HARARE – Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai has once again indicated that he will not be working with his former top aide, Tendai Biti, and other so-called “briefcase” political parties in a grand opposition alliance ahead of the eagerly-anticipated 2018 national elections.
By Fungi Kwaramba
This comes as MDC insiders confirmed to the Daily News yesterday that the former prime minister in the government of national unity is on the verge of sealing a historic pact with his other former secretary-general, Welshman Ncube, and the leader of the Zimbabwe People First (ZPF), Joice Mujuru — with whom he has been meeting behind the scenes over the past few months.
The resolute Tsvangirai told diplomats last week that he was wary of the “real prospects” of the panicking ruling Zanu PF using some of the country’s smaller opposition parties to put spanners in the works of a viable grand coalition.
His address to representatives of foreign governments also came after he recently set out clear conditions for all his prospective coalition partners — as the mooted grand alliance gets ever closer.Once again on this issue, Your Excellencies, you must understand that we reserve our right to determine who we will work with.
“There are about 42 political parties in the country, some of them deliberately created by Zanu PF to muddy the political waters. Some of them are not even institutions in the true sense of the word. We will do our own necessary diligence checks before we work with anyone,” Tsvangirai told the diplomats.
However, sources close to the ongoing coalition talks told the Daily News yesterday that there was now “an agreement in principle” between Mujuru and Tsvangirai about the two working together — with talks with Ncube apparently set to be concluded in the next few weeks.
Tsvangirai, who commands a huge following among Zimbabweans, and is the only politician in the history of the country to defeat President Robert Mugabe and Zanu PF in an election — in 2008 — has also said opposition parties needed to field a candidate in 2018 with a real chance of winning that year’s poll.
“The presidential candidate must be selected on the basis of the best individual who can win an election for the coalition against the incumbent. The party, based on past performance and other factors, and which is the strongest electorally in a given constituency must also field the candidate for the coalition.
“The MDC is persuaded to be part a people-based pre-election pact for the reasons that we are a people-based party with an electoral history and which subscribes to the democratic principle that the authority to govern is derived from the people,” he said.
While Tsvangirai has been reaching out to other opposition leaders, last month he and Mujuru snubbed an indaba in Cape Town which had been organised by a little known South African group to discuss the proposed local opposition coalition.
The absence of the two at the meeting had appeared not to go down well with Biti at the time, who went on to slate them and 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.
However, the smaller parties scrambled to mend their relationship with Tsvangirai by making conciliatory remarks towards him.
In his meeting with the diplomats last week, Tsvangirai was careful not to name the smaller parties that he was wary of, and in light of his good historical relations with some of them, such as former Finance minister and now leader of Mavambo/Kusile/Dawn (MKD), Simba Makoni.
MKD was among the parties that moved to placate the former prime minister in the short-lived government of national unity, after the Cape Town row.
“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 told journalists during a hastily-arranged meeting to pacify the MDC leader.
MDC insiders claimed yesterday that it was becoming increasingly clear to them that Tsvangirai “does not see either the need or benefit” of him working with Biti, or other “briefcase” parties who allegedly neither had the following nor the requisite democratic agenda.
Tsvangirai and Mujuru are part of the 18 opposition parties which have coalesced under the banner of the National Electoral Reform Agenda (Nera), and which has recently scored a psychological victory by forcing the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) to include them in committees tasked with working on the 2018 election preparatory works.
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. – Daily News