‘Opposition alliance raises regime change prospects’

Source: ‘Opposition alliance raises regime change prospects’ – DailyNews Live

Gift Phiri      23 April 2017

HARARE – Zimbabwe’s opposition political parties announced an alliance
last week to fight next year’s presidential and parliamentary elections
against President Robert Mugabe and his long-ruling Zanu PF, in a move
hailed by analysts as a “very promising development”.

Mugabe, 93, is seeking an eighth and final term after controversially
winning the 2013 race against veteran politician Morgan Tsvangirai, 64,
whose Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) is one of the four main
opposition parties uniting.

The teetotaller has been in power since the country gained independemce in
1980 and in December his party confirmed him as its candidate for the next
presidential election expected in mid-2018, when he will be 94.

On Wednesday, Tsvangirai and former Vice President Joice Mujuru, who heads
up the National People’s Party (NPP), signed an agreement to work
together, followed by Welshman Ncube of the smaller MDC.

PDP leader Tendai Biti was also said to be inking a deal with Tsvangirai
this week after upon return from London.

The test will be whether the new coalition can agree on a single candidate
before the vote without splintering.

Critics accuse Mugabe of wrecking one of Africa’s most promising economies
through policies such as violent seizures of white-owned commercial farms
and money printing.

He and his party say the economy has been undermined by western powers. He
has also faced criticism for not doing more to tackle corruption.

Tsvangirai, who has controversially lost three elections to Mugabe amid
accusations of ballot fraud, wants to run again, with most leaders openly
endorsing the former trade union leader as the torch bearer.

The MDC leader disputed the results of the last vote in 2013 and the
election in 2008, which was followed by weeks of deadly political violence
in which about 200 people died and over 200 000 were internally displaced,
according to rights groups.

The build-up to next year’s vote has already been marred by clashes
between protesters and police, sparked by a row over opposition demands
that presidential elections next year be conducted by a committee set up
by the United Nations, African Union and Sadc because they had lost
confidence in the neutrality of the local election agency, the Zimbabwe
Electoral Commission (Zec).

Mugabe has defended Zec saying it was doing its work properly and that the
opposition “are fighting a commission that has no fault.”

He told his Zanu PF’s central committee meeting last month: “(Zec) itself
a constitutional body mandated to run elections in our country, (the
opposition) afflicted by madness as it were, which knows no bounds, they
even seek to interfere with the mandate of government tendering process,
hoping for some optimistic fissures and little chances that might give
them a little respectability.”

At Thursday’s launch for the new alliance, Ncube said the splitting of the
MDC “divided our people and the vibrancy of the party, which we should not
have done.”

“I do take responsibility for those mistakes, but what is more important,
as it stands, is for us to not just accept those mistakes, but begin to
take steps that are necessary for us to be accountable to the people of

Earlier on Wednesday, Mujuru said it had taken more than six months to
come up with the agreement.

“We are looking forward to seeing Zimbabwe being that great Zimbabwe that
we fought for,” she stated.

Tsvangirai said that it was “just the beginning of the building blocks
towards establishing a broad alliance to confront Zanu PF between now and
the next election in 2018.”

Cape Town-based NKC African Economics said: “There are strong
personalities at play here:.. Mujuru’s struggle credentials must play off
against the experience of Tsvangirai, who has fought a long, bitter and
often dangerous campaign against the tyranny of Zanu PF and its aging

NKC analyst Gary van Staden described it as “a very promising
development”, but politics in Zimbabwe has proved to be anything but

“While this movement could mature into a viable challenge to Zanu PF and
Mugabe, it could just as easily disintegrate as the parties and their
leaders are drawn into issues around who the presidential candidate should
be,” Van Staden said.

“Both leaders have strong claims and while other smaller parties could be
encouraged to join, it would be as minor partners and that, too, could
prove to be a stumbling block. Mujuru sat at Mugabe’s side as he cheated,
intimidated and brutalised the MDC – an issue many in that party will not
easily forgive – while Tsvangirai’s leadership skills have been found
wanting on several occasions and in several respects. So resolving the
issue is crucial to the success of this opposition mission.”

