Mnangagwa knows where to find us, says MDC

As it rejects eleventh-hour pitch to call off protests

Tendai Biti

President Emmerson Mnangagwa on Thursday made an eleventh-hour pitch to his main opposition rival Nelson Chamisa to call off protests planned for Friday and meet him for what he described as “peaceful constructive dialogue”.

Without mentioning Chamisa by name, Mnangagwa said “riots and destructive violence” would not resolve Zimbabwe’s deepening economic crisis.

Chamisa’s Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) has called for peaceful protests in all major urban centres, with the biggest march set for Harare on Friday.

The MDC says the protests are to force Mnangagwa to agree to a dialogue with Chamisa which the party says should be held under the facilitation of a neutral foreign mediator carrying an African Union and United Nations mandate.

Mnangagwa, who is due to attend a SADC summit in Tanzania this weekend, said on Twitter: “The recent national holidays remind us that our strongest asset is our unity. I reiterate my calls to all opposition leaders that my door remains open and my arms remain outstretched. Riots and destructive violence must be rejected; peaceful constructive dialogue is the way forward.”

MDC deputy president Tendai Biti said Mnangagwa was not genuine about engaging the MDC.

Biti said: “The right to demonstrate is enshrined in the constitution and it is our democratic right to exercise the same. Mnangagwa is not genuine about genuine dialogue. If he was, he would create the conditions necessary for that to happen. He would stop abducting our people. He would not seek to negotiate on Twitter. He would ensure that the issue is tabled in Dar es Salaam to allow SADC to guarantee the process and allow an agreed facilitator.

“When Mnangagwa gets genuine, he knows where we are. We are at 44 Nelson Mandela Avenue in Harare.”

Mnangagwa has initiated a dialogue process with smaller parties who competed with his Zanu PF party in disputed elections last year. The MDC, which does not recognise Mnangagwa as president, has refused to participate in that initiative, demanding foreign mediation.

Several rights activists were abducted and tortured on Tuesday and Wednesday night. Human rights lawyers said the activists were interrogated over the planned MDC protests which begin in Harare before moving to Bulawayo on Monday. Similar street marches will be held in Masvingo, Mutare and Gweru.

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