‘Loose coalition– a march from disaster to tragedy’

Africa’s politics is changing very fast, and the tide is turning against the incumbent revolutionary leaders, who have been using their liberation war credentials as a carte blanche for their continued hold on power using despotic means.

Source: ‘Loose coalition– a march from disaster to tragedy’ – NewsDay Zimbabwe December 19, 2016

By Everson Mushava

For decades, the task of removing authoritarian leaders had proved a colossal task, with the incumbent leaders using murky tactics including dividing the opposition so that they are easy to defeat.

But the recent development in the Gambia, where a seven-party coalition led by Adama Barrow has managed to end Yahya Jammeh’s 22-year-old tyrannical rule, has given a fresh impetus to the various opposition parties spread across Africa, who had been trudging towards coalitions to battle long-time despots. Jammeh has, however, made a U-turn and is now refusing to accept the election results.

In Kenya, Coalition for Reforms and Democracy leader, Raila Odinga and his former political ally, Amani National Congress (ANC) party leader, Musalia Mudavadi have already announced a pact against Uhuru Kenyatta and his Jubilee government in the 2017 elections.

The two leaders, now in a coalition of six political parties, may have learnt from their 2013 mistake that a divided opposition would fall and are set to formally announce their union under the National Super Alliance in February.

The talk of a grand coalition to end President Robert Mugabe’s 36-year-old hegemony in Zimbabwe has been gathering momentum, but not without its fair share of glitches.

For the past months, over 18 opposition political parties, who have been working under the banner of National Election Reform Agenda to force reforms in the country’s electoral laws had given hope that Mugabe would face a united opposition in the 2018 general elections, but fresh bickering in the opposition camp has posed new threats to the possibility.

Two weeks ago, over a dozen political parties went to South Africa for coalition talks, but MDC-T leader, Morgan Tsvangirai and Zimbabwe People First leader, Joice Mujuru snubbed the meeting, claiming they would not be part of talks organised by Zanu PF proxies.

The two leaders came under serious attacks from fellow opposition leaders, but they stood firm, saying a serious due diligence on opposition parties was necessary before a pact could be reached, accusing other leaders of trying to ride on their popularity.

But some analysts have thrown their weight on Tsvangirai-Mujuru’s stance not to be frog-marched into forming a coalition of opposition political parties before a due diligence exercise is carried out on some political parties to determine if they can be trusted.

United Kingdom-based Zimbabwean lawyer Alex Magaisa posted on Facebook said: “Surely any coalition talks require serious due diligence rather than be a free for all just because people claim to be in opposition.”

Political analyst, Pedzisai Ruhanya echoed Magaisa’s sentiments, saying Zimbabwe’s opposition parties should be more pragmatic and carry out due diligence on members before forming the coalition to avoid infiltration by Zanu PF.

He said a loose coalition would be a march from disaster to tragedy and, thus, Tsvangirai and Mujuru’s position should be taken seriously.

“There is need to understand what political parties and leaders would be bringing in to the political table,” Ruhanya said.

“This should take into consideration both quantitative and qualitative factors, does the party have the numbers and what are the qualities of the leaders. I don’t believe we have 20 opposition political parties. It can’t be a coalition, it will be infiltrated.”

Ruhanya said there was need for the MDC-T to consider reuniting with the MDC before even negotiating with Mujuru.

“There should be common ground between the MDC formations before they partner those who left Zanu PF. There is also need to consider the party’ ability to mobilise, there should be no equal partners in the coalition,” he said.

Ruhanya said a maximum of five opposition parties can hand Zanu PF — which first tasted defeat to Tsvangirai in the first round poll in March 2008 — a humiliating poll drubbing. Even independence in most African countries, Ruhanya added, was earned through coalitions, the same way Zanu joined hands with Zapu.

Although observers say Zanu PF would not stand against a united coalition, the ruling party has scoffed at the idea, saying failed politicians would not stand any chance against a tried and tested Mugabe.

But, with the declining economic situation, which that has led to fierce street protests, many people think the ground is ripe for Mugabe’s departure and a united opposition would be the only thing left to complement citizens’ efforts.

Zanu PF could be quaking in its boots at the prospect of facing a united coalition and the possibility of sponsoring infiltration to scuttle the prospect could be high.

Political analyst, Vivid Gwede said learning from the event in the Gambia, where a coalition ended Jammeh’s rule, there was no doubt that a collation was necessary, but for the project to be successful, there was need for careful implementation of the idea.

“In my view, there is urgent need to cultivate trust and respect among the political players with limited gamesmanship and scheming that breeds mistrust,” he said.

“Equally, this effort by the opposition is being closely watched by the ruling party with a possible motive to derail it. So the coalition must not be just a coalescing of opposition entities, but a meeting of minds as well.

“The opposition leaders must have realistic expectations in terms of their leadership ambitions based on their proven strengths on the ground. This is because the issue of leadership will likely be a deal maker or breaker. No doubt the coalition should be led by people who can bring out the vote, but there is also need to include those, who have the skills of governance.”

Another political commentator, Blessing Vava said emphasis should be on coming up with a framework to mobilise the masses, remove fear in people, particularly in rural areas, rather than the coalition itself.

“It doesn’t make sense to be in a coalition with parties that do not have a following, you have to be tried first in an electoral contest so as to ascertain your strength, it is clear that some parties only carry the so-called big names, but without a base,” he said.

“Therefore, those calling for due diligence are justified, assessment has to be on different levels like what are you bringing to the coalition, how strong are you in mobilising and how is your party structured?

“Some parties are yet to conduct internal electoral process and, hence, the leaders of those parties have a questionable mandate. Parties should go on the ground; they are spending time in boardrooms, doing press conferences instead of going where the people are.”