Can Mujuru, Tsvangirai pull it off?

via Can Mujuru, Tsvangirai pull it off? – NewsDay Zimbabwe September 11, 2015 by Conway Tutani

Former Vice-President Joice Mujuru now finds herself in the same boat with MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai — that of opposition politics. Suddenly, their fates are tied together.

Events have a tendency of throwing people together.

Mujuru has burnt her bridges — not spitefully, but after being driven to it — making it practically impossible for her to retreat.There is no holding or turning back. She has irrevocably committed to a course of action, made a fateful and final decision to take the regime head-on well knowing that the whole State machinery will descend on her with full force and vengeance, as the now rehabilitated Jonathan Moyo was told to his face by none other than President Robert Mugabe in 2005 when Moyo made known his intention to stand as an independent for the parliamentary elections in defiance of the party.

Mujuru — to her immense credit — has refused to be imprisoned in a golden cage by turning down her constitutional entitlement as a former Vice-President to a lifelong, livable pension and other privileges from government to get into the political fray after being hounded out of government. It was not a hasty decision. She took her time after making calculations.

Will the grudge-bearing Zanu PF regime put everyone — including Nigerian billionaire Aliko Dangote, who they gave royal treatment last week for him to dig deep into his pockets to invest in Zimbabwe — and everything on hold while they turn their complete attention to the crushing of Mujuru? Nothing is beyond these people when it comes to threats on their hold on power.
You cannot give them the benefit of doubt. It’s possible everything else will be virtually suspended while they deal with Mujuru, especially now there is talk of her and Tsvangirai coming together — and they bring much to the table.

Their combined political capital has the potential of sweeping Zanu PF out of power in a free and fair election — and the regime very well knows that.

Tsvangirai has long had the numbers, not only in urban areas, but also in rural areas, as seen in the March 2008 election when the regime, by its repressive standards, allowed relatively free polling and inevitably lost, but promptly returned to its brutal ways to ensure no such repeat in the June presidential runoff election.

We are not starting afresh. We are not starting from ground zero. The MDC-T, despite its many documented blunders, has remained relatively influential and strong, while other opposition parties have been severely weakened by internal rifts and reduced to the point of insignificance. So we need to take in those practical considerations to give parties their due place in the scheme of things.

Weakened parties cannot negotiate from a position of strength when it comes forging alliances or coalitions. In fact, many a time they end up being swallowed. In comparison to other parties, the MDC-T is in that unique position of strength due to the great number of supporters it commands and its presence in Parliament and local authorities. It’s a fact that opposition parties are not of equal strength. You can’t demand a place at the high table when you bring nothing. It’s basically about being first among equals; being at the same level with others, but having more weight and leverage.

These parties don’t look like they will grow any bigger any time soon. It’s not being hostile, but realistic. Fringe or minority political parties are found the world over, and Zimbabwe is no exception. Some of these parties could grow into big players on the political landscape if they shake off the perception that they are single-issue parties and have one obvious constituency. The Democratic Party in the United States built an improbable coalition of Southern white racists and Northern descendants of freed black slaves keeping the rival Republican Party out of power for many years. So the overtures between Mujuru and Tsvangirai are not unprecedented. Those being loudly contemptuous and dismissive of the “Big Tent” being mooted here had better take note.

They are also saying they won’t ever sit down with so-and-so, but, to quote US President Barack Obama, “You don’t negotiate deals with your friends. You negotiate them with your enemies.” Indeed, rapprochement is the name of the game. Nothing should stop former mortal enemies from developing friendlier relations.

Another thing: Professionalism in the backroom operations of some of these opposition parties just has to improve significantly if they are not to remain feisty but ineffectual outsiders forever. The picture emerging is that behind the scenes, all is not well in these parties. Did the Tendai Biti-fronted MDC Renewal Team and Welshman Ncube-led MDC have to further split over their proposed unification? There are just too many internal issues for so small parties. Those behind the planned National Convergence Platform should take note of this so that it doesn’t become another Tower of Babel that could derail the long overdue political realignment underway in the country.

On the other hand, Mujuru and her faction — now operating as People First (PF) — could bring in at least 50% of the vote from her substantial following in Zanu PF. To illustrate that, had she not been unconstitutionally and thuggishly stopped before the Zanu PF congress in December, she would by now be at the helm of the party and calling the shots. She is still a force to reckon with in the party despite her expulsion, especially now that more fissures have rocked Zanu PF with three more factions emerging, leaving her faction the most intact and biggest of them all. First among equals?

Back to the grudge-bearing Zanu PF, Mujuru is now as marked — if not more so — as Tsvangirai. She should brace for the worst as all manner of tricks — including dirty ones — will be unleashed on her.

But having been in the system for so long, she is in a position to pay them back in kind. She could hit back with her own. She has some hold over the pernicious system because they were in it together. The PF’s massive advantage is that they intimately know the inner workings of the regime. They still have many sympathisers in the system. Whatever the regime does to Mujuru, it won’t be entirely new after what she went through last year at the hands of First Lady Grace Mugabe. And her outing herself with a manifesto could mean she is safe in the knowledge that Zanu PF has spent all the political ammunition that it could fire at her.

But there is no need to get too excitable as we are seeing in some sections of the media where all these events are being reported in thriller novel fashion — cliffhanger and all — leaving readers in suspense and anxious not to miss the next episode. The regime could yet make a comeback, if it is not already doing so. The government has now sensibly re-engaged the International Monetary Fund and World Bank and this could undercut the opposition, as MDC-T senior official Tapiwa Mashakada has rightly pointed, precluding or preventing the doomsday scenario being painted in some hysterical sections of the media.
Whatever the outcome, the country does not have to go over the edge for anyone to rule — whether Zanu PF, MDC-T or whoever.

That said, there is no doubt that there is hunger for accountability and change in Zimbabwe — and the overtures between Mujuru and Tsvangirai offer that hope.

They just have to get it right.