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Opposition politicians must swallow pride and agree a coalition

By Benjamin Semwayo

As efforts to forge a grand coalition against Zanu PF are gradually taking root it is prudent that we take a look at this notion and consider the circumstances under which it can become a reality. The idea of the coalition was mooted decades ago and successive attempts have been made to transform it into reality but its implementation has been elusive for a variety of reasons.

Morgan Tsvangirai and Joice Mujuru seen here in Gweru
Morgan Tsvangirai and Joice Mujuru seen here in Gweru

Mugabe has remained in power for nearly four decades now despite being one of the world’s most hated leaders because in addition to rigging elections and unleashing an endless reign of terror and state-sponsored violence, he conveniently uses divide-and-rule tactics to quell meaningful opposition. The opposition parties have not helped matters by failing to organise themselves into one formidable front to confront ZanuPF head-on and achieve the victory that has evaded it for so long.

One thing that has stood in the way of the grand coalition is the egos of the opposition party leaders. They are all deluded and each one of them claims to be the leader of Zimbabwe’s biggest political party. There can only be one biggest opposition political party and all these leaders are not being honest with themselves and, more importantly, with the people of Zimbabwe.

Opposition politicians are not prepared to work under political parties that are bigger than theirs and the result of that stance is that the entire opposition movement is hamstrung and cannot make any headway in whatever goal they set for themselves. They all selfishly feel that if they do not become the next President of Zimbabwe then Mugabe might as well continue to rule. They are jealous of the success of other politicians and will not give credit where it is due.

What is further complicating the matter is the fact that the leaders are all pointing fingers accusing other leaders of having huge egos even when it is common knowledge that they themselves have huge egos.

As Eldred Masusningure fittingly asserts, there are big names such as Mangoma and Biti who accuse others of having big egos when that description best suits them. Other divisive politicians are people like Dabengwa and Madhuku, who know that they have no chance of winning an election but insist on laying down difficult demands.

This is the galling reality that Zimbabweans must face until sanity prevails in opposition politics. The sad thing is that while the setting up of a grand coalition in Zimbabwe is not an unattainable goal some opposition leaders are making it seem so by laying down impossible conditions, such as wanting to be its leader.

There has to be rational criteria for the selection of the coalition leader. As one political writer suggested, all we need to do is to begin by identifying Zimbabwe’s biggest opposition political party then encourage the other parties to coalesce around it.

There is consensus among political analysts that MDC-T is the biggest political party in Zimbabwe. A survey conducted by Zimeye revealed that the party is so strong that it is poised to win the 2018 election even if it is not in a coalition with other political parties. In October 2016 during celebrations to mark the MDC-T’s 17th anniversary Dzikamai Mavhaire and Temba Mliswa endorsed Tsvangirai as best placed to lead the coalition.

Opposition politicians need to acknowledge that it is not for nothing that Tsvangirai claims to enjoy massive support. That support exists and is plain for all to see. One needs only look at the crowds that Tsvangirai draws at his rallies and the active structures that his party has on the ground. 

Another testament to Tsvangirai’s political stature is the way he is acknowledged by other African Heads of State. In a clear snub to Mugabe, Tsvangirai was invited to the inauguration of Ghanaian President-elect, Nana Akufo-Addo, clearly giving him Head-Of-State status. The President of Botswana, Ian Khama, brazenly reveres Tsvangirai. Many other international leaders have endorsed him.

Any attempts to deny him credit for what he has is injudicious denial and will only succeed in furthering Mugabe’s causes. All anti-ZanuPF politicians need to learn from the examples of Welshman Ncube, Job Sikhala, Simba Makoni, and Paul Madzore who made up their minds to bury the hatchet and work with Tsvangirai.

One way in which the issue of the leader of the grand coalition could be decided is the commissioning of an opinion poll to gauge the support each party enjoys. This can be done through organizations such as the Mass Public Opinion Institute of Zimbabwe or Gallup or other such bodies. The results could then be used not only to decide who heads the coalition but also which party fields a candidate in which constituency.

Opposition politicians should endeavour to ensure that their actions are motivated by a selfless spirit and that they are driven by the best interests of the country. The longer they put self-interests before national interests the longer the people will suffer.