Whither opposition grand coalition?

All the political parties' leaders chant an MDC Alliance slogan. Photo: ANA
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With Zimbabweans already in an election mode ahead of crunch polls next year, the coming together of MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai and his former allies, who had broken ranks with him under various circumstances, had brought hope to long-suffering citizens that at long last change was coming their way.

By Mugove Tafirenyika

Amid incessant calls for opposition parties to join forces and field one presidential candidate if they were to entertain any realistic chances of defeating President Robert Mugabe, Tsvangirai and his erstwhile former secretaries-general — Welshman Ncube and Tendai Biti — recently committed themselves to a coalition after they formed the MDC Alliance at the Zimbabwe Grounds in the capital on August 5.

Ncube and Biti had broken ranks with Tsvangirai in 2005 and 2014 respectively in acrimonious circumstances citing irreconcilable differences.

While Ncube did not agree with Tsvangirai on whether or not to participate in the 2005 senatorial elections, Biti broke away citing the need for leadership renewal following the MDC loss to Zanu PF in the 2013 elections.

Despite their well-document rivalry, Biti and Ncube have embraced Tsvangirai through the MDC Alliance in order to forge a united front against Mugabe and his Zanu PF party at the forthcoming polls.

Regardless, other opposition leaders seen as vital cogs in any grand coalition, are still to append their signatures to the coalition deal, nearly a month after Ncube, Biti and Tsvangirai inked the MDC Alliance, comprising five other fringe opposition parties.

These include former vice president Joice Mujuru, who has continued to dilly-dally over the matter because she believes she is the best candidate who should lead it, and not Tsvangirai, as is the current case.

Mujuru also wants her National People’s Party (NPP) to be given the lion’s share of seats, and is also unhappy with the fact that the MDC symbols would be used by the alliance partners going into the 2018 make-or break polls.

The NPP leader is among several other political figures who emerged out of the ruling Zanu PF who are still to make up their minds on whether they should join the MDC Alliance.

The list includes Mavambo/Kusile/Dawn party president Simba Makoni, and Dumiso Dabengwa, leader of the revived Zapu.

Many are therefore worried that the opposition may end up participating in the coming elections as fragmented as has always been the case, thereby splitting the vote in favour of Mugabe and his Zanu PF party.

The scepticism also emanates from the fact that some of the parties that were claiming to be signatories to the MDC Alliance are beginning to distance themselves from the coalition.

Zanu Ndonga, for example, signed the August 5, 2017 coalition deal but hardly a week after the colourful signing ceremony, the party president wrote a letter to Tsvangirai distancing his party from the MDC Alliance.

“I write to inform you that Zanu Ndonga disassociates itself from the signing of the agreement relating to the MDC Alliance purportedly on behalf of Zanu Ndonga,” Musiyarira said, adding that one Sakunje who signed on behalf of the party “is not a member of the party”.

“He was never given a mandate by myself, as the president of Zanu Ndonga, to sign or act on my behalf in any capacity in relation to all matters to do with the party.

“As such, the agreement signed by him on Saturday August 5, 2017 on behalf of Zanu Ndonga is null and void and as such is illegal,” his letter read in part.

Commenting on his Facebook page, political analyst Pedzisai Ruhanya described attempts at coalescing by the country’s opposition parties as fake.

“Zimbabwe’s opposition; fake coalition, fake leaders, little infantile tribalists, egoists driven by personal, parochial and childish self-centred balderdash whose sum total is TRASH!” Ruhanya, who is also Zimbabwe Democracy Institute director, wrote.

He expressed irritation over the fact that the opposition is failing to take advantage of the infighting in Zanu PF that has characterised the ruling party since the ouster of Mujuru in 2014 on allegations of plotting to assassinate 93 year-old Mugabe.

“You fail to coalesce at a historic moment when the regime’s key supporters and enforcers openly say ‘President Mugabe’s mandate to rule has been lost since 2008’.

“Mugabe’s public bureaucracy is fractured and his storm troopers are in disarray with several factions of the once feared war veterans now the occupants of remand prison while the generals are attacked at public rallies; clearly signs of the times.

“What more do you want you petty, directionless so-called opposition? The INGRIDIENTS for your vibrancy are there but you can’t capture the moment. SHAME!!!”

University of Zimbabwe political science lecturer Eldred Masunungure said in a recent interview with the Daily News that while the majority of Zimbabweans, including some in Zanu PF, would like to see a coalition “but we know the role of egoism in and out of politics”.

“There is a lot of wishful thinking among some Zimbabweans…. Mujuru was in government for 34 years and now you want her to be number two again, no ways,” Masunungure said.

“She was expelled because she had presidential ambitions and those in the MDC are saying our leader is the face of the opposition.

“He has fought dictatorship and bears the scars and also beat Zanu PF and on that basis, he has credentials.

“Those are hardened positions, each of the two parties has followers who are rooting for their leader to lead that is why you see Memorandums of Understanding being shredded, both leaders are signing their separate deals with other parties and so the possibility of a grand coalition is very remote”.

Masunungure added that even if the coalition were to materialise “it will not fly high or far and I think it will collapse on egoism and on who gets what”.

While Biti, Ncube and others in the MDC Alliance have since agreed that Tsvangirai will lead the coalition, there remain grey areas concerning who should lead between the former prime minister in the stability-inducing inclusive government and Mujuru.

When almost all the parties forming the opposition converged in Highfield and pledged to work together again after going separate ways in 2005 when Ncube broke ranks, hopes were raised once again: Never before had the former allies-cum foes been brought together under the same platform to articulate and represent the aspirations of the majority of Zimbabweans since their acrimonious divorce.

But with the political parties remaining mum on their real intentions, that hope is disappearing fast as, they, at least in the eyes of long suffering Zimbabweans, do not seem to have a single clue about how they would work to converge as a coalition.

Tsvangirai and his sympathisers want the veteran opposition leader to be the face of the coalition on account of his popular support among Zimbabweans which saw him beat Mugabe in 2008 although he failed to garner the constitutionally required 50+1 percent of the vote.

On the other hand, Mujuru’s camp believes that the former vice president should be president as she is more acceptable to the country’s security chiefs who have previously blocked Tsvangirai on account of his lack of liberation war credentials.

They also argue that the former freedom fighter amassed a wealth of experience in statecraft after serving as Mugabe’s second-in-command for about 10 years.

“We would have expected that, by now, they should have come up with a blueprint on how to form a sustainable convergence not only among us former MDCs but also with Mujuru and others because to be honest we don’t have all the time in the world on our side,” commented a senior MDC official who refused to be named as he is not licensed to talk to the media on coalition issues.

“All you hear is grandstanding propaganda from them — nothing meaningful outside the political gibberish and if anyone thinks 2018 is still far away, then we have serious problem.” – Daily News