HARARE – Forrmer Cabinet minister and leader of the smaller MDC Welshman Ncube has hinted on his preferred choice for the mooted grand coalition — telling the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) that former prime minister Morgan Tsvangirai was fit to represent Zimbabwe’s opposition in next year’s watershed elections.
Ncube ended 12 years of frosty relations with Tsvangirai, after an acrimonious split in 2005, when he signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) in April — weeks after the former labour union leader had penned a similar document with National People’s Party (NPP) president Joice Mujuru.
In an interview on HARDtalk with BBC’s Zeinab Badawi which was aired yesterday, Ncube dismissed Tsvangirai’s health concerns and suggested he was fit to run for the presidency in 2018.
“I am not a medical person to speak about president Tsvangirai’s health, but I have met him several times over the last four, five months, we have had extensive and long discussions.
“I have not gotten the impression that he is in any medical state which will hinder him leading the opposition coalition if that is our collective view that he should be the candidate to lead the coalition.
“I do not, from my interactions with him, share the medical concerns that some may expect, but I am not a medical doctor,” the former MDC secretary-general said.
Tsvangirai was diagnosed with cancer of the colon and has been undergoing treatment in neighbouring South Africa.
“What is important is that we must recognise that up until now, president Tsvangirai is the only person who has previously defeated Mugabe in an election.
“We must recognise that in the previous election, he had secured the highest number of votes.
“It is important whatever coalition we built, ensure that those who have supported him all along are able to support the collective position that we will agree on.
“I have an opinion who should be (lead coalition), but discussions are going on, it will be inappropriate for me to express my opinion on HARDtalk,” said Ncube.
Tsvangirai, who has lost to President Robert Mugabe three times, came closest to becoming Zimbabwe’s new leader in the 2008, March 29 elections in which he beat the veteran Zanu PF leader but failed to gain the required votes for an outright victory.
The results of those elections were withheld for six long weeks by stunned authorities, amid widespread allegations of ballot tampering and fraud which were later given wings by former Zanu PF bigwigs who are now in opposition ranks.
Tsvangirai pulled out of the planned run-off days before polling citing massive violence and intimidation against his supporters — leaving Mugabe to stage a one-man vote which was widely condemned by the international community.
In run-up to the sham poll, Mashonaland East had witnessed horrific violence which left an estimated 200 MDC supporters dead, when Zanu PF led by war veterans went on a retribution exercise to punish people suspected to have not voted for Mugabe.
Ncube told the BBC that the opposition was yet to decide on who leads the coalition, saying they needed to agree on its leader.
“As to who will be the face of the opposition is yet to be determined and I hope when that question is determined, we will be realistic enough to present a candidate with the capacity and following to defeat Mugabe in a realistic way, rather than an idealistic way.
“What is critical at the end of the day is to come together, by consensus; we agree who is the person that should be our face as opposition in the forthcoming elections.
“I do not think it should be about pushing anybody off the stage. We are in a national crisis which requires our collective unity,” said Ncube.
“I agree that we should be where we are, a year or two years ago, but it’s better late than never.
“We deserve the criticism that we have not acted with the speed and with the urgency that is required, but we are acting and we are moving forward.
“We are talking to each other, there are negotiators across the board who are talking to each other on a daily basis with the view to conclude this as early as possible,” he added.