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SPECIAL REPORT: Coalitions battle to oust Zimbabwe’s Mugabe

Lulu Brenda Harris

AS Zimbabwe heads towards what could be a watershed election in 2018 a lot of

theories are making headlines in the foreign and domestic media and other fora.

Chief of these is the probable candidature of 92 year old President Robert Mugabe

and the likely moves by the opposition to finally dethrone him.

An abortive 'coalition' was tried in 2013 but it failed as the opposition parties, MDC-

T led by Morgan Tsvangirai, MDC led by Professor Welshman Ncube and ZAPU led

by Dr Dumiso Dabengwa failed to agree on the leadership of such a coalition.

As 2018 looms, the opposition seems as clueless as ever on a strategy to unseat

Mugabe, and talks of yet another coalition have surfaced once again. Already there

are two formations on the ground that came as a response to calls for a grand


There is the Coalition of Democrats (CODE) of the so called smaller parties, most of

whom do not even have a seat in parliament and recently National Electoral Reform

Agenda (NERA) has come onto the scene. This agenda is fronted by Tsvangirai's MDC

who are not in CODE. Former vice president, Dr. Joice Mujuru's Zimbabwe People

First (ZimPF) is also linked to this movement.

CODE has been on the table for the past two years but has still not been formalised

through a signed agreement. Several attempts to have all the parties put to sign

have failed mostly because of differences in the leadership structure of the coalition

and selection of candidates for the 2018 elections.

What has become clear is there are trust issues amongst the parties involved; some

of which have split and yet others have seen defections by key leaders to other

parties within the coalition. Dabengwa, the ZAPU leader put it succinctly. He

complained the partners to the mooted coalition were unstable and that was

destabilising progress.

“As we negotiate, a lot of disturbances occur and whenever such happens progress

is stalled. Take for instance when Elton Mangoma formed his party right in the

middle of CODE discussions and the most recent move by Sipepa Nkomo from

People Democratic Party (PDP) to ZimPF. A series of such disturbances make it

difficult for parties to agree and move forward,” he said.

Dabengwa said another challenge was some parties like ZimPF were yet to hold

elective Congresses to institute and mandate their leadership to negotiate on their


“We also expect full commitment from the party leaders and in some cases this has

been lacking. The coalition initiative is not done for the mere sake of having a

coalition but to progress towards emancipation of the country, so commitment is

really needed. We, however, have a challenge of some who are in it for positions

and without commitment, such people are most likely to move between parties or

break away should they fail to land positions.”

To overcome these challenges, the ZAPU leader, stressed there was a need for a

unity of purpose. “As we speak, there are efforts on forming a National Transitional

Authority and it is imperative that all opposition leaders can key up on issues such as

this one to see whether or not we agree as parties.” He expressed optimism that as

2017 approaches the parties would have made progress.

“We are working at ironing out all the areas of disagreement and by year end we

will have a common ground on coalition and way forward and as we begin 2017 we

will be moving in unison and in tandem.”

As for selecting leadership of the coalition, Dabengwa said a common formula on

participation in elections will be created and agreed upon. “That formula will

address the leadership issue. A single candidate will be raised through an agreed

process and all parties will rally around whoever will be decided.”

Secretary General of MDC-T, Douglas Mwonzora, said the party was discussing with

other parties at various levels and was happy with the progress. “The approach of

the MDC-T is that we need to find convergence on issues first. The MDC-T is very

sincere because this is part of its 2014 congress resolution. We have kickstarted

convergence with establishment of NERA,” he said.

However, Mwonzora also confirmed there were sticking issues that had to be

solved. “There are some who have demonstrated seriousness. Others however don't

sound so sincere,” noted the secretary general.

He said there is nothing amiss with political parties promoting their candidates but

what mattered was that the process to choose a leader should be an objective

exercise. “For example such factors as the track record of the leader, his or her

following, the state of his or her party. Well the people will judge. However it is easy

to assess the leaders using objective criteria,” summed Mwonzora.

MDC-T was left out of CODE talks because of perceived personal differences

between party leader, Tsvangiari and his erstwhile colleagues especially those from

the original MDC. Tsvangirai finally gave in to pressure and started his own

'coalition' initiative – NERA.

