A COALITION of opposition political parties to form a united front to remove President Robert Mugabe from power in the 2018 general elections hangs in the balance amid serious contestations and jostling between the parties even before formal negotiations begin.
By Wongai Zhangazha
Twenty parties in August came together under the banner of the National Electoral Reforms Agenda (Nera) to push for electoral reforms ahead of the elections. The move was seen as a precursor to an electoral pact.
But intense jockeying as opposition parties scramble to position their preferred candidates in the race to lead the coalition is heightening tensions and complicating inter-party relations.
MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai and Zimbabwe People First leader Joice Mujuru are seen as front runners to lead the coalition.
According to sources close to the coalition talks, several differences are threatening the nascent pact.
Sources in the opposition ranks revealed there was tension between ZimPF and the Tendai Biti-led People’s Democratic Party (PDP) over membership at a time hordes of PDP officials are jumping ship to join Mujuru’s outfit.
PDP vice-president Sipepa Nkomo and a number of senior officials from Matabeleland have resigned from the party to join ZimPF, destabilisng the party in the process.
The entire PDP Matabeleland North provincial executive crossed the floor to join Mujuru’s party.
PDP spokesperson Jacob Mafume confirmed Nkomo’s resignation, adding that ZimPF had betrayed his party. PDP officials have been close to Mujuru’s party since its formation, with officials from the party even attending ZimPF rallies.
Mafume said: “Yes, he has resigned to be destined to join People First. He has resigned together with his wife and a number of relatives. It shows a lot of excitement and old habits dying hard on the part of ZimPF. We have always thought that Mujuru was a breath of fresh air, (we) hope she will not disappoint everyone else in Zimbabwe who have put their hope and trust in her.
“Moreover, for her to become a serious opposition actor she has to quickly decide whether she wants to form a political party or an old people’s home.”
A well-placed source linked to the negotiations said the coalition can only succeed if leaders of opposition political parties learn to compromise.
“Mujuru people say she should lead the coalition because she has liberation credentials while MDC-T people say Tsvangirai has been in the trenches longer. In Bulawayo at the MDC-T’s 17th anniversary celebrations the slogan was ‘2018 Tsvangirai chetechete’ (Tsvangirai for president 2018). It almost sounds Zanu PF-like but its import is no one else should lead the coalition,” the official said.
“The elephant in the room which is likely to scuttle any success in coalition building is the people’s attitudes and egos of the key players involved. I get a sense that both Mujuru and Tsvangirai have a sense of entitlement, which is not helpful.”
“Tsvangirai considers himself the big face of opposition politics and that should entitle him to lead the coalition whereas Mujuru thinks her liberation credentials put her ahead of everyone. If the coalition is to be successful they both will have to learn to compromise but I’m afraid it doesn’t look like they are prepared to do so,” the source added.
Speaking at a rally in Ruwa over the weekend, MDC-T secretary-general Douglas Mwonzora hinted that the opposition party preferred Tsvangirai to lead the coalition.
“The president (Tsvangirai) will make an announcement on this, but we want a candidate who has beaten Mugabe before,” he said.
“A candidate with no blood on his hands, a candidate who has shown performance-related promises when he was once in government,” said Mwonzora.
Meanwhile, Mujuru, speaking last week during a question-and-answer session after her address at British think-tank Chatham House, asserted she was ready to lead a coalition government if the other political parties she is working with endorse her.
She said she would not demand to lead the grand coalition.