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Unlocking the coalition conundrum

By Moses Chamboko

For the 2018 elections which are not very far, Zimbabwe needs nothing but an effective and genuine coalition guided by a shared vision, driven by common values, inspired by national aspirations and anchored on our proud and courageous history. There is nothing in between unless if we are preparing for another long season of shock, paralysis and despondency as happened in 2013. This must not be repeated.

Moses Chamboko
Moses Chamboko

July 31st 2013 election came and went. Three months passed with dead silence from the main opposition. There was not even celebratory mood in the ZANU PF camp. It was like a village in mourning. Somebody had to come in and fill that vacuum. That’s when and how a team of proactive Zimbabweans around the world came together to form Zimbabweans United for Democracy (ZUNDE). Precisely, this was on 24 October 2013.

At the centre of our vision was the coming together of genuine and progressive opposition movements into some kind of a united movement and confront ZANU PF as one. It is for this reason that we are signatories to both NERA and CODE, being among the very first movements to sign both agreements. We have come into opposition politics as a catalyst for genuine change, an impartial player that will never give up. In the last three years, we have been championing the idea of a grand coalition to the extent that we got ZANU PF worried, not that we care!

Of late, there has been some notable effort towards the formation of an alliance or coalition of some sort. For political correctness, we prefer to call it a united movement.In the strongest of terms, ZUNDE condemns anybody who is working directly or indirectly towards derailing or frustrating the formation of an effective coalition in Zimbabwe.

We are not asking anybody to abandon their identity, structures or members.  We are like villagers at a funeral; let us put our differences aside, come together as one and give a decent send off to the deceased. Even family members with personal differences, when there is a death in the extended family, in African tradition, they come together and do whatever they can to make sure one of their own is afforded a decent burial. 2018 is that season where the entire opposition family needs to come together irrespective of our little differences. There is more that unites than divides us.

However, some of us are deeply concerned to read and learn about some parallel or competing coalition deals that are now happening clandestinely in exclusionary and at times elitist manner.Some are done in top secrecy in the private offices of Harare, others are done on the beaches of Cape Town with others signed in private homes. All this would be plausible if the effort was synchronised and complementary, with the same national objective.

We are gutted when we see what seems to be tussling for positions across the parties. We respect everybody in the opposition family but we reserve the right to disagree with some of the things happening now. Some of our key strengths are that we are consistent, we are genuine and we are not afraid to say the truth. We will speak up against self-serving interests and manoeuvres. This is not a power game of some sort. It is a rescue mission meant to extricate our nation from the current quagmire. Games are games and this certainly is not one of them!

In November 2015, we distributed our coalition proposal to all opposition parties that were in existence by then. The simple but pragmatic proposal had a clear road map of the processes to be followed and the structures and systems to be put in place. At the core of our proposal was creation of what we called a Stakeholder Council, a broad,impartial, inclusive and advisory council composed of non-political and non-partisan actors. To us, this is the centre of the coalition universe.

We did not see coalition as solely a product of political parties but other players including civil society in general, business leaders, war veterans, traditional leaders, farmers, students, unions, churches, vendors, workers etc. At the same time, we welcomed the entry into opposition politics by some “new”protagonists that had been persecuted and expelled from ZANU PF, cautiously though. We raised some red flags some of which seem to have been reasonably attended to.

ZUNDE has significant Diaspora and global influence owing to its origin. We have experienced true and fake democracy around the world. We know the real difference between the two.

Today, we raise our unwavering voice to the opposition again and say without fear or favour that the current path some of them have taken towards building a coalition has hallmarks of failure. Let us go back to the drawing board, reflect seriously on experiences of the past and dreams for the future. Let us try hard to do the right thing. Two opposing or competing blocs seem to be emerging, one on the left and another on the right.Some are simply oscillating between the two. The latest formation is Mass Opposition Movement (MOM), itself a metamorphosis or extension of Coalition of Democrats (CODE). On the other end of the spectrum, MDC-T has signed MoUs with NPP and MDC. We don’t think ordinary Zimbabweans really know what that means or entails and yet they are the primary stakeholder in all this.

Let us avoid and condemn opposing initiatives that are not only disastrous but self-defeating. We have started shouting at each other, fighting for imaginary positions and saying that if this or that person won’t lead the coalition, we are not in. That is premature, childish and self-serving. Where are interests and aspirations of our real master in all this, the people?

Before anybody talks about potions, let us have a collective agreement on what a united movement must achieve, what processes to follow, what systems and structures to put in place. Let us clearly define our objectives, deliverables and time frames and take the same back to the people for endorsement. Signing secret pacts in Harare or Cape Town that exclude key stakeholders outside traditional political structures and leadership will not fly, it’s doomed to fail. This is a national project that must be owned by the people and must be taken seriously at every level.

Let us talk more about tasks and roles, not positions. Let us have and respect the basic understanding that not everyone can lead the coalition. The best and most suitable candidate must be given the task. Why is that so difficult to understand?

If anybody is serious about the united opposition but does not know how to go about it, ZUNDE stands ready to provide the required guidance as we have done on many other issues before. Let us unlock the coalition conundrum now, for the better of our potentially great nation. And remember, we don’t have time.

Moses Chamboko is a pro-democracy activist and interim Secretary General of Zimbabweans United for Democracy (ZUNDE) – www.zunde.org ; [email protected] ; [email protected] ; @zundezim

  • Nomusa Garikai

    The opposition should have united in demanding the implementation of the democratic reforms to ensure free and fair elections. Uniting to contest a flawed election was itself a flawed decision that was doomed to fail.

    Zanu PF is not going to lose an election over which it has a license to rig the vote. And so by agreeing to contest such an election the opposition has per se agreed to let Zanu PF ride roughshod over the people’s wishes for free and fair elections. Zanu PF has learned since the 2008 elections that for it to avoid facing the problem of legitimacy ever again, it must allow the opposition win a few gravy train seats. It is these seats that the opposition are fighting over.

    What is now clear as day is that stopping the opposition opportunists who contest these flawed elections is the most effective way to force Zanu PF to accept democratic reforms, as David Coltart noted in his book.

    “The worst aspect for me about the failure to agree a coalition was that both MDCs couldn’t now do the obvious – withdraw from the elections,” explained Senator Coltart.

    “The electoral process was so flawed, so illegal, that the only logical step was to withdraw, which would compel SADC to hold Zanu PF to account. But such was the distrust between the MDC-T and MDC-N that neither could withdraw for fear that the other would remain in the elections, winning seats and giving the process credibility.”

    As long as the opposition contest the flawed elections Zanu PF will continue to derive its legitimacy from their participation. Stop the opposition contesting the flawed elections and you starve Zanu PF of the political oxygen it needs to survive.

    “For the 2018 elections which are not very far, Zimbabwe needs nothing but an effective and genuine coalition guided by a shared vision, driven by common values, inspired by national aspirations and anchored on our proud and courageous history,” you say.

    All these high sounding values and objectives go straight out of the window when you agree to contest a flawed election for selfish person gain at the expense of the national interest of implementing the reforms and securing free, fair and credible elections for not just 2018 but for posterity!

  • wilbert

    After wasting years on trivial issues such as building the coalition, BVR kit, mobilising voters, etc. instead of the real big issues of implementing the reforms the opposition is learning the folly of it all. MDC-T are already complaining that ZEC is rigging the vote by the simple process of having more voter registration centres in Zanu PF strong hold than in opposition strong holds. Without reforming ZEC itself first, giving it a new state-of-the-art voter registration system will not stop the vote rigging.