Mujuru, Tsvangirai in alliance deadlock

HARARE – A High-level meeting convened by leaders of the MDC and the National People’s Party (NPP) in Harare on Friday failed to end the bickering between Joice Mujuru and Morgan Tsvangirai, whose negotiating teams are now pressed for time to strike an acceptable deal before elections which could be due early next year.

Although the two politicians are desperate to avoid splitting the vote at the 2018 elections, the Daily News has it on good authority that there is really nothing at the moment to suggest that a deal could be inked anytime soon, especially in view of the gravity of the unresolved issues separating them.

By the time their meeting ended on Friday, Tsvangirai and Mujuru were still to agree on the fundamental issues.

These included the leadership of the grand coalition that would confront President Robert Mugabe’s Zanu PF at the forthcoming polls, and the allocation of seats among their aspiring legislators.

Crucially, while Tsvangirai has already been appointed leader of the MDC Alliance, Mujuru does not recognise his endorsement.

In fact, Mujuru is adamant that she deserves the opportunity to lead the coalition on account of her experience in statecraft, her liberation war credentials, and gender appeal.

According to Mujuru, Tsvangirai should come in as either her deputy or prime minister in the event that they proceed to win the polls and form the next government.

Insiders familiar with the negotiations told the Daily News that Mujuru came for the meeting demanding to field NPP candidates in 80 National Assembly seats out of the 210 available. But after intense negotiations, she later halved the figure.

This could turn out to be a deal breaker as that would leave Tsvangirai’s MDC and the other seven MDC Alliance partners having to share the remaining 170 seats.

Tsvangirai has already sealed an electoral pact with seven political parties which include formations that sprung out of the MDC in 2005 and 2014, namely Welshman Ncube’s MDC and Tendai Biti’s People’s Democratic Party.

The former trade unionist, who has been in the game since 1999 when the MDC was formed, is adamant that he alone has what it takes to end Mugabe’s rule and that his officials must be allowed to grab choice seats.

In April, Tsvangirai and Mujuru signed a Memorandum of Understanding, signifying their commitment to working together and fielding a single candidate to challenge Mugabe in next year’s presidential race.

Tsvangirai wants Mujuru to come in as a vice president — hoping to appease the military which has been insistent that the office of the president can only be occupied by someone with liberation war history — or there is no deal.

“Tsvangirai is also arguing that the vice president of the coalition can only be chosen after elections and that the post must be given to a person whose party wins more seats than the others,” said one of the insiders.

Tsvangirai’s spokesperson, Luke Tamborinyoka, confirmed the meeting to the Daily News yesterday.

“Yes, I can confirm that the two met last Friday but I cannot divulge the details of the meeting to the public. There is nothing wrong about two Zimbabweans meeting,” said Tamborinyoka.

NPP’s chairperson Dzikamai Mavhaire declined to comment, saying he was in the dark about the issue.

Efforts to get comment from Mujuru’s spokesperson, Gift Nyandoro, and NPP spokesperson, Jeffreyson Chitando, were fruitless as their mobile phones were not reachable.

Before Friday’s meeting, Nyandoro had highlighted that Tsvangirai and Mujuru were attending to sticky issues.

“We are almost there; there could be an announcement any day any time soon. I can assure you that the principals will be meeting at any day, any time to discuss the issue. I disagree with those who think that the coalition talks between NPP and MDC are now dead. Yes, time is running out but this is a process; we are expecting something fruitful soon,” he was quoted saying.

“The NPP demonstrated that a journey of any democratic political party starts by being given mandate by the people. There is need to bring finality to the coalition talks. I can assure you that the party is now in full swing,” Nyandoro said, following the NPP’s inaugural convention attended by the MDC leader recently.

At the convention, Tsvangirai received a standing ovation when he promised NPP supporters that a coalition with Mujuru would be formed no matter what if the country’s deeply-divided opposition parties were to end Mugabe’s 37-year rule.

He emphasised that there were no differences, politically, or in terms of policy between Mujuru’s party, and the MDC.

In April, Tsvangirai and Mujuru signed a Memorandum of Understanding, signifying their commitment to working together and fielding a single candidate to challenge Mugabe in next year’s presidential race.

With possibly less than six months before the election, the MDC is upbeat that a deal would be consummated just in time for the polls.

“Of course, these kinds of deliberations are always time-bound. The next stage will be to mount a serious and sustained fight for electoral reforms,” said MDC spokesperson Obert Gutu.

“We are acutely aware of the fact that the Zanu PF regime will stop at nothing to steal the people’s vote next year. The electoral playing field has to be levelled or else the grand coalition will count for absolutely nothing.”

Analysts are not convinced.

They believe that the country’s opposition parties must wrap up their talks, hit the campaign trail and focus on key issues of the electoral processes.

Political analyst Vivid Gwede averred that the coalition was just the messenger, not the message.

He said by constantly highlighting the coalition’s internal dynamics rather than particular policy options, the messenger risks being seen as the message.

“Should there be any problems with the coalition, it will be seen as the end of the message. The MDC’s policy alternatives are fairly familiar such as job creation through investment promotion, non-belligerent foreign policy, rationalisation of land reform, anti-corruption, human rights and democracy, but they need to be really re-emphasised and pictured in particular terms during elections,” said Gwede.

“This is not loud in its current political communication; neither did we hear this emphasis from the current shadow cabinet. Such strategic loopholes create a false, but dangerous illusion that the opposition has no message. Yet it actually has competitive policy alternatives to the ones pursued by the ruling party. Election campaigns are rare opportunities for political parties to be particular and detailed about their programmes on development.”

Social commentator Rashweat Mukundu said elections were more about the process, voting and defending the vote and not coalitions, which are a political strategy not an end in themselves.

“Priorities seem lost and energy expended on peripheral issues,” he said.

Political activist Farai Maguwu suspects that the coalition agenda could have been hijacked by State agents in order to weaken Zanu PF’s rivals.

“Each party must simply go and campaign on its own and then let them talk after the election. Then each party will be speaking on the basis of the mandate it got from the voters,” reasons Maguwu.

Peace activist Jestina Mukoko believes the opposition parties must invest more in encouraging Zimbabweans to register to vote and rolling out their election campaigns.

She said while it might have been a good idea to put to bed the issue of the coalition and thus approach the citizenry with one voice, “the opposition could use a multi-pronged approach where if they still feel they need to score on the coalition part they could have that go on while voter education and election campaign roll out also go on”. – Daily News