‘Opposition in big trouble’

Source: ‘Opposition in big trouble’ – DailyNews Live February 1, 2017

Gift Phiri, News Editor      1 February 2017

HARARE – A respected local think tank has warned the country’s quarrelling
opposition to get its act together now, or risk being humiliated by Zanu
PF in the 2018 national elections, despite the ruling party’s worsening
tribal, factional and succession wars.

The Zimbabwe Democracy Institute (ZDI) also warned in its latest political
economy review, that it did not bode well for the opposition that its
coalition talks had so far not yielded any tangible results and that all
the talk among long-suffering Zimbabweans was about Zanu PF’s ructions and
President Robert Mugabe’s old age and state of health.

Writing in the ZDI report, prominent University of Zimbabwe (UZ) political
scientist, Eldred Masunungure, also lamented the fact that opposition
parties were presently defined both by their individual and collective
weaknesses, as well as their fragmentation and “confusion”.

“The prospects for a pre-electoral coalition of opposition parties are no
brighter now than they were a year ago. The discourse among them is
quarrelsome and noisy, with each one parading its virtues while
denigrating the others.

“The opposition is plagued by deep-seated suspicions, distrust and petty
jealousies and there is no unifying common history, beliefs and values or
ideology except a quest for power,” Masunungure said.

“For good or bad, for the foreseeable future, Zimbabwe’s destiny is in
Zanu PF hands. This is notwithstanding the convulsions and fissures that
presently define the party.

“Indeed, although the party is at its weakest in many years, the reality,
however, is that its rivals are even weaker.

“It is thus important not to underestimate but to acknowledge the capacity
of Zanu PF to recreate and rejuvenate itself, which it has done very well
on several occasions in its life time. It is a 53-year old party that has
seen it all.

“And, to the chagrin or disappointment of many in and outside Zimbabwe,
Mugabe is still genuinely popular among a significant proportion of

“He rules, not only through coercion, but also through legitimation
activities. In other words, he is not just a populist, he is also popular.

“As such, I don’t see the ongoing internal troubles and tribulations as
necessarily signaling Zanu PF’s end game,” Masunugure added.

Zanu PF is deeply divided over its unresolved succession riddle, which has
split the former liberation movement right through the middle – with the
Team Lacoste faction rallying behind Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s
mooted presidential aspirations, and the Generation 40 (G40) group rabidly
opposing the Midlands godfather from succeeding Mugabe.

The ugly infighting has escalated over the past few weeks as both the G40
and Team Lacoste have gone at each other hammer and tongs, particularly
since the release of images showing Mnangagwa holding a coffee mug
inscribed with the words “I am the Boss” during a festive season gathering
at his Zvishavane rural home.

Since those images emerged in the public domain, the G40 has gone to town
about the issue, interpreting it as the VP’s open statement that he has
unbridled presidential ambitions.

On the other hand Mnangagwa’s allies have been making loud calls for
Mugabe to pave way for his deputy at both government and party level.

However, the Zanu PF leader has studiously refused to do so, arguing that
his party should rather follow what he sees as a more democratic process –
managing his succession via a congress.

Masunungure argued in his paper that the transition from Mugabe to whoever
would succeed him was most likely to be problematic, and to be potentially
violent and bloody.

He said in case Mugabe died in office, it would be a “State House to
Heroes Acre scenario”, and should this happen, whether before or after the
2018 elections, the chief beneficiary was most likely going to be

“Until Mugabe dies and before the (party’s) 2019 congress, ED (Mnangagwa)
is likely to retain his position as State vice president after the 2018
elections, by virtue of the same position in the party.

“Mugabe does not normally want to change his team mid-stream and the Joice
Mujuru saga is the most vivid testimony to this,” Masunungure said, adding
that as a likely beneficiary in this scenario, Mnangagwa would also likely
have the support of securocrats.

He also noted that at a practical level, and given Mugabe’s advanced age
and increasing frailty, he no longer had the physical and mental stamina
to be fully in charge of the levers of power.

“This is actually already happening and will be accelerated during this
period. In a way, by the end of the period, it will resemble the
`wheelchair scenario’ where Mugabe will be governing from a wheelchair.

“This is what both the First Lady and war veterans’ alluded to in November
last year,” Masunungure said.

Other political analysts have also said the opposition has brighter
prospects of ending Mugabe and Zanu PF’s long but tumultuous rule if they
contest as a united force in the eagerly-anticipated 2018 elections.

Former prime minister in the government of national unity, Morgan
Tsvangirai – the only opposition leader to have defeated Mugabe in an
election, in the 2008 polls – has been holding secret talks with former
Vice President Joice Mujuru and other opposition leaders, as they doggedly
work to knit together the much-talked about grand alliance which is
scheduled to be in place before the end of this year.

And since Mujuru joined hands with Tsvangirai and marched with him on the
streets of Gweru in August last year – in a rare public display of unity
among the opposition – there have been growing calls by fed up citizens
for the formation of the grand opposition alliance ahead of 2018.

Mujuru, who was sacked from Zanu PF on untested allegations of trying to
assassinate Mugabe, together with other former Zanu PF bigwigs such as
Didymus Mutasa and Rugare Gumbo, now leads the opposition Zimbabwe People
First (ZPF).

And in her latest video that was broadcast this week, she re-assured
Zimbabweans that the opposition would not miss the chance of forming a

“ZPF supports a united approach with other major political parties such as
MDC. Other genuine smaller parties are important and they too have a role
to play in the right context. The democratic landscape has enough space
for all progressive forces to collaborate.

“We are therefore committed to a coalition as we go into the 2018
elections. There is no obstacle that is bigger than the urgent need to
usher in a new Zimbabwe. Zanu PF can be dislodged if Zimbabweans are
united to liberate themselves,” Mujuru said.