HARARE - Faced with a tough by-election in Bikita West in two weeks’ time, former Vice President Joice Mujuru’s Zimbabwe People First (ZPF) is banking on the heavyweight support of opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai in the crucial dress rehearsal for next year’s eagerly-anticipated national elections.
ZPF elder Didymus Mutasa told the Daily News yesterday that his party planned to invite Tsvangirai to descend on Bikita West to address a joint rally with Mujuru, to help drum up support for the ZPF candidate in the hotly-contested constituency, Kudakwashe Gopo.
“It has been proposed that we work with our colleagues in the MDC and have VaTsvangirai address the people of Bikita along with our president (Mujuru) . . . please check with Colonel (Claudius) Makova, who is our point person, to see how far these plans have gone,” Mutasa said.
Although Makova was not reachable, other ZPF insiders told the Daily News that Mujuru was also hoping to convince Tsvangirai to join her when she addresses a star rally in the constituency next week, in a move which is also aimed at boosting confidence in the proposed opposition grand alliance ahead of 2018.
“If all goes well, Save (Tsvangirai) will join Mai Mujuru when he returns from Ghana at a joint rally, on the 14th, in Bikita. We expect the president (Mujuru) and Save to share the podium as we prepare to take Zanu PF to the cleaners come the 21st.
“In the process, the rally will also send a message to all who are doubting the prospects of an opposition coalition that we are not about to ignore the national sentiment that we should unite,” a senior ZPF official said.
Last year, Tsvangirai threw his weight behind independent candidate Temba Mliswa in the equally key Norton by-election, leading to Zanu PF suffering an embarrassing defeat.
The defeat further strained relations within warring ruling party factions which are fighting to determine President Robert Mugabe’s succession, with the Generation 40 (G40) group rabidly opposed to Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa ascending to the throne.
When contacted for comment, MDC spokesperson Obert Gutu said while they were not playing an active role in the Bikita West poll, as the party continues to boycott elections until its demands for electoral reforms are met, they were in solidarity with all progressive forces in the country.
“As a political party, we are still bound by the ‘no reforms, no elections’ resolution . . . Nevertheless, as the largest and most popular political party in Zimbabwe, and also as the de facto government-in-waiting, we are closely watching and monitoring political developments in Bikita West constituency.
“We are resolutely pushing for electoral reforms under the Nera trajectory and already, we have scored some significant victories,” he said adding buoyantly that the MDC would form the next government after the 2018 elections.
MDC insiders have previously confirmed to the Daily News that Tsvangirai is on the verge of sealing a historic pact with Mujuru and his former secretary-general, Welshman Ncube, with the resolute former trade unionist also telling diplomats late last year that he was wary of the “real prospects” of the panicking ruling Zanu PF using some of the country’s smaller opposition parties to put spanners in the works of a viable grand coalition.
His address to representatives of foreign governments also came after he recently set out clear conditions for all his prospective coalition partners — as the mooted grand alliance gets ever closer.
“Once again on this issue, Your Excellencies, you must understand that we reserve our right to determine who we will work with.
“There are about 42 political parties in the country, some of them deliberately created by Zanu PF to muddy the political waters. Some of them are not even institutions in the true sense of the word. We will do our own necessary diligence checks before we work with anyone,” Tsvangirai told the diplomats.
Sources close to the ongoing coalition talks also told the Daily News that there was now “an agreement in principle” between Mujuru and Tsvangirai about the two working together — with talks with Ncube apparently set to be concluded soon.
Tsvangirai, who commands a huge following among Zimbabweans, and is the only politician in the history of the country to defeat Mugabe and Zanu PF in an election — in 2008 — has also said opposition parties needed to field a candidate in 2018 with a real chance of winning that year’s poll.
“The presidential candidate must be selected on the basis of the best individual who can win an election for the coalition against the incumbent. The party, based on past performance and other factors, and which is the strongest electorally in a given constituency must also field the candidate for the coalition.
“The MDC is persuaded to be part a people-based pre-election pact for the reasons that we are a people-based party with an electoral history and which subscribes to the democratic principle that the authority to govern is derived from the people,” he said.
Tsvangirai and Mujuru are part of the 18 opposition parties which have coalesced under the banner of the National Electoral Reform Agenda (Nera), and which has recently scored a psychological victory by forcing the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) to include them in committees tasked with working on the 2018 election preparatory works.
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.
Since Mujuru joined hands with Tsvangirai and marched with him in 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.
On her part, Mujuru has said that the country’s mooted grand coalition — which is set to be in place this year — would bring to an end Mugabe and Zanu PF’s long rule.
“My fellow citizens and countrymen, the Zanu PF government has failed. It has shown that it lacks the commitment to implement programmes that better the generality of our people.
“We agree with the sentiments which we gathered from the interactive discussions we had with the people during our nation-wide tour. Your message was loud and clear, that it’s time for Mugabe to leave office,” Mujuru said late last year.
“We also take heed of your strong conviction for the need that opposition parties should form a grand coalition to effect change in the regime and bring about a new way that puts people first.
“As ZPF, we believe a grand coalition should not only quantify votes, but should bring our people together. It should be a process capable of fostering convergence and national healing. A process of such magnitude should also be people-driven and guided by the need to build like-minded synergies among various stakeholders,” she added.