LEADERS of the MDC formations spent the last two weeks engaged in self-praise and congratulating their principals Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai as well as Industry and Commerce minister Welshman Ncube for thwarting President Robert Mugabe and Zanu PF’s bid to force elections on July 31.
Report by Herbert Moyo
MDC legal secretary David Coltart, a long-time advocate of unity between the MDC formations, said it was “absolutely wonderful to see my colleagues and friends Ncube, Tsvangirai and (MDC-T secretary-general) Tendai Biti working together so well in the interests of our nation” at the Maputo summit.
“You have all done us proud. Thanks as well to Elton Mangoma (MDC-T), Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga and Moses Mzila Ndlovu (both MDC), the other negotiators who have all done such a sterling job,” said Coltart, adding, “this gives me so much hope for the future.”
Coltart’s suggestion of further co-operation in a grand election coalition was taken up by outgoing MDC-T Masvingo Central legislator Jeffreyson Chitando who took to social media and wrote of an imaginary rally organised by Qhubani Moyo (MDC) and Nelson Chamisa (MDC-T) and addressed by both Ncube and Tsvangirai.
It is a fact that the Maputo triumph was built on the strong bedrock of co-operation between the MDC parties and other forces in the civil society, and the co-operation raised optimism in many quarters that the parties may well build on that to forge a united front to mount the strongest possible challenge against Mugabe and Zanu PF’s in the next general elections.
Prior to that, Tsvangirai had appeared at a press conference with leaders of the MDC represented by Edwin Mushoriwa, Mavambo/Kusile/Dawn (Simba Makoni), Zapu (Dumiso Dabengwa) and Zanu-Ndonga (Reketai Semwayo), although Ncube did not attend after Mugabe had unilaterally proclaimed July 31 as the date of general elections. The same parties also met after the Maputo summit.
However, unfolding events and remarks by officials of the respective parties cast doubt on whether the Maputo victory will be the launch pad for a grand coalition.
It is increasingly appearing too late in the day for the formation of a coalition to challenge Zanu PF, given the obstacles that have to be surmounted, including personality clashes and contentious allocation of posts, as well as principles and values, particularly the issue of respect of democratic fundamentals and political violence.
Zimbabwe Democracy Institute director Pedzisayi Ruhanya however said it was still possible for Tsvangirai and Ncube to forge an electoral pact because the MDC parties are only separated by personality rather than ideological differences which can be overcome. He said their differences were not really fundamental but mainly personal and operational.
“It is still possible for them to come together as the constitutional court has not even ruled on the elections date after postponing the case,” said Ruhanya. “Some individuals will have to be side-lined in the allocation of positions to make the pact possible.”
Ruhanya said demoting and side-lining some officials and abandoning rigid positions are some of the “hard decisions the parties have to make in the interests of democratising Zimbabwe”.
But the parties themselves seem to be still poles apart. The MDC this week told the Zimbabwe Independent that while it welcomes the idea of a grand coalition, “there has been a lot of grandstanding and public posturing over the issue but there was no real commitment by other parties, including the MDC-T, to make it happen”.
“We opened up the communication channels for any party to engage us but thus far nobody has come along,” said MDC spokesperson Nhlanhla Dube.
Dube said his party has appointed Misihairabwi-Mushonga and Paul Themba Nyathi as the coordinators for such negotiations. Senior MDC officials say other than gestures of intent, the MDC-T has not made any formal proposals on the issue. Insiders say the MDC expects a concrete proposal, with formulas and details, on a coalition arrangement with the MDC-T before any talks could start. So far nothing of the sort has been presented, one official said this week.
MDC-T spokesperson Douglas Mwonzora acknowledged that his party had not engaged anyone in formal talks about a coalition. “While we (MDC-T) are very clear on the need for all progressive forces to unite against Zanu PF, the fact is that there is nothing formal that has been discussed on the issue,” Mwonzora said.
None of the parties have tabled a document of the talking points which should include proposals on who should lead the grand coalition as well as which candidates should be fielded in the general and local government elections.
MDC-T members believe a coalition should be led by Tsvangirai by virtue of his winning the first round of the presidential vote in March 2008 before withdrawing from the bloody June re-run against Mugabe.
The mudslinging and personality clashes between the parties’ leaders, which some analysts believe are retrogressive, have increased ever since the Maputo summit instead of concrete discussions on a coalition by the parties.
Tellingly, these polemics are taking place among leaders of the parties with MDC-T vice-president Thokozani Khupe dismissing suggestions that she make way for Ncube in an election pact.
“There is no justification (for stepping aside) because I have been winning elections compared to the MDC leader (Ncube),” said Khupe. “It does not work like that. People should use common sense.”
Ncube responded in kind, describing Khupe as delusional and insisted he will be contesting the presidency. “I don’t deal with hypothetical issues,” he said on the side-lines of a rally at Cross-Dete in Matabeleland North. “I am running for the office of the president”.
Ncube’s position in response to Khupe’s remarks showed how far apart the parties still are despite their cooperation in Maputo.
The old adage that “time waits for no man” rings ever true as the Constitutional Court, which postponed the case of election dates extension, can rule any time from now on the issue which has the potential to decide whether the country will make the transition to democracy or remain in the rut of the repression and regression that has been the defining feature of Zanu PF rule since independence in 1980.
Analysts say so much depends on the ability of the MDC formations and other political forces to look at the bigger picture and form a grand coalition to wrest power from Zanu PF. The watershed elections will certainly be a defining moment for Zimbabwe as well as a possible Waterloo for the careers of many, including Mugabe, Tsvangirai and Ncube.