Opposition talks suffer major setback

PLANS to form a broad electoral alliance dubbed the Grand National Union have all but collapsed as the main political players who were supposed to be part of the coalition filed nomination papers yesterday under the auspices of their various political formations.

By Kudzai Kuwaza/Wongai Zhangazha

However, the talks could still be salvaged as there is still time for the candidates to withdraw and support their preferred contestant should an agreement be reached between the opposition parties.

According to Section 49 of the Electoral Act, a duly nominated candidate for election for a constituency may withdraw his or her nomination at any time before polling or the first polling day, as the case may be, in the elections concerned.

The secret negotiations, facilitated by a panel of eminent persons, had been designed to ensure that key opposition parties throw their weight behind MDC Alliance leader Nelson Chamisa in the general elections set for July 30.

The coalition plans, however, look doomed after some of the proposed members such as People’s Rainbow Coalition leader Joice Mujuru and MDC-T splinter boss Thokozani Khupe filed their separate nomination papers yesterday.

Bilateral talks between MDC-T, already working with Welshman Ncube’s MDC and Tendai Biti’s People’s Democratic Party in the alliance, and National Patriotic Front (NPF) were part of broader talks which include other parties like Mujuru’s National People’s Party, Dumiso Dabengwa’s Zapu, Simba Makoni’s Mavambo/Kusile/Dawn and Khupe’s MDC-T faction. Elton Mangoma’s Renewal Democrats of Zimbabwe is also in the loop.

As part of the talks, one of the proposals being considered was that Chamisa, who has emerged as the strongest opposition candidate by support base and popular appeal, should be deputised by Mujuru and Khupe.

An MDC-T delegation met NPF officials in Johannesburg, South Africa, recently to discuss the issue. The MDC-T team consisted of acting chairperson Morgen Komichi, secretary-general Douglas Mwonzora, acting spokesperson Thabitha Khumalo and Theresa Makoni.

The NPF team comprised Mugabe’s exiled nephew Patrick Zhuwao, chairperson Eunice Sandi Moyo, Jappy Jaboon and spokesman Jealousy Mawarire.
However, the NPF last week virtually split after its leader former minister and retired Brigadier-General Ambrose Mutinhiri was reportedly fired before he also hit back by firing those against him.

Sources said part of the NPF’s problems were triggered by talk that former first lady Grace Mugabe, together with ex-mines minister Walter Chidhakwa and Sandi Moyo, as well as Zhuwao, wanted to take over the party as the new leadership. It was said Grace wanted to become part of the grand alliance, although this has been dismissed by the MDC Alliance as untrue.

Former local government minister Saviour Kasukuwere, who has returned to the country, was also linked to the NPF’s leadership contest. He has been accused by Mawarire of destabilising the party as part of his deal with “the junta” to return home.

The talks in South Africa were based on a 14-point discussion document, seen by the Zimbabwe Independent.

The document says it is important for the parties to make strategic decisions before the Nomination Court for the 2018 election sat on June 14 (yesterday).

It claims there is clear evidence of popular support against the Mnangagwa regime, but there is need for a “political framework or structure to harness that support into an electorally cohesive political formation capable of winning the elections”.

“Such a political formation should be structured in a way that gives it the capacity to secure an electoral victory through a political model that unites and energises the nation.

“The political model should be in the form of a ‘pre-election’ GNU that is made up of the country’s key political formations opposed to the coup and its illegitimate regime,” the document says.

The document notes “in broad terms, Zimbabwe’s political society is made up of two polarised main groupings whose political roots and leanings derive from the then Zanu PF which was led by Mugabe; and the then MDC which was led by the late Morgan Tsvangirai”.

“The polarised nature of Zimbabwe’s political society effectively means that Zanu PF supporters will not vote for MDC and, conversely, that MDC supporters will not vote for Zanu PF. This political stalemate, arising from the polarisation mentioned earlier, needs urgent attention to enable the supporters of the two parties to find each other and be given a political home which will enable them to vote together in common purpose in the forthcoming election,” it says.

“This would make the 2018 elections a referendum on the GNU through appropriate messaging on the applicable principles, ideology, government structure and composition thereof, and policy programmes. This messaging should include acknowledgment of the fact that whereas the 2009 to 2013 GNU was led by Zanu PF at the level of the presidency, the 2018 GNU should be led by MDC at the same level, given the prevailing balance of forces since the coup.”

The document says Chamisa and his party “will bring a considerable and strategic electoral base”, but there is a need for that base to be complemented by other leaders’ support and hopefully Mugabe’s residual social base in Zanu PF electoral strongholds of Mashonaland West, Mashonaland Central and Mashonaland East provinces.

“The proposed pre-and post-election GNUs would give these key electoral communities a strategic political home which will be critical in the election’s outcome,” it says.