FORMER Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) governor Gideon Gono (pictured) has proposed Rwandan President Paul Kagame to broker an African Union (AU)-driven national dialogue that would culminate in the formation of a government of national unity (GNU) between Zanu PF and the opposition MDC Alliance.
The two parties have been on a warpath since the 2018 hotly disputed presidential elections, which President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who was the Zanu PF candidate, won by a razor-thin margin.
The disputed election result has created a political crisis in the country with the main opposition party challenging Mnangagwa’s legitimacy.
On the other hand, Mnangagwa’s administration has been using brute force to silence dissenting voices, the latest being the ruthless crackdown on organisers of the July 31 protests which were thwarted by state security agents.
The organiser of the protests, Transform Zimbabwe leader Jacob Ngarivhume is languishing in remand prison together with freelance journalist Hopewell Chin’ono.
The two are being accused of plotting against the state, charges that carry very long sentences on conviction.
Gono, despite having been out of the limelight for the past seven years following his departure from the helm of the RBZ in 2013, remains a key opinion leader who played a key role in the negotiations that helped break the impasse at the height of the November 2017 military coup which catapulted Mnangagwa to power.
In an interview with the Zimbabwe Independent, the banker said Kagame has the right stamina and profile to handle the delicate situation.
Interestingly, Gono’s suggestion comes at a time both parties have drawn red lines.
Zanu PF argues that MDC-A should first recognise Mnangagwa’s presidency before talks can start, while the Nelson Chamisa-led party insists that the very question of legitimacy is the cornerstone of its standpoint.
Gono says Kagame, whose style of leadership — which blends authoritarian practices and home-grown solutions with international best practices — could carry the day.
The mediation, he says, should be under the auspices of the African Union.
“Indeed, they are difficult, but not impossible. It has to be realised that coming together and finding each other for the good of the economy is not a weakness, but rather a strength,” Gono said.
He said what made Kagame an outstanding leader was that he steered Rwanda from its darkest period, the 1994 genocide which resulted in close to one million deaths, to become Africa’s fastest developing country.
“Let’s harness each other’s strengths across the political divide. We could invite tried and tested leaders like President Paul Kagame of Rwanda to help us craft a way forward. Rwanda experienced serious political conflict of genocidal proportions, they found each other and today they are a model economy, peaceful, healed and reconciled. Our problems are nowhere near what they experienced yet they triumphed. Why can’t we borrow a leaf from them?” Gono asked.
He also sided with those calling for a 10-year freeze of elections until 2030, saying those who would have been privileged to lead the country during the GNU period must not seek public office once the period lapses.
“Another idea is to ensure — from the word go — that unlike the previous GNU, those leaders who take part in the new GNU must not run for any political or public office after tour of duty. Theirs would be to lay the foundation for a better Zimbabwe, clean up the deck, unite the people towards national objectives, polish up and finish what needs to be finished before elections in 2030 and retire,” Gono said.
“Additionally, they must not go in expecting cars or hefty perks from the state other than reimbursables like fuel, communication, electricity and water. This will ensure that only the dedicated and capable will serve, significantly for free just like those who went to the war. This should also be treated like going to war with no expectations for personal gain.”
While Kagame has managed to preside over a progressive economy which has been a shining example on the continent, his human rights record is chequered as he is known to clamp down on the opposition.
The East African country has over the past decade posted impressive economic growth rates, fuelled by business-friendly policies and strong inflows of foreign direct investment.