In search of the grand coalition

via In search of the grand coalition – The Zimbabwean 2 July 2015

There is nothing grand about the coalition agenda that opposition political parties have been talking about for what seems like decades now.

Outside the megaphone politics that the opposition is so happy to dabble in, I don’t see us getting into a meaningful coalition in the next generation, let alone a grand one. This is because opposition politicians have a confused and vague understanding of what a coalition should be, how it should be done and what goals it ought to achieve.

Morgan Tsvangirai, delivering what he called a state of the nation address at the weekend, indicated that the opposition was “on the brink of an exciting political movement”. He said a true grand coalition was not about elite political leaders “uniting”, but about Zimbabweans converging to take the country forward. I didn’t see anything new in that.

In the same breath, Tsvangirai makes reference to a political movement and then tries to define a grand coalition as some form of unity among Zimbabweans. This does not help matters at all. Is he saying bringing together patriotic Zimbabweans under one banner would transform the masses into a political movement, aka grand coalition?

I am not a pessimist, but when I hear Tsvangirai talk like that, I know it’s time for me to hide my head under the blankets. Like most Zimbabweans, I still have fresh memories about how he and other opposition leaders have handled their personal and narrow interests.

Psychological boost

I wonder how Tsvangirai would fit his party’s decision to cause the recall of MPs belonging to the Renewal Team from Parliament with the agenda to unite Zimbabweans. All I know is that decision gave Zanu (PF) more seats and dampened the spirits of voters, who are now wondering whether the opposition is, indeed, worth paying attention to.

It gave Zanu (PF) a psychological boost as they made meaningful inroads into urban areas and the hapless and helpless electorate is deeply confused. How then will the opposition rally the crying masses, and with what chance of success?

While announcing the coming of the “exciting movement” that would see political leaders from the opposition coming together, Tsvangirai rushed to share with the audience that there would be a prayer meeting for Itai Dzamara, the abducted journalist, on July 11 where all independent movements would be represented.

This immediately begs a question. Does he mean that the mere fact that political leaders from other political parties will attend the prayer meeting, noble as it is, will give rise to a grand coalition? Political coalitions are not established merely because political leaders have agreed to attend a prayer meeting. Political coalitions are a result of bona fide, negotiated and strategic machinations that go well beyond prayer meetings.

Poor strategies

What we have heard all along are tall pronouncements from different corners of the room with hardly any will to move to the centre of the room by anyone. One question the political leaders have always neglected is around who should assume the agency to bring the parties together as a coalition. Must the duty be left to the individual parties and their leaders who carry around metric tonnes of ego? In the past, this has not worked. Every political leader has proved to have his own vanity and would rather have the others come to him.

Tsvangirai thinks he is the best because he commands the biggest numbers and has the charisma. Simba Makoni thinks Tsvangirai is a plain politician with poor strategies and an undefined objective. So does Dumiso Dabengwa. Tendai Biti thinks Tsvangirai is a bad leader and his former boss thinks the same about him. The centre, therefore, is failing to hold.

In my opinion, an external and neutral agency, in the form of, for example, the National Convergence Platform should assume the role of bringing the parties together. It would include representatives from all the opposition parties and produce a template and model of how the parties would be brought together, when, where and why. The neutral body would clearly define criteria for leadership, goals and objectives, tenure of office, composition, operations of the coalition and code of conduct and ethics. There may be need to agree on some form of polling to fill positions.

Sorely vague

Again, the opposition has been sorely vague about what it wants to achieve through a grand coalition. Everyone is just anxious to remove President Robert Mugabe and Zanu (PF) from power. Hardly anything beyond that.

Granted, regime change is an essential means towards a more democratic and prosperous Zimbabwe. It is Mugabe and Zanu (PF) who have put us in this sticky mess and they certainly must go. However, any agenda that makes regime change the be-all and end-all is set for doom. There must be more sustainable goals than getting rid of Zanu (PF).

It is vital to ask what will happen when regime change succeeds. How are the pro-democracy institutions going to ensure that the expectations of the citizenry are met? How will the economy be fixed and reforms achieved? Of course, the parties are not expected to hold the same ideology. They can still retain their respective identities – but there must be a common thread of moving Zimbabwe ahead in the post-Zanu (PF) era. – To comment on this article, please contact


  • comment-avatar
    The Mind Boggles 7 years ago

    MT is a spent force, perhaps their is some one waiting in the wings they just don’t know it themselves yet but personally I think the whole world is now tired of the RGM MT saga!!!

  • comment-avatar
    Michael 7 years ago

    There are way too many “leaders” in Zimbabwe that aspire to lead the country out of the mess Zanu-PF made and want to be the next generation of political leaders.

    Question is – do they really have a support base on the ground? I am not sure of that. If they have then why do they generally get very little voter support in elections?

    The issue of elections is another questionable method of getting rid of a dictatorship. Stalin said that elections are important – but what is more important is the counting of the votes. In Zimbabwe since 2000 the vote counting was a farce and the running of the elections is even worse. In 2008 Mugabe got only 27% of the vote – he himself admitted that – yet by some miracle the result ended up in a run-off election engineered in collaboration with Mbeki.

    So is it possible to unseat Mugabe in an election where the people are issued with multiple voting slips after not being on the voters roll and bussed from one voting station to another to cast their “ballots” – while the results was manufactured to reflect a massive Zanu-PF victory.

    I do not think that any reasonable person can take part in elections when the outcome is determined in advance and the actual voting is just a farce. The way elections are conducted in Zimbabwe does not lend itself to an outcome reflecting the will of the people and participation in it would for any party be a reasonable exercise ending in disaster.

    But back to the grand coalition story – if “leaders” like Biti, MnCube, Mujuru and others can prove they have actually got a strong support base in the electorate it would be a different scenario. Then a Grand Coalition may be effective in getting rid of the dictatorship Zimbabwe is at present – but that would only be possible if the electoral system is geared towards conducting of a free and fair election, which at this stage is just not possible.