Mujuru, Tsvangirai coalition likely

Source: Mujuru, Tsvangirai coalition likely | The Financial Gazette August 18, 2016

By Tendai Makaripe
A COALITION in which the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC-T) and the Zimbabwe People First (ZPF) would form the bulwark of the marriage of convenience could be imminent if events that played out over the past weekend are anything to go by.
Morgan Tsvangirai, leader of the MDC-T, and his counterpart at ZPF, Joice Mujuru, jointly led thousands of their supporters in the Midlands province capital of Gweru in protest against unrelenting economic hardships.
It was the first time this has happened in the history of post-independence opposition politics in Zimbabwe.
The weekend events in Gweru  have rattled the ruling ZANU-PF, which has activated its propaganda machinery in order to scupper the courtship between ZPF and the MDC-T.
Addressing the protesters, Mujuru and Tsvangirai pleaded for unity among Zimbabweans to bolster their chances of displacing ZANU-PF from power at the next polls in 2018.
Officials from ZPF and the MDC-T canvassed by the Financial Gazette this week acknowledged the possibility of a coalition between the two parties, building on their new-found love in Gweru on Saturday.
“Yes it points to a coalition. We have always said we are for the unity of all progressive forces. We are encouraged with what happened over the weekend,” said MDC-T secretary general, Douglas Mwonzora.
This was also echoed by ZPF spokesperson, Jealousy Mawarire.
Said Mawarire: “It was very clear that the joint rally in Gweru was not planned but circumstances on the ground prompted us to do that. However, it confirmed what we have always been saying that we want to work together with democratic forces. This is not empty talk.”
Should the coalition materialises, it is quite possible that other smaller opposition parties might coalesce around the two to form a formidable force against President Robert Mugabe and his ZANU-PF party.
Significantly, some of the smaller parties are already working together through two parallel initiatives that might converge at some point.
The first group of opposition parties is working under the New Electoral Reform Agenda, while the other group is working under the Coalition of Democrats (CODE).
Last week, eight parties — MDC-T, People’s Democratic Party, Mavambo/Kusile/Dawn, MDC, Zunde, ZAPU, Renewal Democrats of Zimbabwe and Dare — came together to issue a statement in support of peaceful demonstrations against ZANU-PF’s rule, which they say had been ruthlessly crushed by police.
Before these latest developments, opposition politics in Zimbabwe has been largely fragmented, and has seemingly struggled to find its footing ever since the devastating loss suffered by ZANU-PF’s rivals in the controversial 2013 polls.
Political observers are of the view that a grand coalition presents the best opportunity for Zimbabweans desirous for change instead of numerous but weak individual efforts that are unlikely to cause a dent on the ruling party.
For the sake of not splitting votes among the opposition parties, an analyst from the University of Johannesburg, Admire Mare, said coalitions would be most welcome.
“For instance, ZPF brings the rural vote and military veterans who have been supping with ZANU-PF for a long time now while the MDC-T will bring the urban vote and the youth constituency which are desperate for a new political order having been caught up in the waiting period for too long,” he said.
Mare fears that if not built on solid ground the “odd political marriage” may fail just like all the other attempted coalitions which failed to materialise.
Political commentator, Alex Magaisa, said the primary question that opposition parties must all face, if they are to form a coalition, is who should lead.
“The obvious fact is that they have to be sacrifices by some leaders, giving up their ambitions in favour of a single candidate for the greater good. In this regard, whoever is chosen has to have the capacity to pursue collaborative leadership,” said Magaisa.
Since all the opposition parties involved have leaders who have presidential ambitions, it would be difficult for them to come up with one person to steer the opposition ship in a sustainable path.
ZPF would be convinced that Mujuru should lead the coalition as she  enjoys the support of some within the security establishment and among the former liberation war fighters while the MDC-T would push for a coalition that positions their battle-hardened leader, Tsvangirai, as leader of the coalition.
The other smaller parties are also likely to lobby for an arrangement in which their respective leaders would head the coalition.
In the past, the country’s security sector has made it clear that the office of the President and Cabinet could only be occupied by a person with liberation war credentials.
Assuming that nothing changes, these utterances would favour party leaders who participate in the bush war.