By Jeffrey Muvundusi
GWANDA – President Robert Mugabe poured scorn at attempts by opposition parties to form a grand coalition yesterday, saying their efforts will not move his ruling Zanu PF party, which has been in power for the past 37 years.
Addressing thousands of party supporters in the Matabeleland South provincial capital, Mugabe rallied Zanu PF supporters to pour out in their numbers come polling day to give the opposition a thorough hiding.
Mugabe has been addressing well-attended youth interface rallies countrywide as Zanu PF continues to demonstrate its mobilisation capacity.
The 93-year-old veteran of Zimbabwe’s liberation struggle, has so far covered six provinces, and is now left with only four — Harare, Mashonaland Central, Bulawayo and the Midlands.
The Matabeleland South rally came exactly a week after Mugabe’s bitter rival Morgan Tsvangirai of the MDC party had unveiled an alliance of seven opposition political parties to confront Mugabe and his ruling Zanu PF party at the next polls.
Mugabe thumped his nose at the coalition yesterday, saying Zanu PF was unfazed by it.
“We are going to elections, 2018; if you come out in these numbers (the) MDC will not get anything. You will sweep everything — let us sweep everything this time and then see where they will go,” he said.
“If they want to unite, there are putting patches, zvigamba hazviite VaTsvangirai (patches will not work out Tsvangirai). But we just laugh because we really need something to tickle us at times — let them try what they can do,” said Mugabe.
A fortnight ago, at the historic Zimbabwe Grounds, Tsvangirai sealed an electoral pact with seven political parties that include formations which sprung out of the MDC in 2005 and 2014, namely Welshman Ncube’s MDC and Tendai Biti’s People’s Democratic Party (PDP).
Before the ink had even dried on the pact document, there was trouble in the MDC Alliance with the PDP denying that they were now under Tsvangirai’s party.
Some of Tsvangirai’s senior officials, among them his deputy for over a decade, Thokozani Khupe, and national chairperson Lovemore Moyo, are also digging their heels in, saying they do not agree with the terms of the agreement signed on August 5.
Khupe and Moyo were conspicuous by their absence at the signing ceremony.
Mugabe has hardly missed the opportunity to poke fun at his rivals, especially Tsvangirai, who has been his fiercest rival ever since he burst onto the political scene in 1999 from the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions where he was secretary-general.
Only recently, he lampooned the alliance as a coalition of zeroes.
Yesterday, Mugabe avoided touching on the emotive succession war in his Zanu PF party.
Instead, he spent the better part of his long and winding speech, dwelling on history.
He heaped praises on the late vice president Joshua Nkomo whom he described as a man who was committed to unity.
Mugabe then took a dig at Tsvangirai saying the MDC leader has always been opposed to the land reform programme, initiated by the war veterans in 2000.
“The leaders; some have 3 000 hectares or more when others have just 500 or less than that. That’s not fair — we all want the land. You heard people talking about (the) Command Agriculture system: We said to ourselves, after we had been given the idea by the First Lady (Grace Mugabe), after they had discussed with Vice President (Emmerson) Mnangagwa (that) we were now being mocked with people saying our (reforms had caused more harm than good), but now that breadbasket issue is over. I heard Tsvangirai saying you are taking white farms and you will suffer because of hunger, but we took the farms all the same because the farms were all ours — we fought, suffered and died for them, so we don’t expect a repeat of that again,” said Mugabe.
The increasingly frail Mugabe, who has been in power since the country attained its independence from the British in 1980, is currently struggling to keep his party united ahead of next year’s elections.
Despite the divisions in his party, which have manifested in the formation of two factions namely Team Lacoste and Generation 40, the Zanu PF leader believes his party will emerge victorious at the polls apparently buoyed by the huge turnout at the youth interface rallies.
He heaped praises on Zanu PF youth league leader Kudzanai Chipanga saying the youth interface rallies, which were a brainchild of the youth wing, had rejuvenated Zanu PF.
“Chipanga, you have demonstrated (what can be achieved) when your organisation is united — and thank God you have managed to unite the party. We thank you, you have done what the youth league was not able to do in the past,” said Mugabe.
“ . . . Youths must not give up, jobs will be there, don’t get tired of learning, we need you all the time, anaTsvangirai vakungodauka dauka (Tsvangirai and his team are always splitting),” he added.
Mugabe’s rivals have, however, pledged to put their differences aside in time for the elections in order to end Zanu PF’s rule.
Speaking at the National People’s Party (NPP)’s inaugural convention last week, Tsvangirai said there were really no differences among the country’s fragmented opposition parties in terms of their policies and thus uniting would be easy.
“I was listening to the proposals you make and I see that there is no conflict with our ideals and values so where is the problem? We can’t be divided on the basis of personalities,” Tsvangirai said to applause.
He added: “If we are agreed on the direction that we need to take, why don’t we put our differences aside and be united? We launched the MDC Alliance last week and we said we believe in the big tent and that 2018 is the only opportunity that we have as the opposition movement to defeat Mugabe . . . NPP is not our enemy and let me say atungamiri haatori nzira, (Being the first to take a certain route won’t block others from following the same path),” said Tsvangirai.