Biti to lead grand coalition talks

IN what could be the biggest push to end President Robert Mugabe’s 36-year rule, Zimbabwe’s opposition parties, excluding Morgan Tsvangirai’s MDC-T, have tasked firebrand People’s Democratic Party (PDP) leader Tendai Biti to be chief negotiator in talks seeking to forge a grand coalition with former vice-president Joice Mujuru’s People First movement, the Zimbabwe Independent has learnt.

Elias Mambo/Wongai Zhangazha

This comes as opposition parties continue to dig for a solution to field a sole candidate to oust a fractured Zanu PF in the 2018 general elections. Biti was the secretary general of MDC-T before his fallout with Tsvangirai two years ago.

The MDC-T is divided on joining hands with Mujuru. Tsvangirai is supporting the move while National Executive Council member Nelson Chamisa rejects the plan.

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Sources said despite false starts on several occasions to form a grand coalition to wrest power from Zanu PF, a united opposition is likely to rattle Zanu PF which is currently torn apart due to growing infighting in the race to succeed ageing Mugabe.

The parties, the sources said, agreed to rally behind Mujuru on condition that she scales up efforts to formally set up the largely obscure outfit born out of factional fights within Zanu PF.

“Last week, opposition parties leaders who include Biti, Lovemore Madhuku (National Constitutional Assembly), Emilia Mukaratirwa (Zapu vice-president) and Elton Mangoma (Renewal Democrats of Zimbabwe) met to come up with a strategy on how to face Zanu PF in the 2018 elections.

“All the opposition parties agreed that their common enemy is Mugabe and Zanu PF so they should unite and work together ahead of the 2018 polls,” the source said.

“It was during this meeting that it was agreed to appoint Biti as the negotiator with the Mujuru-linked People First movement.”

Sources said the opposition parties are not yet convinced Mujuru can stand the heat and cross the line to become a leader of the opposition politics. The sources added that Mujuru and her allies are keen on Biti joining the party as a senior advisor.

“The day People First will launch its party is the day we will embrace them as part of the opposition in Zimbabwe. At the moment, they are still on the fence and anything can happen. They can decide to rejoin Zanu PF,” another opposition leader said.

Mujuru who was described by a regional research unit, NKC African Economics-owned by one of the world’s leading independent global advisory firms Oxford Economics, as “perhaps Zimbabwe’s last realistic hope of salvation”, has been on a massive recruitment drive across the country’s 10 provinces targeting disgruntled Zanu PF and MDC-T activists in the process.The former vice president together with a number of senior Zanu PF members were expelled from the party in 2014 on allegations of plotting to oust Mugabe and fanning factionalism.

Since late last year, Mujuru and her close allies such as ousted former Zanu PF spokesperson Rugare Gumbo, ex-secretary for administration Didymus Mutasa, Kudakwashe Bhasikiti (former politburo member and Mwenezi East MP), David Butau (former Mbire MP) and sacked-war veterans leader Jabulani Sibanda have upped the tempo, putting up structures at national, provincial and other lower levels in their quest to grow PF’s support base.

A host of loyalists from MDC-T, Zanu PF and other opposition parties, according to reports, were ready to jump ship and join Mujuru’s movement.

This week former Zanu PF Chivi South MP Irvene Dzingirai defected to People First and has been attending meetings in Masvingo.

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