The real deal

THE real deal is here for Simba Makoni — who recently broke ranks with the ruling Zanu PF — and the cacophony of dissenting voices agains

t the Mugabe administration.

All oppositional forces will today parade candidates to fight the Zanu PF system which has been in charge of this country for almost three decades.

It is embarrassing that after more than five years of planning the opposition forces to present their papers in nomination courts today are still fragmented and at times displaying traits of disorganisation and indecision. They have not seen the benefits of combining forces to tackle the Zanu PF machine.

There has been immense excitement around Makoni’s challenge to Mugabe. There is belief among many that the former Finance minister can put up a real challenge to Mugabe. But there is still faith in the opposition MDC despite its leadership frailties. As we reported two weeks ago, there was a real chance of former Zipra commander Dumiso Dabengwa throwing his hat into the ring and also challenging for the top position. This would have meant three opposition leaders lining up to contest against Mugabe yet there is only one strong opposition political party — Tsvangirai’s MDC — in the contest for the house of assembly and senatorial seats, which could work well in favour of Mugabe.

At the close of the nomination court today, the strength and seriousness of the Makoni project will be put into perspective. The nation awaits the calibre of men and women to line up behind him because he will need them to campaign for him in the election. He has the backing of the Arthur Mutambara faction of the MDC but that is support concentrated in the southern part of the country.

Makoni, at the launch of his party manifesto on Wednesday, appealed to those who lost in the Zanu PF primary elections and those who won to join him in his new crusade. That is to say that he expects defections from Zanu PF. But there is a danger here that he might only attract those who lost in the primaries. It will be a tragedy if Makoni becomes leader of Zanu PF rejects. His strength and appeal will be based on his ability to attract high level politicians from the ruling party and the MDC.

Makoni cannot bank on the support of the Mutambara faction of the MDC alone. He needs his own people. The way the alliance between Mutambara and the MDC has been fashioned could pose a problem for voters. They are being asked to vote for the Mutambara faction candidates in the House of Assembly, senatorial and council elections but vote for Makoni for president. Is it necessary to subject the voters who believe in the same cause to multiple symbols on election day? By the way, there is also the Tsvangirai faction to contend with. His party shares the same name with the Mutambara faction and their symbols are not very different.

There is a problem here of not only splitting the opposition vote but further confusing the electorate in an election bound to be characterised by organisational chaos. Elections are all about symbols and brands. For the purpose of our elections here, the opposition will feature three symbols of the two MDC factions and Makoni’s. Too many of them perhaps.

The challenge that faces the opposition in this election is to justify to the electorate that this fractiousness is necessary and the most suitable plan to win the general and presidential elections. The danger is for the opposition to start to campaign against each other. It is possible considering statements which have been uttered to date by the Tsvangirai faction against Makoni.

We also reported last week that interlocutors in the unity talks between the two MDC factions felt that their relations had become irreparable. But all oppositional forces have to find common ground in this election. It is not just about the opposition articulating Mugabe’s failures in almost all spheres of governance. The electorate already knows this. Leaders in the opposition have to show that they are better organised than Zanu PF.

The last minute rush by the opposition to forge alliances is a sure sign of organisational inadequacies and lack of tact in dealing with a sly customer in the form of President Mugabe. It must be noted that Mugabe still commands a large number of followers and is still in control of key government institutions and machinery that he has employed in the past to win elections. This is what Tsvangirai, Makoni and Mutambara are up against and not each other.

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