By Mugove Tafirenyika and Blessings Mashaya
With only a few months left before make-or-break polls, the country’s opposition parties are in disarray due to the never-ending inter-party fights over issues that would otherwise pale into insignificance when compared with their desire to wrest power from Zanu PF.
It had been widely expected that the opposition parties that are in excess of 50 would unite under one leader to brighten their prospects of beating a resurgent Zanu PF at this year’s polls — the first in near four decades in which Zimbabweans will not see Robert Mugabe’s name on the ballot paper after he was forced to resign last November.
But in view of the dog-eat-dog affair among them, it is a foregone conclusion that the electoral playing field would be congested once again, with no less than five opposition leaders appearing on the voting paper.
Such a prospect, according to analysts, could work in favour of Zanu PF, which has made cosmetic changes to its leadership after Emmerson Mnangagwa bounced back from self-imposed exile to assume the ruling party’s leadership in the aftermath of Mugabe’s exit, having led the country for 37 years.
At present, two coalitions have taken shape, none of which has warmed up towards the other due to overvalued differences in leadership style and approach.
MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai – the torchbearer in opposition politics – is set to campaign under the banner of the MDC Alliance – the larger of the two, which came on stream in August last year.
The alliance has taken onboard seven opposition movements namely the two MDC formations led by Tsvangirai and Welshman Ncube respectively, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), Transform Zimbabwe, the Zimbabwe People First (ZPF), the Multi-Racial Christian Democrats and Zanu Ndonga.
Former vice president Joice Mujuru is also confident of winning the upcoming polls having negotiated an alliance last October called the People’s Rainbow Coalition (PRC), comprising four parties, namely the National People’s Party (NPP), the splinter PDP led by Lucia Matibenga, the Zimbabweans United for Democracy Party and the Democratic Assembly for Restoration and Empowerment.
Tsvangirai and Mujuru could not come under one umbrella because they both want to lead the resultant coalition. In the absence of a détente, both names will feature on the ballot along with other presidential hopefuls, among them Nkosana Moyo (Alliance for People’s Agenda), Dumiso Dabengwa (Zapu) and Elton Mangoma (Reformed Democrats of Zimbabwe).
Include other fringe opposition parties that are in the mix, you have a dog’s breakfast in the offing ahead of the crunch polls.
Opinion is, however, split on whether the opposition parties would stand a better chance of upstaging Zanu PF, which has been resisting all manner of electoral reforms to level the political playing field. Having dealt with factionalism within its ranks, Zanu PF has targeted its guns at reviving the country’s comatose economy – hitherto its greatest opposition – and is depending on the military and war veterans to roll out its command-styled programmes in the hope of breathing life into what was once Africa’s most promising economy.
Political analyst, Eldred Masunungure, told the Daily News on Monday that the opposition was in a degraded state at the moment and may not be able to put its house in order in time to cause any real threat to Zanu PF.
He said the opposition has failed to take advantage of the divisive succession fights in Zanu PF which ended with the military intervention on November 14, 2017 and now has an uphill task in dealing with a re-energised ruling party under Mnangagwa.
“Now the opposition is now in an even weaker weak state after they allowed Zanu PF to quarrel as much as they wanted without having to worry about consequences and it encouraged them to continue until they managed to renew their leadership by whatever means they employed,” opined Masunungure.
“Some opposition supporters might even cross the floor and join Zanu PF in frustration and the opposition will actually celebrate if they manage to just block Zanu PF from winning two thirds majority otherwise victory in 2018 has already eluded them. They can only look up to 2013 if they put their house in order,” he added.
Maxwell Saungweme, another political analyst, said the opposition could have brighter prospects if they could get organised and be serious for once given the false dawn that the new dispensation under Mnangagwa is turning out to be.
He said Mnangagwa’s leadership has shown negative political signs, confirmation fears that the change Zimbabweans had welcomed was just about having changed the driver without changing the vehicle and its occupants.
“They need to change strategy and focus on real issues not ‘Mugabe must go’. There are many issues they can peg their campaigns on – the economy, the legislative agenda, media reforms, corruption etc,” said Saungweme.
“But for them to advance a winning campaign, they need to be serious. They need to confront the real elephants in the house,” he added.
According to Saungweme, the major challenge confronting them is to clearly decide if Tsvangirai, with his ill-health, should be the coalition leader.
Secondly, they should do away with so many crazy coalitions and have one strong coalition of opposition.
Thirdly, they must clearly define the conditions for taking on board some Generation 40 members interested in opposition politic.
“Fourthly, they should forget that guarantors of our democracy are rich western nations with deep pockets and last but not least they should develop a cogent manifesto that speaks to issues that resonate with masses and sell this not to Western powers but voters in the villages and high density suburbs where they shun going to,” reasoned Saungweme.
Tsvangirai’s party, which carries the brightest hopes, has lurched from one disaster to another.
Its brightest prospects came in 2008 when it won more Parliamentary seats than Zanu PF but could not form the next government due to a contested presidential election outcome.
In that election, Tsvangirai beat Mugabe in the first round of voting but could not be declared the winner after he failed to reach the required threshold.
He pulled out of the run-off that followed due to widespread violence in which over 200 MDC supporters and officials died in cold blood.
Mugabe’s victory in the one-man run-off could not gain regional and international recognition, which led to the formation of a unity government between 2009 and 2013 in which he shared power with Tsvangirai.
At the 2013 polls, the MDC performed dismally after it got consumed by the trappings of power, resulting in the on-going push for a coalition.
While Mujuru had a promising start when she was invited to lead ZPF, she has struggled to find her feet after dumping the party following disagreements with its elders –Rugare Gumbo and Didymus Mutasa.
She later formed NPP, which has been rocked by a spate of desertions since November last year with many disaffected members accusing Mujuru of being captured by a small cabal seeking to push their factional agendas.
A split group has since emerged in the NPP comprising the party’s national youth chair Lloyd Masiya, deputy national organising secretary Susan Chuma, secretary-general Diaspora constituency Beulah Chavarika and secretary for Education Enock Mapanje.
Analysts had anticipated a situation whereby the opposition would take advantage of the divisions in Zanu PF, the economic implosion and the growing disenchantment over its leadership to wrest power through a coalition, but with Mugabe now out of the picture the opposition seem not to have anticipated the sudden turn of events.
In the MDC, two camps have emerged, the Tsvangirai and Thokozani Khupe factions, which are pulling in different directions with regards to the coalition.
Despite not being representative of all the opposition parties in Zimbabwe, the MDC Alliance and PRC are also beset by internal ructions over the implementation matrixes of the respective alliances.
Outside these two alliances are several other opposition parties that all fancy their chances of winning the upcoming polls.
Zanu PF has long been accusing of contributing to the chaos in the opposition by using its power of incumbency to infiltrate them with State goons whose mission is to fan disharmony. DailyNews