HARARE – MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai is keeping his options open in the wake of former Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s dismissal from Zanu PF and government by keeping the door wide open for a possible alliance with the 75-year-old ex-guerrilla fighter.
In an interview with Sabc on Wednesday night, Tsvangirai — leader of the country’s largest opposition party — said Mnangagwa will not have it easy outside Zanu PF and should seriously think about his future in politics.
He said: “I think he has to think seriously about his future. He has to think seriously about what role he has to play in the future of the country. If he thinks he is going to be given any role without him playing a part, it would be naïve for him to think that way”.
Tsvangirai, who has fought President Robert Mugabe since his days in the trade union movement, seemed to suggest that Mnangagwa should join the “big tent”, which he is negotiating with Zimbabwe’s fringe opposition parties so that they can present one presidential candidate to take on the ageing Zanu PF leader at the 2018 polls.
Two coalitions — the MDC Alliance and the People’s Rainbow Coalition — have so far emerged, led by Tsvangirai and Joice Mujuru, respectively. Talks to forge an alliance between the two opposition leaders broke down mid this year as both wanted to lead the coalition.
After Mugabe showed his deputy the door early this week, accusing him of showing little probity, Mnangagwa is under increasing pressure from his allies to join opposition politics.
In a statement released on Wednesday, the former vice president who is now in self-imposed exile, did not hide his desire to lead his countrymen, vowing to fight back and lead Zimbabwe at some point.
Whether he will strike a deal with Tsvangirai or go it alone still remains unclear. Few will, however, be surprised if they strike a deal because they have previously been said to have a working relationship.
In the early 2000, it was revealed that Tsvangirai had talked with independent mediators on behalf of Mnangagwa, who was the Speaker of Parliament then, and the then commander of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces, Vitalis Zvinavashe.
The MDC leader was later to reveal that “they wanted my assurance that if Mugabe retired, the MDC would take part in a transition towards new democratic elections”.
Tsvangirai named retired army colonel Lionel Dyke, a close associate of both men, as a mediator.
In a leaked WikiLeaks cable, a senior MDC official was quoted telling United States embassy staff in Harare that South Africa’s African National Congress had agreed to a Zanu PF plan for Mnangagwa to replace Mugabe, while offering token representation to the opposition.
Recently, Reuters reported that Mnangagwa was envisaging cooperating with Tsvangirai to lead a transitional government for five years with the tacit backing of some of Zimbabwe’s military and Britain.
Quoting sources, the wire service said its sources left open the possibility that the government could be unelected with the aim of avoiding chaos that has followed some previous elections.
This unity government, it said, was to pursue a new relationship with thousands of white farmers who were chased off in violent seizures of land approved by Mugabe in the early 2000s.
Tsvangirai dismissed the report, describing it as “grossly false”.
In a statement, the mainstream MDC said, “Nothing could be further from the truth. For the record, president (Morgan) Tsvangirai has never held any meeting with Mnangagwa, whom he last met four years ago during the time of the inclusive government.
In an interview with Sabc this week, Tsvangirai said Zimbabwe could lurch into instability because of the manner in which Mnangagwa was expelled.
He was, however, quick to warn those who might be tempted to grab power using unconstitutional means to observe democratic tenets.
“It’s a traumatic experience for the country; you know it’s one thing to dismiss your vice president, it’s another thing when that decision affects the stability of the country. I think it’s a security risk, and I find this whole decision totally not in sync with the imperatives we are supposed to be consoling,” he said.
“The biggest fear is the issue of instability; you know that the power structures in Zanu PF are distributed with the forces that are outside civilian control so that’s the biggest fear. However, I always plead that if the nation has to take the route towards unconstitutional change of government, then you may as well kiss the democratic project goodbye and I hope that those who have the temptation to see opportunities for unconstitutional change are dissuaded from pursuing that,” added the MDC leader.
He said there was need to create conditions for a free and fair election ahead of next year’s polls.
“Now, In the face of (Robert) Mugabe determined to retain power by whatever means and firing his deputy, I think chances are we may face somebody who wants to retain power by whatever means. And I think it will be unfortunate if the next election is not conducted in a free and fair manner and that’s what I hope we should avoid,” he said.
“The chances of her (Grace Mugabe) taking over by hook and crook emanates from the fact that this is a dynasty arrangement and one would not be surprised if part of that arrangement is to set aside her position in the ruling party and from the events that have taken place, Mugabe can roughshod everyone into believing that Grace (Mugabe) can be a good candidate.”
He said what was happening in Zanu PF just shows how the ruling party has misplaced priorities, as they should instead be dealing with the economy and wellbeing of citizens.
“Look, Zanu PF as the ruling party is supposed to deal with the critical national questions like the economy, like unemployment and poverty that is prevailing in the country. The country should never have reached that level of poverty if Zanu PF had provided the leadership that is necessary (to pull the country) out of the crisis. The decision that has been taken has far reaching implications, not only are you destabilising the ruling party, you also destabilised the nation, and to what effect, one wonders what effect that will be.”