Zimbabwe's opposition leader Nelson Chamisa meets President Cyril Ramaphosa in Pretoria. Picture: SUPPLIED
Zimbabwe's opposition leader Nelson Chamisa meets President Cyril Ramaphosa in Pretoria. Picture: SUPPLIED

President Cyril Ramaphosa met Nelson Chamisa last week as the popular opposition leader sought help from SA over Zimbabwe’s political and economic crisis.

Chamisa wants Ramaphosa to mediate in talks with President Emmerson Mnangagwa at a time when Zimbabwe is facing its worst economic crisis in 10 years.

Zimbabwe’s economy has been in meltdown since the July 30 election Mnangagwa won with a razor-thin margin.

Chamisa, who commands wide support in Zimbabwe’s urban areas, has hotly disputed the poll outcome, refusing to accept Mnangagwa’s legitimacy as he insists he won the plebiscite.

Since the poll, Chamisa and Mnangagwa have failed to strike common ground, with the president ruling out working with the opposition. 

In 2008, former SA president Thabo Mbeki negotiated a power-sharing agreement between Zanu-PF and the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) following a disputed poll, and many see a government of national unity as a solution to Zimbabwe’s quagmire. 

The political stalemate has partly contributed to the economic crisis that has seen the country recording its worst inflation in 10 years while shortages of basic commodities such as fuel, medicines, foodstuffs and beverages have also become norm.

The economic crisis has also seen doctors working continuously for almost a month at a time as a resurfacing cholera outbreak continues to claim lives countrywide. 

In a message he posted on Twitter this week, Chamisa said he had sought assistance from Ramaphosa over Zimbabwe’s challenges.

“A few days ago I had a fruitful meeting in Pretoria with my distinguished brother and fountain of wisdom the president of the republic of South Africa His Excellency Cyril Ramaphosa on a wide range of urgent and important issues regarding the well being of the people of Zim,” he Tweeted.

In an interview with Business Day in Harare, MDC spokesperson Jacob Mafume said the meeting sought to reach out to Mnangagwa.

 “The economic and political crisis in Zimbabwe is worsening and what is important is that this affects our neighbouring countries, particularly South Africa. We feel that Zimbabwe is becoming a regional security threat because of the failure by Mnangagwa’s government to solve the political stalemate over his illegitimacy.

“The economic crisis has the effect of causing a burden to South Africa owing to the exodus of people that are fleeing the worsening economy. Mnangagwa has refused to listen to our concerns, so we felt it was better for us to meet President Ramaphosa to listen to our concerns and also to relay our message to Mnangagwa.

“The people of Zimbabwe continue to suffer, and as a party that was voted for by millions of people we will do what we can to offer solutions.”

Mafume said the meeting also touched on the recently completed commission of inquiry into post-election violence that killed six people.

The commission, chaired by former SA president Kgalema Motlanthe, concluded that Zimbabwe’s army was culpable for using excessive force while Chamisa’s supporters were also blamed for inciting violence.

The report also recommended compensation for victims of the violence.