HARARE - Former Finance minister and now leader of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), Tendai Biti, has made an impassioned plea to MDC president Morgan Tsvangirai to move decisively on the mooted grand opposition alliance — warning that any further dithering on the matter could gift Zanu PF victory in next year’s make-or-break national polls.
Speaking to the Daily News yesterday, Biti also warned that the opposition would probably face “a different and just as difficult Zanu PF candidate” in next year’s eagerly-anticipated elections, in Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa — whom he described as a “shoo-in” to succeed President Robert Mugabe.
Biti’s exhortations come as the Daily News has recently reported that Tsvangirai is on the verge of announcing his preferred coalition partners who will take on Mugabe and the warring ruling party with him in 2018.
“Mugabe is now history. We have to talk beyond him. We have to be scientific and look beyond someone who will be 94 next year.
“And if we look at Zanu PF closely, it is Mnangagwa who has one hand on power right now and as the opposition we cannot allow someone who also violated human rights during the Gukurahundi era to lead the country. We have to stop him.
“Our failure to come together and our permanent state of fumbling, blundering and mediocrity is making Mnangagwa’s takeover inevitable,” Biti said — warning that time was running out for the opposition to work together and also press for much-needed electoral reforms ahead of 2018.
Mnangagwa has publicly denied that he orchestrated the Gukurahundi massacres of an estimated 20 000 innocent civilians mainly in Matabeleland and the Midlands in the early 1980s, saying he was being unfairly targeted for the atrocities.
“Electoral reforms and the rebirth of the opposition through a grand coalition are vital. However, while a grand coalition is necessary, it is not sufficient, the same as electoral reforms which are necessary but not sufficient on their own.
“The leadership of Nera (the National Electoral Reform Agenda) must come together with the leadership of Code (Coalition for Democrats) to discuss immediately the formation of a coalition.
“We need reforms and we need an electoral commission that is independent. If we are not going to have an independent electoral commission, let us have Sadc and the African Union to come and observe the elections.
“After all, Zimbabwe benefits from the United Nations and must not select when and when not to engage those bodies.
“We also need to audit the process of voting at every stage. We need the security of the observation process. This business that the ruling party allows certain organisations to come is unacceptable.
“The Electoral Act needs to be amended, the voters’ registration slips have to go, and we don’t want assisted voters,” Biti thundered further.
Analysts have previously told the Daily News that a united opposition, fighting with one purpose, can finally bring to an end Mugabe’s long rule, especially at this time when the nonagenarian is fighting to keep his warring Zanu PF united.
Tsvangirai has been working behind the scenes with former vice president Joice Mujuru and other leaders of smaller parties towards the formation of the mooted alliance, which has been on the cards for a while.
Mujuru, who was sacked from Zanu PF together with bigwigs such as Rugare Gumbo and Didymus Mutasa, on untested charges of seeking to assassinate and topple Mugabe from power, is seen as one of Tsvangirai’s likely key partners.
However, question marks have been raised over her role and influence in the proposed coalition following her nasty and public fallout with Gumbo and Mutasa, which recently led to her forming her own political outfit, the National People’s Party (NPP) — barely a year after she joined opposition politics.
But Tsvangirai has since given Mujuru some political oxygen of sorts, despite his being disappointed by the ructions which eventually led to her departure from Zimbabwe People First (ZPF).
On her part, Mujuru has said that she remains confident about her involvement in the mooted grand opposition coalition ahead of the 2018 polls.
“In line with our core values of inclusivity, we remain committed to a coalition of all progressive and democratic opposition forces to ensure we end the country’s autocratic rule in the 2018 elections.
“To that end, as the NPP we would like to inform our members, supporters, sympathisers, well-wishers and Zimbabweans from across the political divide that we remain committed to a democratic Zimbabwe.
“We remain builders of Zimbabwe in peace. We are the future, and we have the solutions,” she said during the launch of the NPP.
Biti also emphasised yesterday that he had no problems with Tsvangirai, and that this was “not the time to haggle on who should lead the coalition”.
“There is no issue between me and Tsvangirai. There are no differences at all. This is beyond personalities. Everyone must be there as it is time to say no to Zanu PF rule.
“We have suffered together since 1980 and we must now stop this monster (Zanu PF).
“I was in Binga recently and it was clear that the people there are suffering ... they have no right to celebrate independence because they have nothing. Places like Binga expose the opposition’s selfishness in failing to construct the grand coalition,” the pumped up Biti told the Daily News.
A large cross section of Zimbabweans, including political analysts and civic groups, have all said that Tsvangirai is the only opposition leader capable of giving Mugabe and his divided Zanu PF a run for their money in next year’s much-awaited polls.
This was further bolstered recently by former Cabinet minister and one of the caretaker leaders of ZPF, Mutasa, who said the former labour union leader was the only person “capable and deserving” of leading the country’s proposed opposition coalition alliance.
“For me Tsvangirai is the natural leader of the coalition because of who he is ... What the National Electoral Reform Agenda is today stands for what Tsvangirai and the MDC built. The rest of us are latecomers in this game.
“We want a leader who will do what we thought Mugabe would do, but failed to do, and as ZPF we want to have discussions about who should lead the coalition because when we wanted to do it while we were still with Mujuru she prevaricated,” Mutasa told the Daily News last week.
“As a party we cannot accept a situation where Mujuru leads the coalition having proved her lack of capacity with ZPF, although she is welcome to be part of the coalition because we need everyone,” he added without hiding his disdain for Mujuru.