Phillan Zamchiya, an Oxford scholar, said drawing from the utility value
of elections, Tsvangirai needs to maximise the electoral economies of
scale to grow his vote far beyond the million mark. Tsvangirai’s vote has
been constant in the past three presidential elections, garnering around a
million votes in all the three elections.

In 2002, 2008 and 2013, Tsvangirai had 1 258 401, 1 195 562 and 1 172 349
votes respectively.

“This signifies the need to think outside the box in order to grow the
vote,” Zamchiya said.

Zimbabwe has a high electoral threshold, for one to be national president
the law is clear that one needs to get 50 percent plus one vote.

“A coalition would have a mechanical and modifying effect on electoral
laws by making votes count,” he said.

“The MDC-T has not been impressive in Mashonaland provinces. For example,
Mugabe in 2013 had 925 486 votes in these three provinces whereas
Tsvangirai had 1 172 349 in all the 10 provinces. An evidently unhealthy
distribution whether rigged or not.

“It is therefore important to seek partnership with formidable and
reliable forces in these spaces. On the other hand, the vote in
Matabeleland provinces has not been consistent. In 2008, it was MDC that
performed well and in 2013 it was the ruling Zanu PF,” Zamchiya said.

He said the coalition will contain the consequences of an “extreme Zanu PF
government” that might gain exclusive power and implement policies that
seek to annihilate the opposition in the post-election period.

He hailed the pre-election alliance for its potential ability to reduce
uncertainty among critical voters on the government coalition that will
form after the next election and on which policies would be implemented;
adding Tsvangirai’s MDC had “some political deficiencies which require
other actors to augment.”

“For example, it lacks liberation war credentials and is viewed as a party
without a history by its opponents and is easily battered on that,”
Zamchiya said.

This comes after Zimbabwe’s defence forces commander, Constantino
Chiwenga, pledged the army’s’ undying loyalty to Mugabe even if he loses
the forthcoming presidential elections, dismissing other presidential
aspirants as “sell-outs” out to reverse the gains of independence.

Chiwenga, in chilling comments ahead of next year’s harmonised elections,
said the army would not recognise a government led by Mugabe’s challengers
– pointedly Tsvangirai should they win the presidential elections because
he will not salute a “president with no liberation war credentials.”

Zamchiya said other notable Tsvangirai MDC deficiencies were technocratic
prowess, limited financial resources and inexperience in negotiating with
State security apparatus for easy of transfer of power in the event of
winning the 2018 general election.

Analyst Pedzisai Ruhanya said the alliance suits well on the role of a
democratic opposition in competitive authoritarian regimes.  “For instance
Stepan (1990) argued that the dynamics of authoritarian regimes and the
prospects for regime change also depend on the relationship between the
regime and democratic opposition. He outlined five critical tasks for the
opposition in roughly ascending order of complexity: resisting integration
into the regime; guarding zones of autonomy against it; disputing its
legitimacy; raising the costs of authoritarian rule; and creating a
credible democratic alternative,” the director of the Zimbabwe Democracy
Institute (ZDI) think-tank said.

Van Staden said if the agreement does in fact hold, it would signal a
major shift in the country’s politics and would suggest that Zanu PF and
Mugabe will once again face electoral defeat as they did in 2008.

The stunning reversal of the 2008 result was due to a combination of the
gerrymandering skills of the ruling party, the inexperience and naivety of
the MDC and Tsvangirai, and the shameful endorsement of the fraud by the
Southern African Development Community (Sadc).

“A united opposition would change all that, but there will be problems.
Mujuru and Tsvangirai have their own strong claims to be the presidential
candidate against a weakened, often dysfunctional Zanu PF and a president
whose faculties have of late appeared seriously impaired, but they cannot
both be number one. The potential for that argument to end this promising,
united effort cannot be ignored,” he said.