HARARE – MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai has divided opinion among opposition political parties coalescing to form a pact ahead of next year’s watershed elections, as more voices come in the open backing his candidacy to lead the alliance.
While most leaders from Coalitions of Democrats (Code) and the National Electoral Reform Agenda (Nera) have openly endorsed Tsvangirai as the torch bearer, some within Code still argue otherwise.
In a statement, the Maxwell Shumba-led Zimbabwe People First (ZimFirst), seemed incensed by the idea of having the MDC at the forefront.
“MDC has always held the belief it can go it alone, since 1999,” ZimFirst said.
“They failed to push for reforms despite commanding majority in Parliament at some stage,” the party said.
However, during a Nera-organised demonstration against the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) on Wednesday, opposition party leaders jostled to identify Tsvangirai as the only person who must lead the coalition.
This also comes after former Finance minister Simba Makoni, who is now leading his own political outfit Mavambo/Kusile/Dawn (MKD) party has also endorsed Tsvangirai to lead the coalition.
Makoni, who is a member of Code recently told the Daily News that while the group has not yet settled on who should lead the proposed coalition, it would be “foolhardy” to ignore that popularity and experience of Tsvangirai — the only politician to ever beat president Robert Mugabe in an election in 2008.
He said he would like to see Code making concerted efforts to woo the MDC leader, whose party belongs to Nera.
The MKD leader’s sentiments resonate with those of a large cross section of Zimbabweans, including other leading politicians, analysts and civic groups, who all say that Tsvangirai is the only opposition leader capable of giving Mugabe and the warring Zanu PF a run for their money.
Recently, former Cabinet minister and caretaker leader of the Zimbabwe People First (ZPF) Didymus Mutasa praised the former labour union leader, saying he had persevered against all odds in his push for a more democratic Zimbabwe, including taking on Mugabe and a Zanu PF that often behaved thuggishly when challenged.
People’s Democratic Party (PDP) leader Tendai Biti has also passionately appealed to Tsvangirai to move decisively on the mooted grand alliance.
Analysts described the move as welcoming on the part of Biti, whose relations with Tsvangirai had seemingly turned frosty since the time that he formed his own party.
However, in a statement, Code chairperson Farai Mbira, said the group is making strides to engage those political parties that are outside their grouping to deliberate on the coalition.
“…some of our leaders have approached or engaged with parties outside Code to persuade them to join with the rest of the democratic forces in Code,” Mbira said. “This engagement does not imply that Code is not able to go forward but that it is our desire to go along with everybody and not leave anyone behind. Code is open to those who wish to respond positively to the wishes of the majority of Zimbabweans who want to see a united opposition.
“Those parties not yet in Code have not been excluded but that they have not yet decided to join.”
The group further said it has so far agreed on fielding a single candidate for all contested positions, which will be shared equitably between members.
“We have not settled on the presidential candidate but will do so when we have completed our engagements with all partners and potentials. Settling on a presidential candidate is not going to be difficult as each leader in Code has accepted that someone else could be chosen and none has given any conditionality,” Mbira said.