mnangagwa’s farm, with addresses from the political party leaders, including the President, before a tour of his thriving farm.
The venue was settled on following a request by the parties, who also wanted the meeting to be held concurrently with Unity Day celebrations.
In separate interviews, Polad members praised President Mnangagwa for his determination to increase agricultural output, and suggested that if all beneficiaries of the land reform used their land to that extent, citizens will never go hungry.
Polad, a platform for political parties that fielded presidential candidates in the 2018 harmonised elections to contribute to social, economic and political progress, was launched in May this year and 18 political parties were represented at yesterday’s meeting.
In his remarks, President Mnangagwa ruled out any talks outside the Polad platform.
“I am happy that us as Zimbabweans have come together to discuss issues that are pertinent,” he said. “Recently, former (South African) President (Thabo Mbeki) came to see me and I think he met some of the leaders here.
“I am happy that he expressed his desire to see Zimbabweans work together and I assured him that as Zanu-PF and as the President of the Republic, we have created a platform which we call Polad where every single political party can find expression on issues affecting Zimbabwe and the majority of political parties are on that platform.
“I said I don’t see it possible to have two platforms which discuss one issue. Zimbabwe’s political issue is one and if we discuss it we must have one platform (at) which we discuss it and that platform is Polad, I am not moving from that.”
President Mnangagwa wants the parties’ discussions to focus on economic issues to improve the lot of citizens.
The President said the meeting yesterday coincided with Unity Day, which came through the visionary leadership of the country’s founding fathers.
“Besides the fact that this is our last meeting this side of the year, it’s also Unity Day which was crafted by our founding fathers in 1987, the late Cde Robert Mugabe representing Zanu and the late Joshua Nkomo representing PF Zapu,” he said.
“That Unity Accord brought together two major political parties that fought the liberation struggle that brought independence to the country. We thank our late icons for that wisdom and vision that united our people. It’s incumbent upon us to continue to cherish that wisdom which unites Zimbabwe. All of us Zimbabweans should come together.”
President Mnangagwa said the signing of the Unity Accord did not prevent the formation of other political parties.
He said Zimbabwe’s Constitution since the Lancaster House talks that led to independence, allowed for other political parties, adding that anyone could form a party of any nature and no one would be bothered.
The President said Polad sought to unite Zimbabweans and that it was not a coincidence the meeting was held on Unity Day.
“That is unique about Zimbabwe,” he said. “I am saying this because you suggested that we meet here today, again on Unity Day. This is why I don’t believe this is a mere coincidence.
“Polad is a platform where we seek to be united as Zimbabweans and the fact that we are concluding this year’s deliberations on Unity Day is significant. I think the creation of Polad in the history of our country is significant and should be eternalised in the history of our country.
“Even in our region, there has never been a platform of this nature where diverse political parties come together on one table and still debate on issues we don’t agree on, but seek to find a middle way, a compromise and debate and the best argument takes the day.”
President Mnangagwa said it was important that political parties in Polad increased public awareness of their activities so that they could be heard.
He said it was important for Polad to make the loudest noise, and not be swallowed by those without a formal platform.
“I think the collective voice should be heard more than an isolated voice in the jungle,” said President Mnangagwa.
He emphasised the need for parties to conduct their activities peacefully and to expose those that have brought suffering on citizens.
President Mnangagwa said if Zanu PF or any other party caused violence, it should be condemned in the strongest terms.
In separate interviews on the sidelines of the meeting, Polad members praised the President for fostering unity among citizens.
National Constitutional Assembly leader Professor Lovemore Madhuku said: “Unity has now become much more important than what it used to be. The previous Government made it look like unity was between two parties, Zanu and Zapu. But since the ushering in of the new dispensation, we now understand unity better.”
He castigated parties that continued to undermine Polad, saying there was power in unity.
The MDC-Alliance continues to reject dialogue under the auspices of Polad, preferring to talk exclusively to Zanu PF.
But Prof Madhuku said it was wrong for any political party to think it was bigger than the country.
“It is folly to think that as a party you can achieve on your own,” he said. “Let us come together and share what we have and, that way, we take our nation forward.”
People’s Rainbow Coalition president Ms Lucia Matibenga said the Second Republic had demystified misconceptions about Unity Day.
“Over the years, we were failing to understand,” she said. “We just thought it was a Zanu and Zapu thing. Unity is not just an overnight thing, it is something that should be nurtured and President Mnangagwa is leading from the front to say, ‘this is unity by bringing us together’.
“We are here as a testimony that unity is power and that unity is the only way to go despite different political backgrounds. We should be able to put our country first before any political inclination.”
MDC-T leader Dr Thokozani Khupe said: “Our meeting today is a clear demonstration of unity amongst Zimbabweans, among all political players in the country. This is what Zimbabweans need right now if we are to prosper.
“We need unity of purpose and inclusivity for us to achieve our goals as a country. We must be united for a purpose and today we demonstrated that we can be united for a purpose.”
Dr Khupe urged farmers to emulate President Mnangagwa’s farming exploits.
“We are inspired by his farming such that when we go back to our respective places, we are going to try and emulate President Mnangagwa’s farming skills,” she said.
“Farmers should utilise their land and be united, sharing skills and know-how. Unity among ourselves is the only way we can regain our breadbasket status.”
Ms Matibenga also said if everyone adopted the President’s work ethic at his farm, then food security was guaranteed in the country.
Members of the 18 political parties represented at the meeting briefed President Mnangagwa on achievements and challenges during the year 2019.
State Security Minister Owen Ncube and Local Government and Public Works Minister July Moyo, as well as other Government officials also attended the meeting.