HARARE – Concerned by the simmering tension within some ranks of the opposition – which has the potential of getting in the way of the mooted grand coalition – former vice president and now Zimbabwe People First (ZPF) leader, Joice Mujuru, is doubling her efforts to keep her relations with former prime minister Morgan Tsvangirai warm.
Well-placed ZPF sources told the Daily News yesterday that Mujuru had become “acutely aware” of heightened Zanu PF machinations to divide the opposition and disorient their planned alliance, which has spooked the ruling party, ahead of the eagerly-anticipated 2018 national elections.
This comes as the proposed opposition grand coalition is facing challenges amid reports of premature differences over who should lead such a pact, which is widely seen as the best prospect of ending President Robert Mugabe’s and Zanu PF’s long stay in power.
Both MDC and ZPF officials have variously made divisive statements about who should lead the coalition, even though opposition parties coalescing under the banner of the National Electoral Reform Agenda (Nera) are yet to firm up the idea of the coalition and pronounce on their leadership principles.
Contacted for comment yesterday, ZPF spokesperson Jealousy Mawarire also fingered Zanu PF for “trying to destabilise opposition parties”, to avoid the formation of a grand coalition.
“The coalition is on course and as parties we have chosen not to do our negotiations in public. As ZPF, we know there are people desperate to scuttle the proposed coalition of political parties and part of the strategy is straining relationships among the top leaders of the parties involved.
“However, we know that the will of the people, which is to see a united opposition in 2018, will be respected and is on firm ground. It can never be derailed by contrived statements cooked by enemies of the people who mischievously attribute the same statements to our leaders,”he said.
Tsvangirai’s spokesperson Luke Tamborinyoka also told the Daily News that coalition talks were ongoing, and that through platforms such as Nera, all parties interested in the alliance were “slowly finding each other”.
“Our position has not changed. Positions are not the issue here but conditions. We are ready to work with others in dealing with the crisis in the country. For now, we are coalescing around issues. The electoral reform agenda is the issue we are coalescing around as political parties.
“For us it (the coalition) is about conditions and not positions. Norton is a prime example of what happens when people work together. So, we are getting there as Zimbabweans,” he said.
Analysts say a united opposition fighting with one purpose would bring to an end Mugabe’s long rule, especially at this time that the country’s economy is dying and the increasingly frail nonagenarian is fighting to keep his warring Zanu PF united.
“I know that there will be a lot of talk, especially from Mugabe because he is afraid of the people, and by the end of the day he will even be afraid of leading Zimbabwe. We in the MDC respect Mujuru for the contribution she has made to this country. Mujuru is not the enemy,” he said.
The renewed efforts to unite the opposition comes as newly-elected Norton legislator, Temba Mliswa, has said a grand opposition coalition led by Tsvangirai, and including war veterans, would definitely beat Mugabe and his warring Zanu PF in the 2018 national elections.
Speaking to the Daily News on Wednesday, the gutsy Mliswa said among the lessons that long-suffering Zimbabweans and the country’s brutalised opposition could learn from his stunning victory last Saturday, was that they could once again defeat Mugabe and Zanu PF, just as Tsvangirai and the MDC had done in 2008 – as the ruling party was “nothing” without the backing of war veterans.
Indeed, and despite battering and bribing voters with residential stands, as well as printing and distributing fake MDC flyers to confuse the people of Norton, Zanu PF was given a royal hiding in last weekend’s keenly-followed by-election in the constituency which was resoundingly won by the former ruling party bigwig.
Mliswa blew out of the water Zanu PF’s little-known Ronald Chindedza to win the Norton by-election, which came about following the expulsion of former war veterans’ leader and Cabinet minister Christopher Mutsvangwa from the ruling party – which is being devoured by its seemingly unstoppable factional and succession wars.
He polled 8 927 votes to Chindedza’s 6 192, to deliver a hammer blow to Zanu PF which was bidding to avoid defeat in Mugabe’s own backyard, as well as preventing disgruntled war veterans who campaigned for Mliswa from gaining a measure of revenge on Mugabe and his former liberation movement, following their recent hounding out of the party.
This was also despite the fact that the Norton by-election had been marked by violence, the controversial parcelling out of residential stands and mega rallies by vice presidents Emmerson Mnangagwa and Phelekezela Mphoko, among other prominent Zanu PF politicians, as they drummed up support for Chindedza.
“To be honest and truthful, I wouldn’t have won this seat had it not been for Morgan Tsvangirai. He promised to support me to make sure that I win the election and true to his word he came to the party. He dispatched his team and MDC vice president Nelson Chamisa was actually on the ground campaigning for me.
“Even when Zanu PF unleashed violence on us, Chamisa was caught in the crossfire and inhaled teargas just like all of us. It’s a fact of life that Tsvangirai has the people. It took him just to advise his structures to work with me and victory was delivered.
“The war veterans also played a crucial role in my victory. That is why it is important for Tsvangirai to lead the planned opposition grand coalition in 2018 which will involve everyone including war veterans,” Mliswa said.
“If Tsvangirai decides to accommodate Mai Mujuru, then so be it, but that man is not only popular and genuine, he is also a natural leader and a father figure. The people of Zimbabwe like him and we can’t take that away from him.
“The problem with many of the country’s leadership is that they only think about themselves and not the people. I am grateful for the support I received from Tsvangirai and the MDC, as well as war veterans and the PDP (People’s Democratic Party),” he added.
Elaborating further on the possible role that Mujuru could take in the mooted coalition, Mliswa said “the problem with People First is that it has relegated the founders to the terraces”, after “she was invited to the party”.
“My concern is that Mujuru is trying to relegate people like (former State Security minister Didymus) Mutasa and (former Zanu PF spokesperson Rugare) Gumbo when they are the founders of the party. Those people principally suffered for Mujuru.
“In Norton, we stood up against the brutal Zanu PF regime. The election was testing the coalition and electoral reforms and I don’t have to be a member of the MDC to support Tsvangirai. Zanu PF rigs elections but without war veterans they are nothing.
“People should also realise that both Mujuru and (vice president) Emmerson Mnangagwa were hand-picked by Mugabe while Tsvangirai has his own massive constituency. So let’s all back Tsvangirai for 2018,” he said. – Daily News