FORMER vice-president Joice Mujuru, who this week launched a new party, Zimbabwe People First (ZPF), to challenge her mentor-turned-adversary President Robert Mugabe could turn out to be a game-changer. But there is a caveat: only if she and other opposition leaders could draw lessons from contemporary post-colonial African history.
EDITOR’S MEMO BY DUMISANI MULEYA
Mujuru, promising to pluck Zimbabwe out of international isolation, fix its broken economy and rebuild the battered nation indicated she had not yet met main opposition MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai, although she is open to reaching out to others.
Bringing in her liberation struggle credentials, experience in government, a strong political brand and a reasonable policy blueprint, Mujuru would have been a breath of fresh air to many in the current environment of fragmented and stale opposition politics which now rival Zanu PF’s moribund rhetoric.
Of course, there are questions about her credibility. Zanu PF leaders see her party as a gathering of losers. Some opposition leaders think she is just a bitter political has-been brutally stopped in her tracks from succeeding Mugabe and thus driven by vengeance not new ideas, while others think she is not a bona fide alternative since she was part of the system which destroyed the country in over three decades in the first place. This is what Mujuru has to contend with, besides possible violence and brutality, to win hearts and minds.
Yet her timing could not have been better. Zanu PF is currently locked in a fierce zero-sum succession power struggle and increasingly faces implosion. It is at war — against itself.
However, existing opposition parties have been unable to capitalise on its political fratricide and turmoil as they are equally in shambles. That a ruling party on its knees and reeling from debilitating internal strife continues to dominate political events, agenda-setting and the narrative is a serious indictment to opposition parties and their leaders.
Mujuru’s dramatic entry into opposition politics after nearly seizing power in Zanu PF could prove to be a game-changer that could revitalise and re-energise tiresome Zimbabwean politics. It could trigger significant shifts and realignments.
While Mujuru’s emergence as an opposition leader could divide votes if no repositioning within the opposition ranks occurs, it also provides an opportunity for the birth of a new formidable front to tackle Mugabe and Zanu PF decisively.
Scepticism about her credibility and potential to offer compelling leadership is understandable given that she is a new opposition player essentially without charisma, distinguished intellect and gravitas, but her indication she is open to alliances with other opposition groups before 2018 elections is critical.
If Mujuru, Tsvangirai, Dumiso Dabengwa, Simba Makoni, Tendai Biti and Welshman Ncube, among others, put aside their personal interests and clashes to prioritise the people and their country they could come up with a new serious arrangement that would spell the end of Mugabe and Zanu PF. The ball is in their court.
Out of all possible calculi, a grand coalition is clearly the best option for them. It’s complicated, but can be done if they put on their thinking caps.
By co-ordinating and sharing ideas, campaign strategies and political programmes, while forming a critical mass, Mujuru and others will improve their chances of winning. If they go in divided, Zanu PF will win by default like it has done before.
Mujuru and others must learn from experiences in Zambia, Malawi and Kenya on how to defeat fading former liberation movements that have failed their people.
The 2002 Kenyan general elections resulted in a massive defeat of the despotic Kanu regime and the rise to power of the National Rainbow Coalition which brought together 16 opposition parties. The defeat of Kanu was historic as it brought to a halt 39 years of its iron grip on power, while it also marked the end of 24 years of Daniel arap Moi’s authoritarian rule. Zimbabwe’s main opposition leaders can draw lessons from that.