By Mugove Tafirenyika
CHIVHU – Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai says President Robert Mugabe and Zanu PF are quacking in their boots about the prospects of the MDC working with others such as former Vice President Joice Mujuru to challenge the ruling party in the eagerly-anticipated 2018 national elections.
Speaking at Nharira business centre in Chivhu yesterday, where the MDC was celebrating its 16th birthday, a buoyant Tsvangirai also described the political climate currently prevailing in the country as being at “a defining moment” — predicting the imminent end of Mugabe’s and Zanu PF’s 35 years in power.
“What is needed now is for the MDC and other political parties in the country to come together because if we don’t, Zanu PF will run away with it again,” Tsvangirai told the bumper crowd that included former Zanu PF Mashonaland West chairperson, Temba Mliswa.
With Mujuru back in formal politics after her brutal purging from Zanu PF late last year, together with her close allies, the heat is on the country’s opposition to join hands and give the ruling party a run for its money — particularly in the light of the glaring lack of freedom dividends since Zimbabwe gained independence from Britain in April 1980.
And while Tsvangirai was preaching the message of a grand coalition in Chivhu, insiders in Mujuru’s People First movement told the Daily News on Sunday yesterday that the only issue left to be done before an electoral pact could be struck with other opposition parties was for the political outfit to formally launch.
Heightening the expectant mood among his followers, Tsvangirai described Mujuru’s launch last week of her policy blueprint, Build, as a “bold move” that not only confirmed that Zanu PF had truly split through the middle, but also that the end was nigh for Mugabe and the ruling party. In a brief and light-hearted focus on Mugabe’s controversial wife, Grace — who comes from Chivhu — he described her as “mad”.
“My sister from over here has said people say she is insane. Of course you are. Where have you seen a normal mature woman shouting in public like that?” he asked rhetorically to much laughter.
Tsvangirai’s wife, Elizabeth, who also spoke at the festive gathering, preached a message of unity and harmony within the MDC and among Zimbabweans.
“I want to talk about the various political parties which we have in the country. We have now reached the same stage we were in the 1960s when we said enough was enough and took up arms against our colonisers.
“All of you want to lead and you may not personally like Tsvangirai, but if you really care about people why don’t we come together. Besides, the same Tsvangirai has the people’s support. If you can’t beat them join them,” Elizabeth said to deafening applause.
Tsvangirai also paid tribute to the party’s supporters, whom he described as “strong and resilient … ordinary men and women who have been brutalised in the villages for simply believing in the idea of change”.
“As we celebrate the 16th birthday of this party, we must all take time to reflect and remember all those who have suffered for democracy, stability and progress to take root in this country. We must also take time to remember the heroes of the liberation struggle who fought for the independence of this country — those heroes whose struggle we in the MDC wish to complete by insisting that the freedom they fought and died for must indeed be lived and enjoyed by all Zimbabweans.
“But just as we remember true liberation war icons like Solomon Mujuru who came from around here, we also remember and salute the heroes of our democratic struggle who have suffered Zanu PF violence, including those who have paid the ultimate price.
“The whole country has suffered Zanu PF-instigated violence, including the Midlands and Matabeleland regions during Gukurahundi — a senseless and violent clampdown that was spearheaded by some who today want to brand themselves as reformists when we all know they are hardliners whose hands are dripping with the blood of innocent citizens of this country,” Tsvangirai said.
“These are the same people who spearheaded untold violence on MDC supporters over the years, particularly in 2008 after we had defeated Robert Mugabe and Zanu PF in an election. And among the provinces that suffered the worst violence in 2008 was Mashonaland East, which Zanu PF erroneously considered one of its stronghold areas,” he added.
Turning to Zimbabwe’s perennial political and economic crises, Tsvangirai said Zimbabweans were yearning for an end to their problems.
“There is now palpable national consensus that indeed, we must collectively define the determining moment of the people’s struggle. The vision of the MDC has always been about a united, prosperous and democratic Zimbabwe. We have had to bear the brunt of sustained attacks and violence against us for believing in that vision and for holding it dearly.
“But today, we are heartened that there are more of us with the same vision, including others who were formerly with Zanu PF. Everyone has their Damascene moment and they must be encouraged. They deserve our support for their new sense of patriotism and the realisation that together, we are bigger, better and more formidable,” he said.
The Daily News on Sunday’s sister paper, the Daily News, reported last week that Tsvangirai and Mujuru have been talking through emissaries over the past few months, to explore how they can work together to challenge Mugabe and the post-congress Zanu PF in the 2018 national elections.
While official spokespersons for the two camps were coy about the ongoing dialogue — choosing instead to talk broadly about the need for like-minded forces to work together to engender and deepen democracy in Zimbabwe — well-placed sources said depending on the progress of the talks, the two leaders could meet formally soon.
The Daily News was also told that among other meetings by various other players, former ambassador to Germany and close Tsvangirai confidante Hebson Makuvise, recently met former Presidential Affairs minister and key Mujuru ally, Didymus Mutasa, to “explore options”.
“As far as I understand, all options are on the table and the two groups are meeting with open minds to investigate how they can work together to free Zimbabweans from the yoke of Zanu PF’s dictatorship and oppression. They are concentrating on national interest and the many things that unite them, rather than those that divide them,” one of the sources said.
Contacted for comment, Mutasa said the People First movement would enter into electoral pacts with any party that was willing to do so, to remove the post-congress Zanu PF from power.
“We are ready for talks with everyone, be it Tsvangirai or Tendai Biti, because we want a coalition that can end the suffering that our people are going through,” Mutasa said.
Pressed further to say whether there had been talks between People First and the MDC formations, Mutasa eventually admitted that there had been “several” such engagements.
On his part, MDC spokesperson Obert Gutu told the Daily News that the main opposition movement “is always willing and able to coalesce with any other political formation with whom we share the same values, ideology and vision for our beloved country”. Daily News