HARARE – Opposition MDC leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, yesterday shot down Zanu PF’s “premature celebrations” and also asserted that he would form a coalition alliance with former Vice President Joice Mujuru despite her party’s crushing defeat to the ruling party in last weekend’s Bikita mini-poll.
Tsvangirai’s affirmation of his pending electoral pact with Mujuru also came as pro-democracy groups were putting pressure on the former prime minister in the inclusive government to finalise his coalition talks with her, in the interest of the country.
At the same time, analysts who spoke to the Daily News yesterday said Tsvangirai’s confirmation of his commitment to work with Mujuru, which came days after her Zimbabwe People First (ZPF) suffered a heavy defeat in the Bikita West by-election, would send fresh shivers down the spines of President Robert Mugabe and his warring Zanu PF bigwigs — who had started celebrating, thinking that this would smother the mooted opposition alliance.
“The president (Tsvangirai) said one swallow does not make a summer and Bikita West is the swallow. It was a farcical election that cannot be used to measure someone’s popularity,” Tsvangirai’s spokesperson, Luke Tamborinyoka told the Daily News.
“Yes, there are some people who want to use it to undermine the coalition. However, we will not allow that because we have already decided to do a cow-horn formation on Zanu PF.
“There is a national sentiment out there that we should form a coalition and that is what we are going to do. It is Zimbabwe against Mugabe.
“The decision has already been made by the (MDC’s) national council that we are going into a coalition with Mujuru … and since the president is the one negotiating for the coalition, he is gathering views from the people so that when he negotiates he does so from an informed position,” Tamborinyoka added.
“Communities are giving the thumbs up to the proposed alliance of opposition parties, expressing hope that the new government will deal with the interests and concerns of ethnic minorities such as the Tonga people.
“They are welcoming the alliance of opposition parties and the creation of a common front in 2018, saying it gives them hope that this time around, Zanu PF will be consigned to the dustbins of history,” he added.
Tamborinyoka spoke as Tsvangirai has been on a whirlwind tour of Matabeleland, where he has been consulting his supporters about the mooted grand opposition alliance which analysts say presents the country with the best opportunity to end Zanu PF’s misrule in the much-awaited 2018 national elections.
Tsvangirai’s confirmation of his commitment to an opposition alliance also comes as Mujuru and her fledgling ZPF party are still smarting from a crushing defeat that they suffered at the hands of Zanu PF in last Saturday’s Bikita by-election.
Since Mujuru joined hands with Tsvangirai and marched with him on the streets of Gweru in August last year — in a rare public display of unity among the opposition — there have been growing calls by fed up citizens for the formation of a grand opposition alliance.
Tsvangirai, the only opposition leader to have defeated Mugabe in a poll, has been holding secret talks with Mujuru and leaders of other smaller opposition parties to form the much-talked about pact which they say will be in place before the end of the year.
But following ZPF’s drubbing in Bikita West, pro-democracy groups have ramped up their calls for opposition parties to move with speed to finalise their talks.
Meanwhile, in a statement on Monday, Mujuru said the results of the Bikita West by-election, in which her candidate Kudakwashe Gopo polled poorly, had still demonstrated that ZPF was minimally set to eat into Zanu PF’s support base in the eagerly-anticipated 2018 national polls.
The statement came after analysts had said, in the wake of ZPF’s heavy shellacking in the mini-poll, that Mujuru was now left with “a huge mountain to climb” regarding her capacity to defeat Mugabe and his warring ruling party in next year’s elections.
ZPF was participating in its first elections, since it was launched last year, with political analysts saying ahead of the Bikita poll that it would provide a litmus test for Mujuru.
Political analysts were also in agreement yesterday that in the wake of the Bikita West carnage, the opposition needed to finalise their coalition quickly, with Tsvangirai leading it.
“(Tsvangirai) is the best foot forward, no doubt about that. But he must be magnanimous, crafty, humble and inclusive in the manner in which he approaches the coalition talks,” said civic leader Gladys Hlatywayo.
“The situation requires astute leadership that is able to remain focused on the end-game and rise above petty differences of yester years. It equally requires effectively dealing with internal discontent and the divisive politics of positions,” she added.
Phillan Zamchiya, an Oxford scholar, said Tsvangirai and Mujuru needed to broaden the coalition, as well as mobilise and register new voters.
“As 2018 approaches, how one of Zimbabwe’s battle-hardened politicians, Tsvangirai, will position his party and interests — visa-a-vis the growing inter-party cry to retire Mugabe — will be very important,” Zamchiya told the Daily News.
“Uniting his party and building inclusive alliances, not only for the numbers, but for de-securitisation, democratisation, de-politicisation and de-escalating violence in the rural sector will be critical in unlocking and harvesting the rural vote.
“Some of the potential partners might even be located in Zanu PF,” he added.
The director of the Zimbabwe Democracy Institute, Pedzisai Ruhanya, said the outcome of the Bikita by-election was a wake-up call to the opposition.
“The Bikita by-election outcome has a bigger story. Unless there are tectonic shifts in opposition politics and their tomfoolery and kindergarten behaviour, with or without Mugabe, Zanu PF will be in charge after 2018.
“The idea of cherry-picking coalition partners and excluding others will result in a huge electoral defeat. Tsvangirai, (Tendai) Biti, (Lovemore) Madhuku, Mujuru, (Welshman) Ncube, (Simba) Makoni, (Dumiso) Dabengwa et al are all needed to put their numbers and ideas together to confront the system.
“Magnanimous leadership is required in this interregnum. There is no room for politics of positions. We need to agree that opposition is in a position of weakness, hence the need to coalesce,” Ruhanya said.
Analysts have consistently said that a united opposition, fighting with one purpose, would bring to an end Mugabe’s long rule — especially at this time when the country’s economy is dying and the increasingly frail nonagenarian is battling to keep his warring Zanu PF united.