'Grand coalition is a tough sell'

HARARE - A respected Zimbabwean civic leader has warned that the mooted formation of a grand coalition against President Robert Mugabe could be difficult to achieve because opposition parties still have differences among themselves.

Former Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition executive director McDonald Lewanika — now a Phd candidate in politics and governance at the London School of Economics — told the Daily News On Sunday that, it is too early to talk about a grand collation.

This comes as the MDC led by Morgan Tsvangirai and other opposition political groups — including Joice Mujuru’s Zimbabwe People First (ZPF) are working on a coalition.

“A grand coalition is a tough sell given the differences between parties. Coalitions result from contingent factors and strategic calculations.

“Firstly, There has to be something significant that triggers a coming together, and so far it seems the dire economic situation, Zanu PF’s weakness, and cries for unity have not been enough to bring these parties together,” Lewanika told the Daily News On Sunday, in an exclusive interview.

“Maybe Providence will provide something else that moves them to unite. Secondly, most coalitions of this kind are built around elections. Perhaps as elections draw close, if the political tea leaves show that the best bet is coalescing, it is possible the parties will thrash out a deal that sees them coming together, if they can overcome the historical, personal and ideological differences that exist amongst them.

“A better bet at the moment might be not on a grand coalition, but two or three coalitions competing in the general election with possibilities of a grand coalition if there is a Presidential run-off election.

“Talk of a grand coalition of opposition forces has been part of our political lexicon for a few years now. It remains a desirable possibility, lessons from elsewhere show that this is a necessary though not sufficient precursor to defeating incumbent regimes,” added Lewanika.

Tsvangira and Mujuru have fuelled talks that at last opposition parties could be coming together to try and bring an end Mugabe’s long but disastrous rule which is blamed for impoverishing ordinary citizens.

Last week, Tsvangirai and Mujuru sent fresh shivers down the spines of Zanu PF bigwigs when they publicly flaunted their readiness to join forces against the ruling party ahead of eagerly-anticipated 2018 national elections.

In a move that political analysts described as “very significant”, Mujuru held hands and also joined Tsvangirai during another massive demonstration in Gweru that was organised by the MDC.

And in a reciprocal development that was also variously described as “historic”, Mujuru — who was hounded out Zanu PF in December 2014, on untested allegations of plotting to oust and assassinate Mugabe — was later joined by the MDC top brass at her own rally in the same city.

Other leading opposition figures such as People’s Democratic Party (PDP) leader — Tendai Biti — want a swift conclusion to coalition talks.

The PDP leader said time was running out fast to form the much talked about coalition of political parties.

“Indeed our cry for change remains entrapped in the culpable hands of a half thinking blighted cacophony of men and women who are yet to realise the urgency and imperator of convergence,” Biti said last week.

“It is hard to imagine a period in history where all possible fatalities have converged at one point in time rendering an already morbid State helpless, hapless and awe struck…the Emperor has no clothes.

“The fact of the matter is that Mugabe single-handedly has become the prison guard arresting the country’s creativity or capacity for self-recreation and self-reproduction.

“Put simply it is now self-evident that this country can only move forward after his departure,” added Biti.

Lewanika, however, said the current delays were necessary.

“I think the delay is understandable on several fronts. First, we do not have a history of these kinds of coalitions, with prominent examples of political alliances involving Zanu and Zapu in 1979 at Lancaster and the 1987 Unity Accord, and both not being ‘electoral coalitions’ so to speak,” he said.

“Change is hard, and people tend to prefer what they already know. Secondly, we are not aware of the real strengths electorally of the different actors that are likely to be around the table because most have not participated in general elections as those entities before (NCA, PDP, ZPF, Viva and so on).

“For those who have taken part in general elections before like the MDC and MDC-T, we cannot attest to their current levels of support, and cannot judge their strength on past performance due to the lack of integrity of the results from those elections.

“Thirdly, who can lead such a coalition has been one of the major questions, possibly seeming movement.

“A lot of the parties are offshoots of the MDC-T and as a result, deep-seated hurts and grievances exist between MDC-T, its leader Morgan Tsvangirai and the MDC and its leader Welshman Ncube, or PDP and its leader Biti, The NCA and Madhuku. While some are offshoots of Zanu PF like Mujuru’s ZPF and Acie Lumumba’s Viva, making it difficult for traditional opposition actors to reconcile themselves to working with people they thought culpable in their oppression for years.”

Comments (7)

a coalition of idiots

truth - 22 August 2016

Coalition is the only way of defeating the cheating ZANU PF, opposition will pool their resources and then have as many sponsors as possible and also have observers and monitors across the polling station.

amina - 22 August 2016

The biggest mistake in the so called grand coalition is the exclusion of Zapu.Zapu is very big and commands a great deal of the Matebele vote.However, when executing such joint ventures those in charge must remember that its the final voter that needs to know.You need to embark on a serious outreach campaign to educate especially the rural folk about what a coalition means.Don't let the crowds that attend rallies in urban areas fool you because that is exactly why Zanu PF has always whipped opposition parties.You need to touch every corner of the country and leave no stones unturned otherwise you are heading for a grand disaster.

mike nada - 22 August 2016

I think its the tym for us Zimbabweans to unite and fight the so called Zanu pf

SAMAZ - 22 August 2016

I am certainly not voting for anything else but a GRAND COALITION in 2018.I am tired of an opposition that says they have a common enemy in ZANU PF but cannot simply combine forces to deal the common enemy a mortal blow.It is GRAND COALITION or nothing in 2018!!

Chikata - 22 August 2016

I agree with Mr Lewanika. My young brother Biti's party has already jumped the gun by allowing Sipepa Nkomo to declare that Mujuru is going to be leader. That a premature sentiment from a person whom people thought was mature. What is PDP bringing on the table to demonstrate that it has support? I now go along with Mr Temba's thinking, parties should hold rallies for people see their popularity. We need really political parties not briefcase ones. Mr Biti, after having exposed ZanuPF's rigging strategy of busing people from rural areas, is on record declaring that ZanuPF is an organised party which won the 2013 elections fairly, that was selling out of the highest order. He and his members are free to be members of ZPF. Supporters of MDC-T are still mourning their relatives who were killed by the govt of Mugabe and Amai Mujuru. As for MDC-T my humble advice is be careful not to tread where angels fear to tread.

Jonathiel Moyowaonda - 22 August 2016

Politics is a game of numbers simple, the leader with the highest number of followers should lead and those briefcase and office leaders with no following but their own families and relatives should not cause unnecessary confusion.

mike - 23 August 2016

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