Analysts have issued a stark warning to the country’s ever squabbling opposition — to either start working together now in the interest of the country, or completely forget about defeating President Robert Mugabe and his warring ruling Zanu PF in the 2018 national elections.
By Gift Phiri and Mugove Tafirenyika
Speaking to the Daily News on Sunday yesterday, the analysts said time had almost run out for the opposition parties to form their mooted grand coalition, adding that it was looking more likely that the opposition would gift Mugabe and Zanu PF victory in 2018 because of their petty differences.
Their sentiments came as Tendai Biti’s People’s Democratic Party (PDP) once again savaged opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai in a move that the analysts said would make it even more difficult for the former MDC comrades and their parties to work together going forward.
“The same opposition politicians scuttling the coalition process are having their rentals, medical bills and daily upkeep being paid by the Zanu PF government and they will, as a result, do all in their power to derail the grand coalition process in order to please their Zanu PF masters,” the PDP said yesterday in its frontal assault on Tsvangirai.
But the analysts said to defeat Mugabe and Zanu PF in the eagerly-anticipated 2018 national polls, opposition parties needed to make sacrifices and set aside their personal differences and ambitions for the common good.
“On the one hand you have the bigger political parties who are naive enough to think that they can go it alone, while some of the small parties overstate their value as an electoral factor.
“There is clearly a need for balance, as the bigger opposition parties may not be big enough to avoid failure, while the smaller parties need to be realistic about what they are bringing to the table,” former civic leader McDonald Lewanika said.
Professor of world politics at the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies Steven Chan warned that the opposition was running out of time to form their mooted coalition.
“Zanu PF was very worried about the possibility of a grand coalition three years ago, but it is a little late in the day now.
“The coalition can’t raise the required money for an effective national campaign in less than two years before the elections. That money won’t come from the West as they are too busy with their own economic meltdowns,” Chan said.
University of Zimbabwe political science lecturer, Eldred Masunungure, noted that most of the opposition parties had big egos as their leaders, adding that the parties needed to realise that Tsvangirai was the best bet to lead any coalition.
“All things being equal, it would be more sensible to have Tsvangirai as the leader because there is no doubt even among the opposition parties themselves, Zanu PF and general populace that he is the face of the struggle,” Masunugure told the Daily News On Sunday.
“However, we also know about his recent medical challenges and so that could discount him considering that the campaigns for 2018 will be arduous, requiring physical and mental strength. In that case Mujuru could be the alternative,” he added.
Civil rights activist Gladys Hlatywayo said while having many opposition political parties was good for a healthy democracy, it was proving that it could also work against the opposition.
“The personality clashes we have seen will not help anyone. They must save their petty fights for another day and agree to work together to dislodge that which has caused a great deal of suffering to the majority of Zimbabweans,” Hlatywayo said.
“For me, these squabbles are a pity given that 2018 presents a real opportunity for them if one considers factors including the health and age of the incumbent, as well as the lack of elite cohesion in the ruling party,” she added.
Academic and publisher Ibbo Mandaza said only a National Transitional Authority (NTA) could salvage the situation.
The cracks among the opposition parties became more glaring last week after the MDC and the Zimbabwe People First (ZPF) snubbed coalition talks that took place in Cape Town, even as it is generally appreciated that without Tsvangirai and former Vice President Joice Mujuru any such alliance is pretty weak.
Commenting on the Cape Town meeting on Thursday, Tsvangirai had appeared to slam the door shut on the prospects of him ever 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 wish to work with him.
He also said he had not seen the need for him to attend the meeting, which not only involved people who had left his party, but was also unclear in terms of its objectives.
This was interpreted as an indirect attack on Biti who once served as the MDC’s secretary-general before he acrimoniously parted ways with Tsvangirai, and whose PDP party has already witnessed its fair share of debilitating desertions.
“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,” he added.
But speaking on Friday following Tsvangirai’s outburst, some of the smaller parties scrambled to save the ongoing coalition talks when they held a hastily-arranged meeting in Harare, where they moved to pacify the former prime minister in the government of national unity.
“We commit to reaching out to other leaders … we are not assuming that because they did not come to Cape Town therefore they will not come to Nyanga for example, when we meet again before the end of this year,” the representative of the 13 parties who met in South Africa, Simba Makoni, said.
“We are not enough as the 13 of us, hence the need to engage others. We gave ourselves up to before the end of this year to come up with a structure and working strategy for the coalition. We are committed to doing what is necessary to achieve this noble objective whose time has come for the benefit of Zimbabweans,” Makoni, who is also the leader of Mavambo/Kusile/Dawn (MKD) 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.
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. Daily News