OPPOSITION parties in Zimbabwe may continue to play second fiddle to ZANU-PF for as long as they do not forge a coalition to take ZANU-PF head on at the polls.
This was the conclusion reached by a recent study by an independent, not for profit public policy think-tank, the Zimbabwe Democracy Institute (ZDI).
ZDI says local opposition parties will not pose a threat to the ruling party if their leaders continue to work at cross purposes instead of fighting together to challenge the status quo that has caused untold suffering among Zimbabweans.
Zimbabwe has several opposition parties. The bulk of them do not have a single seat in the National Assembly, making them inconsequential in the grand scheme of things.
Their absence in Parliament precludes them from benefiting from the Political Parties Finance Act. As a result, these smaller parties are always in financial doldrums.
The biggest blow to the opposition parties, acknowledged by the ZDI study, has been the split in the main Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) led by Morgan Tsvangirai.
The party suffered its first split in 2005 when Welshman Ncube, its former secretary-general, led a breakaway by a group that included Tsvangirai’s deputy and long time ally, Gibson Sibanda, now late.
The most recent split came in April last year when Tendai Biti, who took over as secretary-general following Ncube’s departure, also turned his back on the former trade unionist after failed attempts to sponsor a renewal of the party in the wake of its July 31, 2013 poll loss.
In its study conducted last December, the institute said the split was neither necessary nor strategic and that the building of a grand political coalition should begin with the urgent re-unification of the MDC-T, led by Tsvangirai, and the United Movement for Democratic Change (UMDC).
UMDC is the name of an alliance being forged between the MDC Renewal Team, in which Biti is secretary-general, and the MDC formation led by Ncube.
A policy conference penciled for April is meant to receive and adopt the re-unification progress report and adopt the united party’s draft constitution.
According to the ZDI study, (54 percent) of the respondents thought the split was unnecessary and (61 percent) thought it was preventable.
Respondents in the ZDI study said they believe that, “A united MDC-T has the capacity to assemble a national majority both in House of Assembly and for Presidential elections.”
If nothing is done urgently, “the gains made by the establishment of the once vibrant party in 1999 are going down the drain and diminishing as disintegrations continually limit the party’s influence, making change in power through elections even more unlikely, thereby negatively impacting on the struggle to democratise through elections,” concluded the ZDI study.
Achieving the re-unification of the UMDC and the MDC-T seems to be an uphill task as leaders of the breakaway parties have since perfected the art of bickering and bad mouthing each other.
MDC Renewal Team spokesperson, Jacob Mafume, said they would only be able to work with Tsvangirai if he demonstrated he was different from his rival in ZANU-PF.
“If the Tsvangirai, who was no stranger to democracy resurrects we find no problems dealing with him, not the current Tsvangirai who is a copycat of (President Robert) Mugabe,” he said.
Analysts this week weighed in, underscoring the need for opposition leaders to deal with their egos and work on forming a united front if they are to win against ZANU-PF at all.
The fact that the opposition remains divided and spends more time on each other throats also means their support base is divided, if not confused, on who to support.
Rashweat Mukundu, a political analyst, said the opposition leaders must deal with their egos and form a united front to challenge ZANU-PF.
“The flip side of disunity is a message to voters that the opposition leaders are as selfish and concerned about themselves as ZANU-PF leaders are and that its better the devil we know than the opposition parties,” said Mukundu.
He added that the ruling party has introduced countless policies that are good on paper but are left to gather dust as soon as they are crafted because there is no effective opposition to keep them on their toes.
Although opposition political parties existed before, the formation of the MDC, in 1999, was the first time that Zimbabwe saw the emergence of a credible and strong opposition political party.
ZANU-PF faced its first strong electoral challenge from the then MDC in the 2000 parliamentary elections.
Political analyst, Earnest Mudzengi, said the splits in the MDC were not only unnecessary but highly unfortunate and unexpected from a movement like the MDC.
“It goes to show how politicians allowed their differences in personalities to take centre stage at the expense of the will of the people,” Mudzengi said. “I don’t see them posing any threat to ZANU-PF let alone joining forces again to form a united opposition party.” – FinGaz