Alliance was strategic but poorly designed’

By Maxwell Sibanda and Mugove Tafirenyika

After successive defeats at the hands of the ruling Zanu PF party, the MDC as the biggest opposition party in the country was urged to form a grand coalition that would fight from one corner.

File picture of Nelson Chamisa and Tendai Biti in a meeting with other senior officials
File picture of Nelson Chamisa and Tendai Biti in a meeting with other senior officials

The call was so loud that the late MDC president Morgan Tsvangirai initiated the project and invited other opposition political parties to join in the big tent so they fight the 2018 harmonised elections under a single banner.

The idea was met with resistance from other opposition political parties while others embraced it, hence the formation of MDC Alliance.

The MDC Alliance included Tendai Biti’s People’s Democratic Party (PDP), Welshman Ncube’s MDC, Jacob Ngarivhume’s Transform Zimbabwe, Zanu Ndonga headed by Denford Masiyarira, the Multi-Racial Christian Democrats which is led by Mathias Guchutu and the Zimbabwe People First led by Agrippa Mutambara.

The MDC Alliance managed to garner 63 seats out of the possible 210, handing Zanu PF a sheer majority in Parliament. Of those 63 seats MDC partners took at least seven.

But did the MDC Alliance project work for the MDC and its partners?

Couldn’t the MDC have equally performed without the partners?

In the 2000 parliamentary elections the then newly-formed MDC then led by its late founding president Tsvangirai challenged former president Robert Mugabe’s control of parliament winning 57 of the 120 elected seats, with 47 percent of the popular vote while the ruling Zanu PF won 63 seats and carried approximately 48 percent of the popular vote.

In the March 2005, elections Zanu PF won 78 seats to the MDC’s 41, with one independent.

In 2008, the MDC had a total of 100 seats in the House of Assembly (47.62 percent) and Zanu PF got 99 seats (47,14), while MDC-M’s tally was at 10 (4.78).

In 2013, Zanu PF dominated the parliamentary election winning 160 seats while the MDC won 49 seats.

MDC organising secretary Amos Chibaya said the idea of the Alliance is a legacy project of the late Tsvangirai, the icon of their democratic struggle.

“Its results are there for all to see. We won the presidential vote and thanks to the team spirit among all Alliance partners. It could not have been possible without everyone pulling in one direction.

“Some of the Alliance partners (Tendai) Biti and (Welshman) Ncube are former secretaries’ generals of the party and also founding members so it was only prudent that they are back home.”

Crisis Coalition of Zimbabwe spokesperson Tabani Moyo said the MDC as known then, now Alliance is the biggest political party in Zimbabwe.

“Given the voting pattern, the rest of the opposition candidates could not pull more than one percent. This shows that this was a two man race.

“The major challenge was managing the Alliance, where in certain instances there was imposition of candidates leading to dual fielding of candidates who shared spoils and handed over votes to the ruling party.

“Secondly, the Alliance MPs in most instances were not campaigning but following their candidates to star rallies, this is an anomaly,” said Moyo.

He added that going forward, the Alliance has to mutate into a strong party building on the base gained thus far and consolidating the ground starting from now.

“So if you ask me the Alliance was strategic but poorly designed as most of the candidates sort to benefit support from the presidential candidate and failed to consolidate the fragmented ground through rigorous campaigns at grassroots levels.

“This was because the opposition itself was poorly resourced and started organising on short notice post the death of the founding leader Tsvangirai,” said Moyo.

Political analyst MacDonald Lewanika said: “Going into the coalition was aircraft known that the MDC had the numbers, but what the other coalition partners brought or bring was not numbers, but strategic thinking, technical and the perceptional value of uniting.

“As such we cannot judge the value of the MDC alliance quantitatively alone but also qualitatively — that was the value of Welshman, Tendai, Settlement Chikwinya, Ngarivhume and others.”

Political analyst Maxwell Saungweme said it will be quite unscientific to judge the performance of the coalition based on the figures from this election.

“Fundamentally this poll was rigged not only at presidency, but also at MP level, making it quite difficult to make intelligent conclusions about the efficaciousness of the alliance from this outcome.

“Be that as it may, there is evidence from the poll that the Alliance lost at least 12 seats to Zanu PF in which if you add Alliance numbers and MDC-T numbers, Zanu PF would have lost.

“Given these figures, I think the Alliance may have helped to phonologically give a sense of unity in the voter’s mind. But effectively it was more of Chamisa than the Alliance.

“If you look at rallies done without Chamisa where other Alliance principals addressed there were very few people. Juxtapose this with Zanu PF that still had huge numbers where SB Moyo and Chiwenga addressed without Mnangagwa.

“So the fact that the Alliance was centralised in Chamisa’s allure, magnetism, charisma and crowds, makes the whole Alliance idea a mirage in reality, but an alliance on paper,” said Saungweme.

He added that the numbers, if we go by them, maybe the Alliance was going to benefit from not only bringing the seven parties, but also Thokozani Khupe’s outfit.

“In this case there could have been a possibility to gain 12 more seats. So using the poll outcome, it necessary to at least gain those seven seats that could have gone to Zanu PF had Chamisa’s outfit and Biti and Ncube outfits had not coalesced.

“But more should have been done in bringing Khupe and other opposition parties. So the idea of an alliance works, when it’s a real alliance not centred on one person,” said Saungweme.

Media and political analyst Rashweat Mukundu said: “I think the MDC could have won as much on its own. But unity is necessary not only as a necessity to pull together with one message but also the perception of unity helps in galvanising the opposition base.” – DailyNews