HARARE – Former prime minister Morgan Tsvangirai and ex-Industry minister Welshman Ncube want to cement their proposed coalition by June as the country draws closer to a watershed election next year; according to reports in local press.
Tsvangirai, the MDC-T leader and Ncube of MDC on Thursday signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) committing themselves to negotiate ahead of the formation of an opposition coalition to fight President Robert Mugabe and his Zanu PF in the 2018 polls.
The former PM had signed another MoU with former vice-president Joice Mujuru the previous day.
According to a local weekly The Standard Ncube said he was confident the parties would reach an agreement by June as details of the MoU began to emerge.
“Predictions are inherently problematic but our wish is that by end of June this year, we should have some form of agreement in one form or another. We expect to have something on the table then,” said.
The paper reveals for the first time what is contained in the MOUs, which have already sent Zanu PF into panic mode.
According to clause 1.2 of the MoU between Ncube and Tsvangirai, “each party shall maintain its identity and independence ” if they reach a deal on the coalition.
This would allay fears of some MDC-T officials, including one of Tsvangirai’s deputies Thokozani Khupe, that they would lose their positions if their leader reunited with Ncube.
Ncube, who once had a serious policy clash with Tsvangirai in 2005 which led to the first split of the opposition MDC six years after its formation in 1999, yesterday said he was confident the two parties would work together next year.
MDC-T vice-president Nelson Chamisa would neither confirm nor deny the contents of the MoU when contacted for comment, but referred all questions to Tsvangirai’s spokesman Luke Tamborinyoka.
However, Tamborinyoka was not immediately available for comment.
The parties prior to the 2008 general elections reached an agreement but failed to execute it, costing the opposition a chance to defeat Mugabe.
“Negotiations are about finding common ground and making compromises,” Ncube said.
“I don’t see anything that we will not be able overcome. We will listen to our colleagues on what specific problems they had in implementing the 2008 agreement and openly discuss the issues.”
The MDC leader and first secretary general of the united MDC said the issue of candidate selection was not an obstacle as they had a premise to start from.
“The principle is that we must have a single candidate in each contested position. We did this in 2008 and there is enough common ground on candidates and positions,” he said.
In 2008 the parties then agreed a 70:30 ratio where in every 10 contested positions, Tsvangirai and MDC-T would have fielded seven candidates while Ncube fielded three.
“We will discuss what will be our policies and manifesto that we will give to the electorate our government programme and we have a starting point – the Agenda for Change document that was agreed in 1999 National People’s Working Convention,” Ncube said.
The parties in their MoU left room for each party to negotiate with other potential coalition partners and also inserted a clause that makes it easier to disengage should they reach a deadlock in the negotiations.
In clause 7.1, the parties agreed that this MoU does not preclude either party from seeking, negotiating and making MOUs and agreements with other parties and organisations for the same or similar purposes that advance their political objectives as guided by their respective organs either before or during the currency of the MoU.
The parties gave themselves an escape route in clause 9.2 which reads: “The MoU may also be terminated by either party at any time by giving seven days’ notice.”
In an effort to control information, the parties agreed to keep all information on proceedings, meetings, venues and documentation confidential and to secure and restrict all public communication with respect to this process to the principals.
Meanwhile, the Tendai Biti-led People’s Democratic Party (PDP) said it remained committed to the principle of an opposition coalition as the country prepares for the landmark 2018 elections.
PDP secretary-general, Gorden Moyo said the party was already working with other progressive parties in the country under the framework of the Coalition of Democrats (Code) and National Election Reform Agenda (Nera) platform.
He said on the Code/ Nera platform, Biti chaired the legal committee while Tsvangirai led the diplomatic engagement committee, with Mujuru chairing the political pressure committee.
“PDP will continue to lobby for an inclusive political arrangement that will see all political parties, pressure groups, faith-based organisations, civil society and members of academia converge for the sole purpose of approaching 2018 as a collective rather than as fragments,” Moyo said.
“Reading from the speeches presented at the MoUs signing ceremonies, PDP has no reason to believe that all these efforts will not lead to a truly inclusive political process come 2018.”
Mugabe and Zanu PF have benefitted from split votes in previous election where a number of opposition parties fielded candidates against each other.