POLITICAL parties represented in Parliament met in Bulawayo over the weekend to set the tone for the proposed national dialogue, despite their party principals’ hardline stance on talks seen as critical to stop Zimbabwe’s political and economic crisis.

MPs drawn from Zanu PF, MDC Alliance, MDC-T and the National Patriotic Front NPF held a two-day conference in Bulawayo, which they hope would set a base for further dialogue.

Although some of the members were unwilling to disclose details of the meeting, Zanu PF secretary for legal affairs Munyaradzi Paul Mangwana said the event was meant to enable parties to draw up ways to solve the country’s problems.

“We agreed to meet as political parties and try to resolve whatever challenges that the country is facing,” Mangwana said.

“This is a forum only for political parties represented in Parliament and that is Zanu PF, MDC Alliance, MDC-T and NPF. We actually held a workshop on how we should engage.
Basically, there were some experts who had been recruited by the Zimbabwe Institute (a political think-tank), who are co-ordinating this inter-party dialogue process, who took us through on how we should handle the dialogue.”

A fortnight ago, Mnangagwa invited presidential candidates in last year’s elections to State House to lay the framework for dialogue following nationwide protests over fuel price hikes and the deteriorating economic situation, which resulted in 17 deaths and destruction of property worth millions of dollars.

MDC Alliance presidential candidate, and Mnangagwa’s main contender, Nelson Chamisa, snubbed the meeting, describing it as a farce.

Chamisa said he would not attend a negotiation platform chaired by an interested party.

Mnangagwa is, however, insisting that Chamisa should recognise him as President first, before the two can dialogue, creating a stalemate.

Mangwana said the weekend’s inter-party dialogue was different from the national dialogue because it only accommodated parties represented in Parliament, adding the training was necessary because there were new players who had just come on board.

The Zanu PF legal affairs secretary said nothing had been agreed on yet because they focused more on training.

He also said there was no conflict between the two processes as discussions come at different levels.

“We are talking at the level of political parties represented in Parliament and we set our different agenda which might be different to the other agenda,” he said.

Other members from Zanu PF included Transport deputy minister Fortune Chasi and Mashonaland East Provincial Affairs minister Appolonia Munzverengi.

The MDC, which was previously represented by its secretary-general Douglas Mwonzora, had a five-member team led by Senator Gideon Shoko.

Mutare Central MP Innocent Gonese, Phyllis Ndlovu and Kucaca Pulu also represented the opposition party.

Shoko said the meeting was meant to train members on how to handle the dialogue.

“We talked about a lot of things. One thing that I remember that came out openly is that if we are to dialogue, we need only parties with representation in Parliament,” he said.

MDC-T representative Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga refused to entertain questions.

“The position is this: We can’t talk to the Press. I can confirm that there was a meeting, but there was an agreed position that we are not talking to the Press,” she said.Newsday