Blessings Mashaya 13 February 2017
HARARE – There was all-round agreement yesterday that the much-anticipated
2018 presidential election would be another titanic contest between
popular opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai and President Robert Mugabe –
or a nominee of the increasingly frail nonagenarian.
Zanu PF insiders and political analysts who spoke to the Daily News said
with former Vice President Joice Mujuru’s political fortunes taking a
severe battering last week – as her fledgling Zimbabwe People First (ZPF)
party implodes – there was no one else other than Tsvangirai and his MDC
who had “a realistic chance” of taking on Mugabe and Zanu PF in 2018.
“We are not moved by the many Mickey Mouse opponents within the opposition
ranks who are muddying the waters, we know and are firmly focussed on
crushing Tsvangirai and MDC again as the next elections approach,” a
ruling party bigwig said.
On their part, political analysts said the ructions currently ravaging ZPF
meant that Mujuru’s chances of contesting against Mugabe in 2018 had now
taken a “serious dent”.
Among other senior Zanu PF officials who appear to share the view is vocal
Higher Education minister Jonathan Moyo, who tweeted at the weekend that:
“A grand coalition in Zim is by definition untenable because there are
many opposition individuals but only one real opposition party, MDC-T!”.
Writing on his blog on Saturday, UK-based academic and former adviser to
Tsvangirai during the era of the government of national unity, Alex
Magaisa, also suggested that Tsvangirai and the MDC remained the biggest
challenges to Mugabe and Zanu PF’s quests to remain in power.
“Although it has been a lean period (the past few years), the MDC-T
remains Zanu PF’s most formidable opponent. This is why, even though the
party has boycotted by-elections since 2013, Zanu PF campaigners always
chant “Pasi neMDC-T / Pasi naTsvangirai!” (Down with MDC-T/Down with
Tsvangirai!) – Zanu PF’s notorious ritual of banishing the opposition.
“They do so even when they are competing with other opposition parties.
Mentally, their most important rival is still the MDC-T and Tsvangirai.
State media propaganda continues to focus on the MDC-T and Tsvangirai as
the primary targets,” he said.
All this comes as Mujuru and ZPF’s founding fathers, Didymus Mutasa and
Rugare Gumbo, are escalating their feud, which saw hordes of party bigwigs
deserting the troubled political outfit last week.
On the other hand, Mugabe and Zanu PF are battling to keep their former
liberation movement’s ugly tribal, factional and succession wars in check,
as the nonagenarian’s impatient lieutenants stampede to try and take over
Professor of politics at the University of Zimbabwe, Eldred Masunungure,
was among the analysts who said yesterday that Mujuru’s troubles had dealt
her “a body blow” in her quest to lead the mooted grand opposition
alliance and take Mugabe head-on in the 2018 presidential election.
“With recent developments in Mujuru’s party, it’s now obvious that the
favourite candidate to lead the coalition is MDC leader Tsvangirai.
“Tsvangirai is now the best candidate left … the chances are now thinner
for Mujuru to lead the coalition with what has happened in her party. She
is not a strong leader,” the respected Masunungure told the Daily News.
In a stunning development that shook both the opposition movement and
ordinary Zimbabweans alike, Mujuru “expelled” ZPF’s founding fathers Gumbo
and Mutasa, together with five other party heavyweights last week – on
account of them being alleged Zanu PF agents and working to topple her
from her interim position.
But no sooner had she completed her briefing than the situation turned
into a complete farce, when Mutasa and Gumbo announced at their own press
conference that they had also summarily “expelled” Mujuru from ZPF.
Mutasa and Gumbo have since seemingly taken control of the party’s
affairs, after they claimed that they were the rightful owners of the
fledgling opposition party and its image rights.
“Mujuru is not known for having done something extraordinary that would
give her the ideal qualities of a leader. The squabbles in her party show
that she cannot manage a crisis.
“She could have implemented lots of options, including assuring the party
elders of a controlling stake in the party and electing a council of
advisers such that decisions were arrived at after well thought-out
deliberations,” another analyst, Shakespear Hamauswa, said.
“Again she could have appointed a committee to look into the differences
they were having. If entering a coalition was the main cause for the
split, then Mujuru could have done something much better. I think she
lacks strategy unless behind the scenes some other things are taking
“Morgan managed to build his party in 2005 when it seemed impossible
because the secretary general had gone with the national chair, who later
came back, as well as the spokesperson, the treasurer, the deputy
president and other top key figures.
“But he managed to rebuild the party into a formidable force which caused
a coalition government in 2008. So, I think the best person to lead is
Morgan Tsvangirai,” Hamauswa added.
Another political analyst, Maxwell Saungweme, also said Tsvangirai
remained “the only suitable leader” to lead the planned opposition
“He is the only opposition leader with the biggest support base. There is
no debate about that. He does have his weaknesses and vices, but he is the
only opposition leader with some modicum of credibility to lead any
“Mujuru must put her house in order first. Let her finish forming and
solidifying her party before tasking her with the responsibility to lead
an opposition coalition,” he said.
But despite ZPF’s unfolding chaos, Mujuru has been working behind the
scenes with Tsvangirai and other smaller opposition parties towards the
formation of the planned grand coalition.
Analysts have also consistently said that a united opposition, fighting
with one purpose, would bring to an end Mugabe’s long rule – especially at
this time when the country’s economy is dying and the increasingly frail
nonagenarian is battling to keep his warring Zanu PF united.
Recently, Tsvangirai also said Mujuru had proved to be a significant
opposition player – and that the two would work together with others to
dethrone Mugabe and Zanu PF from power next year.
Mujuru was expelled from Zanu PF together with Gumbo and Mutasa in the
run-up to the ruling party’s sham “elective congress” in December 2014, on
untested allegations of plotting to assassinate and topple Mugabe from
Meanwhile, analysts also say barring unforeseen circumstances, Mugabe was
likely to be the Zanu PF candidate in 2018, at the very mature age of 94
This is despite the fact that the ruling party’s two major factions – Team
Lacoste which is rallying behind Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa, and
the Generation 40 group which is rabidly opposed to the VP succeeding
Mugabe – have been going hammer and tongs at each other in recent months
over its succession riddle.
Mugabe – the only leader Zimbabweans have known since the country gained
its independence from Britain in April 1980 – has managed to keep them at
bay, refusing to name a successor and arguing that Zanu PF should rather
follow what he sees as a more democratic process; to manage his succession
via a congress.