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Tsvangirai-Ncube pact game-changer

IN as much as new Kenyan deputy president William Ruto was critical in President Uhuru Kenyatta’s win in the recent elections, Professor Welshman Ncube particularly and other democratic forces in general could critically determine whether or not Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai emerges victorious in Zimbabwe’s forthcoming watershed polls.

Opinion Redzisai Ruhanya

In the Kenyan case, outgoing prime minister Raila Odinga lost more than two million votes after he severed ties with Ruto, his key political ally during the constitutional struggles in Kenya.

Ruto delivered the presidency to Kenyatta whose team was pragmatic, realistic and statistical in analysing Kenya’s political-electoral system and its dynamics.

As Zimbabwe prepares for what appears to be defining elections, the first after the transitional government and President Robert Mugabe’s last, barring political violence and other shenanigans, these elections would be won by those who invest in software politics accompanied by serious voter registration drive and accommodation of like-minded forces.

One of the most important things to note is that like in most sub-Saharan countries, Zimbabwe has a political system where parliamentary elections are largely a sideshow because of the presidential systems which apply.

This means as the country prepares for elections, it is critical to appreciate the key political battle is to win the presidential race, which also commands institutional power and resources.

Due to its constitutional architecture, even under the proposed new draft constitution voted for in the March 16 referendum, Zimbabwe continues to be characterised by an imperial executive presidency which hugely influences political dynamics.

One cannot seek to understand opposition politics and the counter hegemonic political struggles in Zimbabwe at large without making references to the dictatorial presidency and its impact on the electoral playing field.

The single biggest impediment to truly competitive democracy in Zimbabwe and Africa in general is the domineering presidency. Any strategies to democratisation should therefore target the authoritarian presidency by capturing it from a norm-violating dictatorship and reforming it to share power with the other two arms of the state — the legislature and judiciary.

Learning from the past political and electoral processes, especially the failed democratic transition after the March 2008 in which democratic forces won in the parliamentary poll, but failed to seize the presidency through elections because of divisions and fragmentation, there is no doubt opposition groups need to unite against Mugabe in the next polls to win.

If they want to remove Mugabe and start a new dispensation, their strategy is simple: they must coalesce around a single presidential candidate.

Three factors appear to weaken democratic and opposition forces against Zanu PF and Mugabe. These include the advantages of incumbency stemming from executive dominance; their limited financial and intellectual analytic resources and most critically their failure to see or understand the bigger picture which demands they unite around a potentially strong presidential candidate and craft a genuine democratic framework.

In articulating the significance of the need for the democratic forces to unite, the two MDC formations — one led by Tsvangirai and the other by Ncube — need to show and exercise leadership for the broader democratisation cause.

The idea of an electoral pact is not limited to the MDC formations, but should include other groups such as those led by liberation war veteran and Zapu leader Dumiso Dabengwa, Mavambo/Kusile/Dawn president Simba Makoni and the leadership of progressive civic society institutions such as the National Constitutional Assembly, Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions, the Zimbabwe National Students Union, and the Progressive Teachers’ Union of Zimbabwe.

The referendum outcome suggests these civic groups who opposed the draft constitution have a solid following that could hugely influence the presidential election outcome.

Most importantly, in defining elections such as the ones Zimbabwe is preparing for, there is nothing called insignificant votes. Every vote counts, literally, hence the 50% plus one.

The argument why Tsvangirai and Ncube cannot unite is often feeble, rooted in petty personal differences rather than serious ideological and policy issues. Serious and genuine talks involving the top leadership of both parties can easily resolve the issues at stake.

If Tsvangirai and Ncube could work with Mugabe, why would they not work together for the broader cause of democracy and national progress?

If these two leaders fail again to unite, but collectively claim victory as they did during the March 2008 general elections, they will have lost the best opportunity to secure change and history will judge them harshly.

Putting aside partisan issues, is it not statistically clear the MDC formations won both the presidential and parliamentary elections in March 2008? The reason why I emphasise Ncube as a key player is not to demean other democratic forces, but empirically argue my case for the need to have a democratic coalition to confront Mugabe.

Statistical analysis of the performance of Ncube’s formation in 2008 shows if his group supported either Mugabe or Tsvangirai, the one who would have had his backing would have won the first round. This observation is without prejudice to Makoni who was the presidential candidate. The reality is Makoni won huge votes in areas where Ncube’s parliamentary and council candidates also won.

So it was largely due to Ncube’s influence there, hence his significance as a political player, especially in the context of coalitions ahead of the polls.

The significance of Ncube is further expressed in the overall 2008 presidential election result in which Tsvangirai got 1 195 562 votes (47,87%), Mugabe 1 079 730 (43,34%) and Makoni 207 470 (8,31%).

This result, further illustrated by the nearly 200 000 people who voted “No” to the current draft constitution, shows if Tsvangirai, Ncube and Makoni were fighting in the same corner, Mugabe would already be history. Mugabe is still in power courtesy of divisions among democratic forces.

This also happened in the 1992 Kenyan presidential election.
The March 2008 presidential result outcome at regional levels show Mugabe would have won in only three provinces — Mashonaland West, Central and East if Tsvangirai and Ncube had united.

Worse still for Mugabe, his margins in those three Mashonaland provinces would have been narrowed down and became wafer-thin if the opposition joined forces.

In the March 2008 presidential election in Matabeleland South province, for instance, Tsvangirai got 28%, Mugabe 30% and Makoni 38%. A combination of Tsvangirai and Makoni who was supported by Ncube would have meant a deadly electoral blow for Mugabe as that would have given the opposition 68% of the vote.

In Harare, Tsvangirai got 72%, Mugabe 19% and Makoni 8%, Bulawayo Tsvangirai 51%, Makoni 37% and Mugabe 11% and Mashonaland West Mugabe 52%, Tsvangirai 42% and Makoni 5%. This trend of Mugabe hugely losing to the combination of Ncube and Tsvangirai was recorded in Masvingo, Midlands, Manicaland, and Matabeleland provinces.

The quantitative meaning of these results is clear: a coalition between Tsvangirai and Ncube will bury Mugabe.

Ruhanya is a PhD candidate and director of the Zimbabwe Democracy Institute.

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