Tendai Kamhungira and Mugove Tafirenyika 4 July 2017
HARARE – The MDC, Zimbabwe’s largest opposition party, is digging in its
heels over suggestions that the planned grand coalition should be led by a
neutral person to end sharp differences over this emotive issue, saying
only Morgan Tsvangirai has the stamina to face President Robert Mugabe in
next year’s polls.
MDC faithful hinted to the Daily News yesterday that they might as well
contest the 2018 elections separately than allow a rank outsider to step
up to the plate when they have an experienced politician like Tsvangirai
to finish off what they started in 1999, when the party was formed.
Only last week, Tsvangirai was in Kenya, where he is believed to have been
“taking notes” from his counterpart, Raila Odinga, who is heading a
coalition against President Uhuru Kenyatta in elections slated for next
The Daily News revealed yesterday that a section of the civil society
wants a neutral leader to head the alliance to end the serious haggling
among opposition leaders over who should lead the coalition.
When the MDC was established 18 years ago, the civil society, along with
the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions, were instrumental in its formation.
A senior civil society leader, Brian Kagoro, has gone on record, saying
opposition parties must choose a neutral leader, if they cannot settle for
one amongst themselves.
Over the weekend, former vice president Joice Mujuru was also quoted
saying they may enlist the services of a mediator to break the leadership
Mujuru, who leads the National People’s Party, claims she is the most
qualified to lead the alliance because of her experience in government and
her war credentials.
The security sector has in previous polls been on record saying the office
of the President was a “straight jacket”, implying it can only be occupied
by someone who participated in the war of liberation.
One of Mugabe’s favourite punch lines is that Tsvangirai is a coward who
ran away from the guerrilla war and should not be voted for presidency.
But in the court of public opinion, the former vice president is trailing
Tsvangirai, whom many neutrals feel has the numbers on his side to give
Mugabe a good run for his money.
While all the opposition parties are in agreement that a coalition is the
only way to go, the leadership issue has been dominating the talks, with
MDC vice president, Nelson Chamisa, saying only Tsvangirai is qualified to
lead the grouping.
“Without being bullish or macho, it is my humble submission that for any
coalition to gain traction with the people of Zimbabwe, there has to be a
rallying point, there has to be a centre that holds and in the democratic
struggle we have our best foot forward in a man dreaded and feared by the
opposition Zanu PF party and that focal point is Tsvangirai,” Chamisa said
in an interview with the Daily News, adding that his boss had a track
record, having defeated Mugabe in the first round of the 2008 poll
although he fell short of achieving the threshold required to be declared
” . . . so let us not major on minors while we minor in major things,
creating all this hullabaloo about who will lead”, he said.
MDC officials still maintain, however, that they are not looking back on
the idea of forming a coalition.
MDC spokesperson Obert Gutu said that their detractors are salivating and
wishing the collapse of the coalition talks, adding that this will not
“Our coalition strategy as the MDC led by . . . Tsvangirai has always been
very clear and unambiguous. We don’t negotiate in the media and neither do
we negotiate in public.
” . . . Tsvangirai is personally handling the coalition negotiations
process and so far, we are perfectly happy with the progress that has been
made. Let me make it abundantly clear that there is no irretrievable
breakdown in our relationship with other opposition political parties, and
that includes the NPP led by Joice Mujuru,” Gutu said.
The coalition is being discussed amid claims that the Zanu PF party is
running scared and is keenly following on the developments, hoping the
process will be scuttled along the way.
The idea of a coalition received a boost recently when Tsvangirai signed
Memorandums of Understanding with Mujuru and Welshman Ncube’s smaller MDC
Analysts are unanimous that too many political parties will no doubt split
the votes in favour of Zanu PF.
In the 2008 polls, Tsvangirai was denied outright victory after Simba
Makoni of Mavambo/Kusile/Dawn entered the presidential race a few months
before the polls and managed to get eight percent of the votes.
Tsvangirai’s followers claim the MDC leader could have sealed it in the
first round without the need for a run-off that saw Tsvangirai pulling out
citing widespread violence against his supporters and officials.
Zimbabwe currently has over 40 opposition political parties, some of which
are believed to have been created by Zanu PF to create confusion and
divide the votes.
Only last week, former Industry and International Trade minister Nkosana
Moyo, launched his political group Alliance for the People’s Agenda in
The former African Development Bank vice president had a short stint in
Mugabe’s administration, as his Industry and Trade minister between 2000
and 2001, before suddenly resigning to retrace his footsteps in business,
disenchanted with his leadership style.
This was preceded by another announcement by Harare lawyer Fadzayi Mahere
that she will also stand as an independent for the Mt Pleasant
Ncube’s party yesterday said that there are no disagreements in as far as
they are concerned in terms of the formation of a coalition ahead of the
The party’s spokesperson Kurauone Chihwayi said that he is not aware of
any disagreements threatening the coalition building process.
“The issue of a mediator is not anywhere closer to the negotiating table.
As far as we are concerned the bilateral and multilateral engagements are
currently progressing quite well. The MDC is too committed to sincere
negotiations and is engaging other political parties in good faith.
Mediation is a conflict killing approach and works very well when partners
are in disagreements, it works but not now,” Chihwayi said.
Tendai Biti’s People’s Democratic Party spokesperson, Jacob Mafume, said
the focus right now has to be on forming the coalition as opposed to who
“We have said let’s have the coalition first. We run the risk of having
leaders without the coalition. We can agree on the process of choosing a
leader in that agreement. If people want a mediator it’s okay but I do
believe that people can present their views and work something out,”
Political analyst Eldred Masunungure told the Daily News that the
country’s political situation does not give space for another political
party that seriously expects to get traction.
“The idea of launching a political party just a year before an election is
not strategic. There are already too many political parties. It (forming a
new party) would worsen the situation.
“For Zanu PF, they will be celebrating, it would actually say the more the
merrier. I don’t think the electorate will buy into the new formation,”
Political analyst Gladys Hlatywayo said in as far as it is a democratic
right for people to form their own political parties, it obviously
negatively impacts on the outcome.
“It’s more strategic to have one opposition presidential candidate in the
2018 election in order not to split the vote,” said Hlatywayo.