HARARE - Analysts say while it is difficult to stitch together a coherent and effective opposition coalition, it is the only way that Zimbabweans can end President Robert Mugabe’s much-criticised stay in power, in the crunch 2018 national elections.
The analysts told the Daily News on Sunday at the weekend that among the impediments standing in the way of the grand coalition were policy disagreements and the egos of the leaders of a number of opposition parties.
Still, they said, the parties would have to find a way of forging common ground if they hoped to defeat Mugabe and Zanu PF from power in two years’ time.
Senior Africa researcher at the New York-based Human Rights Watch, Dewa Mavhinga, said a grand opposition coalition had a good chance to give Zanu PF a good run for its money in 2018.
“If the grand coalition becomes a reality, then the logistics of how it operates can easily be worked out, and it can include agreements regarding how parliamentary and presidential elections will be contested.
“This could mean contesting independently at MP level, but uniting behind one candidate at national level, or even working together at both parliamentary and presidential elections,” he said.
Political analyst Rejoice Ngwenya said the history of greed, selfishness and egocentricity in Zimbabwean opposition political circles mitigated against the setting up of a coalition.
“Rather than having learnt from the brutal negotiations at GNU, opposition parties keep entrenching the ‘we are better than them’ illusion.
“The excuse that everything revolves around the MDC may no longer hold water because it is up to other parties to convince (MDC president Morgan) Tsvangirai that he needs them.
“Just perhaps, with Zanu PF on the ropes, they might fall into their default mode of violence which may be just the catalyst to incite survivalist cohesion in the opposition camp,” Ngwenya said.
He added that in the unlikely event of a coalition, there was likely to be conflict as to who would head it, in which case this would probably require external mediation for a compromise candidate.
“This candidate will then have to make a commitment to apportion Parliamentary seats on a rational, rather than proportional representation basis,” he said.
Commentator Stephen Tsoroti said he did not think that opposition political players were serious about a coalition.
“What is disappointing is that every time it crops up, the question of who is going to lead it takes centre stage. If the idea of a grand political coalition is going to succeed, the country’s political players have to think beyond positions in the coalition.
“Zimbabweans are fed up with political characters that do not think beyond themselves. They want a system that works, that can make them vote freely, that creates jobs, that safeguards their civil liberties, that feeds them, that offers a sound health system, that respects national laws,” he said.
Civil rights activist Mcdonald Lewanika said his fear was that in the 2018 elections, a weak Zanu PF — faced with a splintered and divided opposition — would still triumph.
“The opposition right now has strong personalities in (Joice) Mujuru, Tsvangirai, (Tendai) Biti, (Lovemore) Madhuku, (Simba) Makoni and (Welshman) Ncube. But these solid characters competing separately are unlikely to prevail over (Emmerson) Mnangagwa, Mugabe or (Sydney) Sekeramayi, backed by the State.
“The only way the opposition can take advantage of Zanu PF weaknesses is not to share the same weaknesses. A grand coalition is not something they can choose to have or not have. It is probably an imperative if there is to be power alternation from Zanu PF to another party,” he said.
Lewanika said Zimbabweans were used to a two-party system, and the best case for the opposition would be to have a pre-election grand coalition — not just at the presidential level, but also at parliamentary level.
“Because there is still a bit of time ahead of 2018, an organic process can be instituted which allows people to discuss and agree on principles, shared values and so on before the inevitable spectre of power is introduced into the conversation ahead of the elections.
“Of course, this maybe be a challenge and the second best thing is to get into a coalition around the presidency, if they can agree on a candidate and power-sharing formula,” Lewanika said, adding that the country’s political terrain was shifting.
“No political party should take for granted their current standing based on the past. It’s almost a new slate and to win against Zanu PF, the combined strengths of the different parties have to come into play.
“The MDC with its history of contest, the PDP with their technical acumen, ZPF with their insider knowledge, NCA with their passion and penchant for grassroots organisation, none of these parties can successfully go it alone. To do so would be to do favours for Zanu PF through splitting the opposition vote,” he said.
“Coalitions are usually easier to manage in a prime ministerial, rather than presidential system, but the Kenyan political parties have shown that such hurdles can be overcome, and this is a country whose divisions are not only political but also ethnic and tribal.
“So the opposition’s differences, mostly hinging on strategic political differences and personalities can be overcome if the actors are willing to put these aside and pay attention to the bigger picture.
“The next election will be fought and won on hope, as well as who the people feel gives them the best chance as a country to move out of the shadows of crisis,” the former Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition boss said.
“The opportunity for a broad-based coalition, which will have a multi-party government is there and the people of Zimbabwe have been amenable to such a situation of multi-party governments since 2002, according to opinion polls, as well as recent memories of the Inclusive government,” Lewanika added.
Media activist Tabani Moyo said a coalition of the opposition political parties is the most practical way out of the Zimbabwean hegemonic struggles.
“However it is not the only solution, because the people of Zimbabwe are entitled to even create a totally different movement if the current crop of political players fails to show political maturity and leadership.”
Moyo said the question should never be on who leads it for now, but defining the principles that are required to hold the opposition centre.
“A coalition can even agree on the presidency and allow for the constituencies at parliamentary and council levels to choose their own representatives but campaigning for single candidates for the presidency.
“An agreement will then be made on the positions basing on the credibility test and the possibilities of a person who is appealing to the electorate and the coalition partners.”
Moyo believes our politics have be drowned in the “politics of personalities for far too long - there is need for servant leadership and even some opposition players exiting all together the political landscape.”
Political commentator Elliot Pfebve said depending on the will of the leadership, it is possible. “There will be negotiations based on popularity and structural base. Assuming that the leaders think above personal ergo, it is possible to agree on a single presidential candidate.
“In terms of MPs a possible scenario is that candidates are free to contest each other, or that the same can happen to MP candidates where consensus can be built on one single candidate through a ballot of course. That’s my opinion.”
Human rights lawyer Dewa Mavhinga said chances become high for a grand opposition coalition to challenge Zanu PF in 2018 if there is sufficient political maturity that transcends narrow personal interests and egos.
“If the grand coalition becomes a reality then the logistics of how it operates can easily be worked out, and it can include agreements regarding how parliamentary and presidential elections will be contested.
“This could mean contesting independently at MPs level but uniting behind one candidate at national level, or even working together at both parliamentary and presidential elections.”