MDC-T argues the country needs electoral reform as a way forward to peaceful

transition. The party has also carried out demonstrations countrywide to drum up

support and put pressure on the government to implement the reforms included in

the constitution.

CODE and Mujuru's ZimPF have been joining the NERA effort in a show of force.

These joint exercises have led to the formation of yet another 'coalition' under the

banner of National Transitional Authority (NTA).

This movement is calling for the dissolution of the regime in Harare and the setting

up of an authority to implement constitutional electoral reforms and prepare for

fresh elections.

Needless to say that this has been met with scorn by President Mugabe who argues

he was constitutionally elected and has to complete his term in office according to

the law.

A social commentator, Mbuso Fuzwayo, said a coalition for 2018 was possible and

urged political leaders to be selfless and consider the suffering masses before

clamouring for positions. “Politicians should deal with mistrust and be honest with

each other. It is not about time left but sincerity because even in a month they can

do it” he said.

Fuzwayo echoed Mwonzora sentiments and said the leaders of the various

opposition parties should agree amongst themselves on who could lead. “Once they

have agreed they have to give him or her all the necessary support whilst at the

same convince their followers to do likewise,” he said.

However, little seems to have materialised formally and talks of a coalition largely

remain informal. ZimPF Interim National Organising Secretary, Dzikamai Mavhaire,

confirmed coalition talks have just been informal.

“I think there is difference between political gestures and coalition talks. These have

never been formal discussions. If there were any they escaped us your ignorance is

as good as mine,” he said.

The party's interim national chair of information and publicity sub-committee,

Methuseli Moyo indicated that in as much as the party was committed to a

coalition, it was structuring itself in case a coalition failed.

“We have a time line we are following. So far so good. We know the people are

anxious but doing things quickly is also dangerous. On our part, we are committed

to the envisaged coalition but we are also working frantically to make get our party

ready to win in 2018 on out own in case the coalition fails. We have roughly about

18 months to the election and a lot can change in between. We want to wrap up

things when we are almost there. We are not at liberty to reveal details but we are

making tangible progress,” he said.

Former vice president in the Tendai Biti led PDP, Samuel Sipepa Nkomo who has

recently crossed over to ZimPF warned that the coalition talks could be just a farce.

He claimed there was pretence among politicians and it was unlikely a coalition

could take off.

“Some people are playing to the gallery for the sake of the media and Zimbabweans.

There is pretense about this grand coalition. We are left with one year and do you

really believe we will be able to put up a big announcement,” he said.

Nkomo noted that instead of a grand coalition, some political parties may choose to

enter into bilateral or trilateral agreements. “I don't see some of these people in

these coalition discussions as genuine. There will be a tough time negotiating and

with the time frame we are left with, one year doesn't actually mean we will put our

act together.”

He stated some party leaders had already pronounced themselves as leaders of the

mooted coalition without a consensus and that would kill the negotiations.

In all these comings and goings the underlying factor is that the opposition in

Zimbabwe is too mired in personal glory squabbles to set up a meaningful coalition

that will finally dethrone Zanu PF and unseat President Mugabe.

The question being asked is will this coalition be able to withstand power squabbles

and show commitment to the national cause? If it fails, it will come as no surprise,

as the opposition has been touted as disillusioned, weak and tainted by power

squabbles whose membership migrates from one party to another making people

lose faith.

The electorate in Zimbabwe are so desperate for a messiah that when Pastor Evan

Mawarire, creator of #ThisFlag, a social media movement that called for

demonstrations against President Mugabe, came onto the scene, people flocked to

support him.

Mawarire was able to shake Zanu PF until he was arrested for plotting to unseat a

constitutionally elected president. Although he was freed by court, he left for the

United States after claiming his life was in danger disappointing some who thought

he had betrayed the “struggle.”

Others argued that Mawarire's capability to draw support stemmed from realisation

that Zimbabweans would support anyone who came up with possibility for change.

The electorate may once again find themselves choosing from a plethora of

opposition parties to vote for instead of the envisaged coalition. Hence post 2018

Zimbabwe is likely to still be saddled with the current regime while the opposition

mulls yet another 'coalition' to unseat Mugabe. MA

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