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Makoni faces credibility test

Constantine Chimakure

SERIOUS misgivings in Zanu PF, the MDC and civic society have emerged over former Finance minister Simba Makoni’s capacity to produce a split in Zanu

PF to beat President Robert Mugabe in this year’s presidential election.

Information to hand shows Makoni and his group are making moves to split from Zanu PF and challenge Mugabe without working with other opposition forces. They have rejected a proposal by opposition and civil society groups to form a broad alliance against Zanu PF and Mugabe.

However, sources this week said disgruntled Zanu PF bigwigs pushing for a splinter party, both MDC factions and some members of the civic society, doubted Makoni’s capacity to lead a split from Zanu PF.

The sources said Makoni’s handlers initially made approaches to the MDC faction led by Morgan Tsvangirai which reportedly told him to first cause a stir in Zanu PF by resigning to show that he was serious in his bid to lead the alliance.

After failing to secure support from the Tsvangirai faction, Makoni’s supporters decided to go it alone.

Makoni, who was expected this week to roll out a programme to challenge the current leadership of Zanu PF, is now on a mission to sell his project to the ruling party’s politburo. Sources in the party yesterday said Makoni was scheduled to meet retired army general Solomon Mujuru who leads a Zanu PF faction that is reportedly opposed to Mugabe’s continued hold on power.

Makoni, who lacks a grassroots support base, largely draws his backing from the Mujuru faction in Zanu PF. A few Mugabe loyalists in the party also support him.

It is said Makoni’s group has lined up a number of meetings with Zanu PF politburo members to seek their support.

But there are doubts about Makoni’s ability to persuade Zanu PF politburo members and structures to break away from the ruling party. The sources said some members of the Mujuru faction were arguing that Makoni was not a Zanu PF heavyweight and commanded insufficient support to challenge Mugabe.

“Mujuru and his group think that Makoni is the right candidate because of his appeal in urban areas, but they are worried that he does not have the clout and support base to challenge Mugabe,” a senior Zanu PF official said. “The camp wants a heavyweight from Zanu PF to head a coalition, instead of a Zanu PF splinter group. The main problem is that Makoni is not influential in the party.”

The official said the camp was also worried that Makoni was unable to come out clearly on his ambitions to become president just weeks before the election. This has raised fears he might withdraw from the initiative at the eleventh hour, leaving his group in disarray.

“There are genuine fears that Makoni may decide at the eleventh hour not to be party to the new formation as (Rural and Social Amenities minister Emmerson) Mnangagwa did in 2005,” the official said.

Mnangagwa reportedly chickened out of a proposed new party, the United Peoples Movement (UPM), shortly before its intended launch in 2005 after he refused to resign from Zanu PF, arguing it was better to fight the party from within.

The intended formation of the UPM was prompted by the dismissal of six Zanu PF provincial chairpersons, among others, by the party for allegedly taking part in the famous Tsholotsho Declaration of November 2004 to “re-arrange the presidium”.

The UPM suffered a stillbirth after Mnangagwa’s refusal to leave Zanu PF.

The sources said despite Mujuru’s concerns, there were some people in his camp like former permanent secretary and academic Ibbo Mandaza who insist that Makoni should lead a party formed from a breakaway Zanu PF faction, not an alliance of opposition parties and civil society groups.

“Mandaza believes that Makoni is the appropriate candidate. He is of the opinion that people who will move from Zanu PF will campaign heavily for Makoni in the rural areas where he needs support,” another source said.

MDC-Tsvangirai faction spokesman Nelson Chamisa yesterday scoffed at the prospects of an alliance between his party and Makoni’s formation.

“This is a Zanu PF split which has nothing to do with the MDC but with Mugabe’s dictatorship,” said Chamisa. “A Zanu PF implosion is however good for all democratic forces.”

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