RECENT alleged overtures from the MDC-T camp purportedly advocating for dialogue with Zanu PF in an attempt to address the socio-economic and political tsunami that engulfs the impoverished diamond-rich Southern African state, if they are anything to go by, are not only ill-timed but at worst ill-advised.
In his “State of the Nation address”, MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai advocated for dialogue with Zanu PF which would involve other interested stakeholders with the sole purpose of finding common ground in tackling the worsening crisis that grips the nation.
The same sentiments were echoed by MDC-T secretary general Tendai Biti who observed that “it is a very dangerous situation to have a country which is not talking to each other… Zimbabweans have to talk to each other to come up with a solution”. Not only empty talking, but “the dialogue must vaccinate itself against elite capture and the reproduction of another GNU”, Biti is said to have emphasised.
Addressing supporters in Mabvuku, Harare, over the weekend, Tsvangirai said he predicted another coalition government, as Zanu PF was likely to engage the MDC-T to rescue the “free-falling economy”.
The failure of the Zanu PF regime in improving the economic fortunes of the country is one argument upon which this idea of another inclusive arrangement is premised.
This gesture, despite all its good intentions, appears premature, more so in the context of the opposition’s earlier non- association stance epitomised by Biti’s famous statement, “Those who have won must govern on their own. Tongai tione.”
In addition, the olive branch has been extended from the wrong camp since it is the ruling party which is under pressure to deliver on its election manifesto that should have initiated dialogue with the opposition and not the other way round.
In any case, assuming that the opposition is eager to engage in dialogue with the ruling party, what bargaining power does it have at the negotiating table to strike a deal in its favour? Can you realistically enter into dialogue from a position of weakness and hope to get a favourable deal?
Inasmuch as it is acknowledged that the previous Government of National Unity (GNU) saved the country from total collapse, it is undeniable that the marriage of convenience helped in resuscitating the ghost of Zanu PF.
Not only did the unholy marriage mask the rot behind the country’s demise, but it aided President Robert Mugabe maintain his grip on power at a time when his health was taking its toll on his reign.
Is the opposition prepared to pump fresh air into Mugabe’s lungs again at a time he is gasping for precious breath? What lessons did the opposition learn from the previous coalition arrangement to be in a hurry to advocate dialogue that would culminate in another GNU?
Mugabe agreed to a power-sharing agreement in 2009 not in good faith but because he was bloodied and on the ropes, desperately fighting for political survival.
Extending an olive branch to his adversaries was not only a necessity, but a tactical manoeuvre as well. Indeed, the strategy paid off handsomely as evidenced by the opposition’s naivety in bleaching the incumbent’s soiled image on the global arena to the extent of campaigning for the lifting of the targeted sanctions.
The repeated calls for dialogue with Mugabe by the opposition are misguided in that the incumbent is currently not under such pressure as he was in 2009 to entertain such overtures.
The best the opposition can do for the meantime is to mobilise grassroots supporters, re-engage with civic society and carry out legal acts of disobedience to paralyse the regime while articulating their policies, rather than advocating for another GNU in which they would be junior partners with only ceremonial roles.
Who would have imagined the opposition advocating another coalition government with Zanu PF in the wake of the humiliation it suffered at the hands of Mugabe during the inclusive arrangement?
Assuming that the opposition has put national interests above party politics isn’t there a realisation within its rank and file that a coalition arrangement devoid of goodwill from both parties is a recipe for disaster for it perpetuates a dictatorship that the opposition claims to fight.
While the opposition may attempt to portray itself as a victim of Zanu PF’s evil machinations, it is evident that the allure of wealth and good life has compromised its behaviour and image. Politics is viewed by many on the continent as a lucrative business worth sacrificing even life for.
With the formation of the inclusive government in 2009, each of the 44 ministers received two personal vehicles upon assuming office and the same individuals got a new fleet in 2011 which includes Land Rover Discoveries, latest Mercedes Benz E-class, Jeep Cherokees, Toyota SUVs, among other top-of-the-range brands.
It is on record that during the lifespan of the inclusive government, only David Coltart turned down these luxurious vehicles arguing it was untenable to squander so much money on cars while the learning institutions received paltry funding.
In the document, allegedly co-signed by MDC-T deputy president Thokozani Khupe and the party’s Chief Whip Innocent Gonese, the MPs proposed a hike in their sitting allowances from US$75 to US$200 a day, which adds up to US$600 per week per legislator.
Other demands included executive cars like the Land Rover Discovery or Jeep Cherokees, with each costing the taxpayers not less than US$100 000.
In addition, there was a demand for exemption from paying toll fees, 100 litres of fuel a week and accommodation allowances for all legislators including those residing in Harare. With due respect, why should a legislator residing in Harare claim accommodation allowance?
These revelations are shocking and may explain the opposition’s willingness to hop in bed with Zanu PF through another coalition government in spite of the fact that their role would largely be ceremonial. A coalition government that results from a stolen election may provide temporary solace for its citizens but the underlying problems will quickly re-emerge.
The best the opposition can do now is to put its house in order by reaching out to key stakeholders and mobilising the population in fighting the regime through different means of civil disobedience, rather than begging to be bedmates with the devil as junior partners.
William Muchayi is a political analyst contactable on firstname.lastname@example.org