Robert Mugabe has few months left in office; Tsvangirai lays gauntlet

HARARE – Bullish opposition leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, has vowed to finish off President Robert Mugabe and his warring ruling Zanu PF in next year’s make-or-break national elections — adding that he stands ready to lead the planned grand coalition.

By Fungisai Kwaramba

Speaking in an exclusive interview with the Daily News yesterday, the fit again former prime minister in the government of national unity said he had “no doubt whatsoever” that the MDC — working together with other opposition parties — would, like it did in 2008, once again defeat Zanu PF in 2018 and bring to an end Mugabe’s long but tumultuous rule.

“I stand ready to heed the calls by Zimbabweans that I lead … Indeed, when I moved across the country, the people said I should lead.

“So, if that is what people want, then I am ready to lead the coalition. But this should not be about individuals but about Zimbabwe.

“Indeed, the fight for democracy in Zimbabwe is not between Mugabe and Tsvangirai, but between long-suffering Zimbabweans and a heartless, looting Zanu PF,” Tsvangirai said.

“The commitment towards forming a grand coalition is there … But we must exercise due diligence in regard to our partners.

“Imagine at the end, just before elections you have people who will say ‘I was not part of the talks’ … so due diligence is very important,” added the dogged former labour union leader, as he explained why it was taking long to conclude the mooted coalition talks.

“Forming a coalition should not be a thumb-sucking exercise … and therefore we have to determine the basis of what we are all bringing to the coalition,” he added.

This comes as Tsvangirai has been working with former vice president Joice Mujuru and other opposition parties behind the scenes to finalise the mooted grand opposition coalition.

At the same time, analysts have said that a united opposition, fighting with one purpose, can finally bring to an end Mugabe’s long rule, especially at a time that the nonagenarian is fighting to keep together his warring Zanu PF.

However, they also warn that without a broad coalition involving all the major opposition players, Zanu PF would use “its usual thuggish and foul methods” to retain power.

Tsvangirai has also emerged in the last few months as the undisputed sole candidate to lead the planned electoral alliance, after getting wringing endorsements from virtually all of the country’s serious opposition players.

Last week, Mujuru — who now leads the National People’s Party (NPP) — moved decisively to dispel doubts about who should lead the coalition when she also endorsed the former prime minister in the stability-inducing government of national unity.

A large cross-section of Zimbabweans, including civil society, has also been making loud calls for Tsvangirai to be the face of the proposed electoral alliance — with former senior Cabinet minister Didymus Mutasa among the first to root for the MDC president.

Apart from Mutasa, former Finance minister and leader of Mavambo/Kusile/Dawn, Simba Makoni, has also thrown his weight behind the MDC leader.

Tsvangirai reiterated yesterday that he was saddened by Mujuru’s acrimonious departure from the Zimbabwe People First (ZPF) party — where she had a nasty public fallout with its founding fathers, Mutasa and Rugare Gumbo.

“That was a sad development … and can you imagine the extent of the collateral damage the split could have inflicted on the alliance if we had already formed a grand coalition?

“But we still believe that she should be given an opportunity to reorganise her affairs, because I think she has many positive attributes that will add value to the coalition,” Tsvangirai told the Daily News.

Analysts have consistently said Mujuru, whose liberation struggle nom de guerre was Teurai Ropa (Spill Blood), and whose late husband Solomon was the first black post-independence army commander, could provide the much-needed bridge that opposition parties have been missing to ensure the smooth transfer of power if they win the 2018 elections like they did in 2008.

However, not everyone in the MDC appears convinced that the official opposition requires to reach binding pacts with other players ahead of 2018.

Tsvangirai’s deputy, Thokozani Khupe, has publicly expressed her disquiet at attempts to allow prospective coalition members to contest in Matabeleland, where she argues the MDC has out-performed other opposition parties in previous polls.

But Tsvangirai said “ring-fencing” regions was likely to send “the wrong message to the voting public”.

“We should not balkanise the country as we are a national party. I don’t believe in a Masvingo or Manicaland alliance … Coalitions should never be about regions,” he added.

The mooted grand coalition has rattled Zanu PF and Mugabe, who last week told his party officials that their continued brawling was likely to gift Tsvangirai electoral victory next year.

“Yes there may be grievances, there may be contradictions and there will always be contradictions, but when we leave our homes, when we leave our offices to shout at each other, are you aware that Tsvangirai and others are watching gleefully and laughing.

“Are you also aware that our enemies abroad who have always wanted to see regime change, who desire to see Zanu PF gone, are watching with keen interest and praying that at last the organisation we once thought was solid, undivided and firmly united, is finally cracking.

“So, do we want to give them that chance to smile and wish us death? What does that benefit us when we go into the streets to shout at ourselves?” the visibly angry Mugabe asked rhetorically.

The nonagenarian’s warning came after Zanu PF supporters had held demonstrations in Bindura, Masvingo and Gweru, where they pushed for the expulsion of the party’s under fire national political commissar, Saviour Kasukuwere, and two other ministers.

He pointed out these ugly party brawls were badly exposing both the former liberation movement and its senior officials.

“They (embattled party bigwigs) might be wrong, but they are our leaders. So, when we demonstrate against them, we are demonstrating against ourselves and Tsvangirai will say ‘there they are, hear them … We do not do that … We only do it (demonstrating) against the way we are ill-treated by government’.

“Let us give party organs and structures the chance to deal with these (problematic) issues. Rules and procedures must take precedence before all else,” the nonagenarian added. – Daily News

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