Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai appeared to slam the door shut yesterday on the prospects of him working with his former comrades who deserted him and the MDC over the years, saying he did not see the sense of crafting a coalition with people who had previously made it clear that they did not want to work with him.
By Mugove Tafirenyika
morgan-tsvangirai-mdcAddressing a media conference in Harare, the fit-again former prime minister in the government of national unity also said he had not seen the need for him to attend a meeting of opposition parties that took place in South Africa last week, which not only involved people who had left his party, but was also unclear in terms of its objectives.
Political observers who spoke to the Daily News last night said among the prominent figures that Tsvangirai may have had in his sights was former MDC secretary-general and now People’s Democratic Party leader Tendai Biti, who left the main opposition two years ago amid bitter recriminations, but has since himself suffered major desertions from his new political outfit.
The meeting of small local opposition leaders in Pretoria, which Tsvangirai and the interim leader of the Zimbabwe People First (ZPF), Joice Mujuru, snubbed last week was organised by the relatively unknown South Africa-based think-tank, In Transformative Initiative (ITI), which apparently sought to facilitate talks to pave way for the selection of a single candidate to face President Robert Mugabe in the watershed 2018 elections.
“You don’t leave a party and go to the side and say let’s have a coalition. Why did you leave in the first place?” Tsvangirai asked rhetorically.
“I hope that everyone will understand that working together is a process of building trust among participants . . . I did not go (to the SA meeting) because there was no reason for me to attend. How do you introduce a subject which you have not planned with me?
“That does not mean that I am underplaying the need for a coalition, but I don’t even know who was co-ordinating the talks and what mandate he has? Besides, have we failed as Zimbabweans to sit down and talk amongst ourselves? Do we need outsiders to organise us? That is why I did not see it necessary to go to that meeting,” Tsvangirai added.
Earlier, the absence of both Tsvangirai and Mujuru at the Pretoria meeting had appeared not to go down well with Biti, who went on to cast doubts on the formation of the mooted grand coalition in the country.
“I think it’s going to be very difficult in Zimbabwe to have coalitions, there are a lot of egocentric and selfish actors in our discourse, but I think we have to do better,” Biti said on social media.
“We have to go beyond these individuals and establish a matrix of working together because that’s what our people want. It’s not about me or what the next leader of a political party wants. So we have to put our people first, so we can reconstruct this country after the mess and collapse caused by Robert Mugabe,” he added.
Analysts have consistently said that a united opposition fighting with one purpose would bring to an end Mugabe’s long rule, especially at this time when the country’s economy is dying and the increasingly frail nonagenarian is battling to keep his warring Zanu PF united.
Since Mujuru joined hands with Tsvangirai and marched with him in the streets of Gweru in August this year — in a rare public display of unity among the opposition — there have been growing calls by fed-up citizens for the formation of a grand opposition alliance.
Describing that development then as ‘heart warming’ Tsvangirai, showered praises on Mujuru at the time for joining the MDC in its protest and public rally.
“Did anyone ever dream of Mujuru becoming a part of the opposition? I want to congratulate her, together with the ZPF leadership, for seeing it necessary for us to have this joint programme. It’s not by accident that the MDC and ZPF are here together.
“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.
And speaking to the Daily News in October after defeating Zanu PF in the Norton by-election, independent legislator Temba Mliswa said among the lessons that long-suffering Zimbabweans and the country’s brutalised opposition could learn from his stunning victory then, was that they could once again defeat Mugabe and Zanu PF, just as Tsvangirai and the MDC had done in 2008.
Despite his dim view of his former comrades, Tsvangirai was quick to add yesterday that plans for a grand coalition were alive, although this would be a process rather than an event.
Turning to the newly-introduced bond notes, the MDC president who also took yesterday press event to welcoming back officials who had left his party to join PDP, described the move to introduce the surrogate currency as “ill-advised”.
“It is the last nail into the coffin of a struggling economy. I said at one point that when we introduced the US dollar we should have prepared to use the opportunity to create our own currency three, four years down the line.
“But given the current crisis of cash shortages, I advocated for the adoption of the rand not because of anything but because 95 percent of our economic activities are done through the rand. We can all be proud of having our own currency but it will be worth nothing in the end.
“I think the time has now come to bring to the attention of the Zanu PF government that all these policies are short-lived and that it is very suicidal using these bond notes that I call bond papers,” Tsvangirai said.
On Wednesday, authorities crushed a planned protest march against the bond notes in Harare after deploying thousands of heavily-armed riot police in and around Harare, triggering shameful chaos in the capital’s central business district (CBD) and causing traffic mayhem during the early morning rush hour.
The ensuing ugly scenes saw ordinary Zimbabweans who were queuing for their money at banks, and who had absolutely nothing to do with the planned demonstration, being caught up in the pandemonium as the uncompromising police fired teargas indiscriminately and randomly charged at any and all gatherings.
Tsvangirai said it was wrong for the government to use thuggish methods on people who were mounting peaceful demonstrations, warning Zimbabweans further that what happened on Wednesday was likely to be repeated going forward.
“But the people are not stupid, and they will always express themselves. In fact, the more you put pressure on the spring, the more it rebounds. The government has to choose between repression and engagement because repression will not stop people from expressing themselves.
“The moment people start to express themselves on how you are running the country, you can’t stop them. We in the MDC believe that national mobilisation is important in expressing ourselves over the way the economy is being mismanaged and therefore we will continue to do that in spite of the brute force that government is resorting to,” he said.
The MDC leader also quashed suggestions by his detractors that he was no longer in charge of the MDC because of his illness of the past few months. Daily News