Opposition parties continue to sprout, their leaders fighting for a stake in the future – when what is really needed is a coalition, say political analysts.
The latest political baby is the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), spearheaded by the Renewal Team headed by Tendai Biti last week.
The Renewal Team was a breakaway movement from the MDC-T. Biti and his colleagues accused party president Morgan Tsvangirai of leadership failure. Biti’s outfit suffered a further split when one of the heavyweights, former MDC-T treasurer Elton Mangoma, broke away to form the Renewal Democrats.
Zimbabwe has at least eight opposition parties whose leaders claim they have the numbers to mount a serious challenge against Zanu (PF).
They include Zapu, led by Dumiso Dabengwa, Simba Makoni’s Mavambo, the National Constitutional Assembly (NCA) headed by law professor Lovemore Madhuku, the UK-based Freedom Justice Coalition Zimbabwe led by Nathan Banana, the son of the late president, Canaan Banana.
A formation led by Joice Mujuru that broke away from Zanu (PF) following extensive purges, the People First (PF) movement, is set to transform into a political party any time.
Of all these, analysts say, MDC-T and the PF outfit are likely to form the most serious challenges to Zanu (PF) at the 2018 elections – but there is widespread acknowledgement that they will fail to unseat the ruling party if they do not form a coalition.
Political experts say big egos and greed for power are the major reasons why individuals are choosing to form their own parties instead of allowing themselves to be absorbed by those that already exist.
“Every one of these political leaders has a State House mentality. They all want to be the leaders and they think the best way to do that is to form their own parties. Personal political egos are driving them to set up their own separate shops instead of coming under one roof,” said political science professor Eldred Masunungure.
Biti, in a recent interview with The Zimbabwean, accused other opposition party leaders of big egos and a tendency to jostle for power, just before he formed his own party.
“It is ironic that Biti said that even though he was busy organising his own party’s inaugural congress. He never considered collapsing the Renewal Team into another already existing party, because he sees forming his own as an opportunity to lay down terms for a grand coalition which all of them are talking about,” said Masunungure.
Tsvangirai, Biti, PF and other small parties are agreed that there must be a grand coalition to remove long-ruling President Robert Mugabe and his party from power. Masungure said it was unlikely that Mujuru would defer to Tsvangirai or vice versa because both of them wanted to be leaders.
“The reality is that there can’t be a grand coalition without Tsvangirai and MDC-T. Similarly, it would be difficult for a grand coalition to occur at a meaningful level without Mujuru, if her party takes off. The elephant in the room is, who will be the presidential candidate when the coalition succeeds? There is need for these leaders to be convinced that there is more to gain if they were to defer to one rather than insisting on being pole leaders,” said Masunungure.
Once the respective political leaders agreed on a single candidate, he said, it would be easy to sell that particular individual to the grassroots which he described as “gullible and always ready to take up what the leaders gave them”.
He added, however, that proliferation of parties was not new to Zimbabwean politics, as the same happened leading up to independence in 1980.
Mfundo Milo, the spokesperson of the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition (CiZC) that has been involved in setting up a national convergence to push for democratic change, said parties were sprouting because their leaders were gunning for a piece of cake in future power-sharing deals.
Good for democracy
“In principle, a multiplicity of parties is good for democracy. But this is Zimbabwe and the thinking that the more the merrier doesn’t work. The problem is that every political leader is going for a piece of the cake because there is a consensus that there will be need for a coalition at the end of the day. They want to have a say when that time comes, but this is confusing and dividing the people,” said Mlilo.
He said the Zimbabwean opposition had not matured enough to realise that political leaders must put their egos aside and advance the national interest.
Biti has dismissed the possibility of joining forces with Tsvangirai, preferring instead to work with all the other parties. Reports indicate that Mujuru and Tsvangirai have been talking behind closed doors but it remains to be seen if they will put their egos and political ideologies aside and form a working front together with the other parties.
Tsvangirai has already hailed Mujuru’s virtual entry into opposition politics by launching a PF manifesto last week, while Rugare Gumbo who speaks on behalf of the formation has said they were ready to work with MDC-T.
Dumi Senda of the Freedom Justice Coalition Zimbabwe admitted recently that it would take a long time and much effort for people to embrace new political parties.