INDICATIONS that former vice-president Joice Mujuru, leader of Zimbabwe People First (ZimPF), and MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai, as well as other opposition leaders, are inching towards a grand coalition, initially to push an electoral reform agenda and then fight the 2018 elections as a united front, must be deeply worrying to President Robert Mugabe and Zanu PF.
Editor’s Memo,Dumisani Muleya
After initial setbacks and delays, Mujuru and Tsvangirai are now moving to join forces. Last Saturday they joined hands in Gweru in a demonstration against Mugabe’s misrule and proceeded to address a rally at Mkoba Stadium together.
This came at a time when opposition parties are stepping up their campaign to pressure the Zanu PF-led government to speed up implementation of electoral reforms, including allowing the diaspora to vote at the watershed 2018 general elections.
The development also came amid rising social discontent and unrest, which saw protests by opposition parties and new social movements over the economic crisis rock the country of late.
Zanu PF is currently reeling from internal strife triggered by succession power struggles, with Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa and his faction locked in a fierce battle of ascendancy with Mugabe’s wife Grace and her allies.
The succession infighting has led to war veterans’ nasty fallout with Mugabe and their threat to withdraw support for him in 2018. The ex-combatants, who are backed by the military, have been a pillar of support and strength for Mugabe and Zanu PF mainly since 2000. Their fight with Mugabe and withdrawal of support would for him could have a telling impact on the next elections.
Given all this, including the country’s calamitous slide backwards into repression and economic chaos, Mujuru and Tsvangirai’s alliance, backed by other key opposition leaders, would be a game-changer.
Bringing in her liberation struggle credentials, experience in government and a strong political brand as well as a reasonable policy blueprint, Mujuru has been a breath of fresh air in some respects to many in the current environment of fragmented and stalling opposition politics despite Zanu PF being in turmoil.
Of course, there are questions about Mujuru’s leadership capacity and credibility, yet her timing and manoeuvres to work with others could not have been better. Zanu PF is currently locked in a fierce zero-sum succession tussle and increasingly faces implosion. It is at war — against itself.
The current moves seem to have been a product of a realisation by the opposition that this is the right time to capitalise on Zanu PF’s disintegration and stop political fratricide. That a ruling party on its knees and reeling from debilitating bickering had until now continued to dominate political events, agenda-setting and the narrative has been a serious indictment to opposition parties and their leaders, but they now seem to have realised that they need fresh politics and a new direction.
Mujuru’s dramatic entry into opposition politics after nearly seizing power in Zanu PF and working with Tsvangirai is proving to be seismic. It is capable of revitalising and re-energising tiresome Zimbabwean politics. It could also trigger significant shifts and realignments.
Out of all possible calculi, a grand coalition is clearly the best option for the opposition. It’s complicated, but can be done.
By co-ordinating and sharing ideas, strategies and programmes, while forming a critical mass, the opposition will improve their chances of winning in 2018. If they go in divided, Zanu PF will win by default like it has done before.
Mujuru and others now seem to be learning from experiences in Zambia, Malawi and Kenya.
The 2002 Kenyan general elections resulted in a massive defeat of the despotic Daniel arap Moi and his Kanu regime by the National Rainbow Coalition which brought together 16 opposition parties. History, circumstances and political nuances between Kenya and Zimbabwe may be different, but crucial lessons can be learnt.