RECENT remarks from senior MDC-T officials, including party leader Morgan Tsvangirai, to the effect that the party had decided against forming a coalition with other opposition parties ahead of the 2018 general elections are an indication that the former premier and his lieutenants have learnt nothing and forgot nothing from previous polls.
Candid Comment,Owen Gagare
While Tsvangirai and his colleagues have a right to determine their political future and destiny, there can be no doubt that such an isolationist and unilateral approach against a background of renewed discussions about forming a coalition are counterproductive.
Granted, Tsvangirai commands huge grassroots support, but there are many other factors that apply in elections, particularly in an authoritarian environment like Zimbabwe.
The 2008 scenario remains a key indicator of how important coalitions can be. Mavambo/Kusile/Dawn leader Simba Makoni came onto the scene without a party, structures or meaningful financial support, but managed to get 8% of the presidential vote, which denied Tsvangirai outright victory.
In terms of official results, Tsvangirai garnered 47,9 % against President Robert Mugabe’s 43,2%, whereas constitutionally the winner should have got 50% plus one vote. Had there been an opposition coalition, Tsvangirai could have easily won the polls. The fact that even if Tsvangirai had managed 50% of the vote he would still have fallen short because of a single person’s vote, shows the importance of every vote, while simultaneously highlighting the naivety of refusing to work with “small parties”.
However, even numbers alone are not enough in an environment like Zimbabwe where strategy is key.
The opposition needs a winning strategy that ensures supporters register, go to vote and that the votes are protected from systematic manipulation, fraud and rigging. Strategies are also needed to deal with aspects such as intimidation, coercion and violence. There is also need to deal with disenfranchisement of voters as happened in 2013, and crucially also, confronting institutional barriers such as the heavily-militarised Zimbabwe Electoral Commission.
These challenges imply the need for reforms and the MDC-T alone cannot ensure there are comprehensive electoral reforms.
In addition, a coalition featuring Tsvangirai, Joice Mujuru and other players would re-energise sluggish opposition politics and bring renewed hope to the citizens of the country who are desperate for change.
The statements from MDC-T are therefore music to Zanu PF’s ears, particularly at a time the party is dreading the political impact of a coalition featuring Tsvangirai and Mujuru.
In any case, it has been shown in post-colonial African states that former liberation movements are best dislodged through coalitions, especially those featuring former ruling party officials. MDC-T should look at the Kenyan-style coalition which brought ex-president Mwai Kibaki to power in 2002, as an example.
If MDC-T goes it alone and fails to win, the biggest losers will be the long-suffering Zimbabwean voters who have stood with the party through thick and thin.