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Mixed feelings over coalition

The recent signing of memorandums of understanding by political party leaders Morgan Tsvangirai (MDC-T), Joice Mujuru (NPP) and Welshman Ncube (MDC) appears to have raised hopes for change among hungry, but poll-weary Zimbabweans, analysts have said.


Morgan Tsvangirai
Morgan Tsvangirai

The political analysts have, however, warned that a lot still needed to be done if the opposition hoped to put in place a formidable coalition. They said the country’s opposition might just fall into disabling internal contradictions that have dogged them in the past.

Political analyst Maxwell Saungweme painted a gloomy picture of an opposition coalition.

“It’s quite a difficult one given that we have too many political parties, with some mere creations and decoys of Zanu PF. While I would want to see a coalition, conditions on the ground do not permit for a genuine coalition,” he said.

“You have opposition parties with power-hungry leaders, without clear manifestos or positions, without clear political ideologies.”
But another analyst, Shakespeare Hamauswa was optimistic.

“Prospects are high because there is an agreement that fragmentation of the opposition has benefitted Zanu PF, but there are challenges,” Hamauswa said.

“We are lacking an objective facilitator to handhold the opposition into a coalition. It must be understood that Zanu PF will not sit idly and watch the opposition coalescing into something that could endanger its hold on power. It will find ways of sowing seeds of despondency to scuttle the possibility of a coalition,” he said, adding pressure to follow the Kenyan example could also help.

On paper, Tsvangirai and Mujuru’s coming together should have excited those in the opposition movement and beyond after months of dithering, but former Intelligence minister Didymus Mutasa, co-chairperson on another floundering poltical party — the Zimbabwe People First (ZimPF) — seemed unimpressed.

“The so-called coalition will fall apart soon. It is not what we expected and had agreed on and you can see this by the divisions involving Thokozani Khupe [Tsvangirai’s deputy],” he said last week.

But MDC-T spokesperson Obert Gutu dismissed claims there were problems within the party.

“There are no fierce internal contradictions within our party regarding the formation of an opposition coalition. We are united and focused and we are all more than determined to secure a strong and formidable opposition alliance that will resoundingly defeat Zanu PF in next year’s elections,” said Gutu.

“Any reports that there are internal contradictions within us can only be the wicked work of our political detractors within the collapsing Zanu PF regime. Opposition political parties are finding each other; that’s for sure. A lot of ground has been covered behind the scenes and Zimbabweans can only expect to hear very exciting news in the very near future.”

Insiders, however, insisted all was not well.

“If you check, Khupe and Douglas Mwonzora have not appeared at any of the signing ceremonies. Gutu was there when Mujuru signed but left earlier and did not attend the Ncube function. The fact that the ceremonies are being held at Tsvangirai’s residence and not the party headquarters should also be an indicator of these contradictions,” The Standard heard.

“The other thing is that Tsvangirai’s group wants groups like Tendai Biti’s People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and Ncube’s MDC to literally dissolve and re-join the ‘big-tent’. The argument is that there are no ideological differences between their parties and the MDC-T. The coalition must be with Mujuru; the others must just bury the hatchet and come together.”

It is also understood that Mujuru and Tsvangirai are already setting up teams for proper negotiations towards the envisaged coalition. Another source said there are negotiations to merge the National Electoral Reform Agenda (Nera) and the Coalition of Democrats (Code), two distinct groups to which different parties belong.

“It is important that those that are working on this have to be alive to the fact that even a football team coach has his best players that go onto the team-sheet first. Tsvangirai, Mujuru, Biti, Simba Makoni [Mavambo/Khusile/Dawn leader] and Ncube are the anchors to the opposition’s chances. If we get these people together, then we would have dealt with both the qualitative and quantitative problems facing the opposition,” said a top MDC-T member.

While claiming he would need to consult and gather facts around the possible merger of Nera and Code, Gutu promised “exciting times ahead”.

“We are breaking new ground. We are about to cross the Rubicon. Exciting times are upon us. Political leaders are determined to overcome whatever intra-party contradictions that might arise within the opposition movements. We are all of us looking at the bigger picture,” he said.

Biti, on the other hand, however, warned that difficult decisions would need to be made, although he emphasised that the issue of a coalition was now a matter of necessity.

“We in the opposition must form a coalition based on the understanding that it is a coalition of the weak. If any of us were strong, then there would be no need for a coalition,” he said.

“It is a decision we must make with the full understanding that it is not meant for power and power alone, but to give our people a fighting chance against a dictatorship. We need then to define a programme and the issues to sell to the people as well as the values that will bind us.”

He said the international community had abandoned Zimbabwe.

“We must also understand and accept that we are alone because we have a cynical international community that has begun to think that stability is more important than democracy. We have a toxic neighbourhood, chaos in South Africa, challenges in Mozambique and Malawi and disaster in Zambia. So, we are on our own,” he said.

Another academic, Austin Chakaodza said opposition parties must convene a conference to “thrash out” sticking points.

“The disagreements and contradictions we see are around leadership. They must be able to look at the credentials of each leader; Mujuru’s liberation war component and Tsvangirai’s mass support could be juxtaposed and then come up with the person with the greatest prospects of winning,” said Chakaodza.

“Barring rigging and violence, the prospects of defeating Mugabe are there but the grassroots must be allowed to choose the leader.”

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