Ray Matikinye/Augustine Mukaro
SECRET talks are underway among opposition parties to forge an alliance to field one candidate in the 2008 presidential poll in a bid to e
nd Zanu PF’s 26-year rule.
Although the parties are keeping the finer details under wraps sources said the idea of a single candidate was part of the proposed broad alliance — the National Patriotic Front — set to bring together opposition parties and civic organisations.
Tsholotsho MP Jonathan Moyo confirmed that there were talks around fielding a single candidate if the alliance materialises.
“It would be prudent to field one candidate in the presidential election due in 2008,” Moyo said. “It’s a national expectation, in fact that was even the unspoken sentiment of the (Christian Alliance-sponsored) meeting.”
Moyo said the need for a single candidate backed by all groups had been precipitated by the split in the MDC, succession wars in Zanu PF and government’s failure to reverse the economic meltdown.
Although Moyo could not be drawn into giving indications on possible candidates, it is understood the NPF would be formed around Morgan Tsvangirai who is expected to be backed by Arthur Mutambara as his deputy.
Others backing the idea are United People’s Party president Daniel Shumba, Zapu Federal Party president Paul Siwela, and Wurayayi Zembe of the Democratic Party.
Jameson Timba, who is closely involved in liaison work for the Tsvangirai group, could neither deny nor confirm the claims.
“Premature announcements are likely to scuttle the process. There is a danger in talking about the progress made so far in the national interest,” Timba said on Wednesday.
Conflicting reports have created confusion among opposition supporters who now doubt whether the rift between Tsvangirai and Mutambara’s factions can be mended.
Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga, deputy secretary-general of Mutambara’s group, on Monday disputed media reports of unity talks in the opposition movement.
“The Arthur Mutambara-led MDC has neither approached nor participated in any unity talks with the Morgan Tsvangirai group,” she said in a terse statement.
She said unity among opposition political forces should be based on the founding principles of non-violence, transparency, zero tolerance for corruption and respect for democratic collective decision-making.
Sources in the Tsvangirai camp said there had been extensive exchanges between the two sides.
Accusations of violence and violations of the party’s constitution could prove a major hurdle to immediate unity between the two camps.
The MDC split over these key principles last October.
Opposition supporters had invested hope in a recent meeting under the auspices of the Christian Alliance’s Save Zimbabwe Convention that appeared to herald an era where Tsvangirai could bring his much-needed mass appeal and grass roots presence while Mutambara could infuse youthful ambition, intelligence and idealism into the new opposition partnership, observers say.
Spokesperson for the Mutambara camp, Gabriel Chaibva, said he saw no major problems in forging a united front as long as “the other side puts national interest before self”.
“As long as there is commitment to uphold democratic principles and respect for the constitution, together with other founding principles of the MDC, I see no problems in uniting,” Chaibva said.
He said colleagues in the Tsvangirai-led camp should accept leadership responsibilities, collective decision-making as well as respect for divergent views among party members.
“Serious politicians should know that the more the political parties that come together the better for efforts to confront Zanu PF,” he said.
“Leaders should stop the arrogance of adopting a Big Brother mentality,” he added.
Tsvangirai’s camp spokesman Nelson Chamisa said while his party would work with others to forge a united front to challenge Zanu PF, which he described as “our common enemy”, there was no way his camp would join a new grouping.