HARARE - Former Finance minister and leader of Mavambo/Kusile Dawn (MKD) Simba Makoni yesterday became the latest prominent politician to throw his weight behind opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai heading the planned coalition alliance which will take on President Robert Mugabe and his warring ruling Zanu PF in the much-awaited 2018 national elections.
Makoni is a member of the Coalition for Democrats (Code) — a grouping of smaller opposition parties — which is also engaged in the ongoing grand coalition talks, which are reported to be nearing conclusion.
The MKD leader told the Daily News yesterday that while Code had not yet settled on who should lead the proposed coalition, it would be “foolhardy” to ignore the popularity and experience of the dogged Tsvangirai — the only politician to ever beat Mugabe hands down in an election, in 2008.
Makoni said he would like to see Code making concerted efforts to woo the MDC leader, whose party belongs to the National Electoral Reform Agenda (Nera) — a grouping of other opposition parties that are not part of Code.
“I am on record saying we need everyone, and in the case of Tsvangirai, we all know the value that he adds, having been in the opposition trenches this long.
“He is a respected leader with popularity and I only hope that other leaders in Code realise that and will also want to have him.
“The position of Code is that we would like all leaders working for change in this country to be part of the coalition that will bring solutions to the problems the country is facing,” the former Treasury chief added.
Code has not always had a solid relationship with Tsvangirai, with matters coming to a head in November last year when its members met in South Africa without the former prime minister in the government of national unity, as well as former Vice President Joice Mujuru to advance the scope for an opposition alliance ahead of next year’s elections.
This triggered a row with both Tsvangirai and Mujuru after the leader of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), Tendai Biti, made unflattering comments about the duo’s snub of the Cape Town meeting.
But speaking later, on behalf of Code, Makoni made conciliatory remarks towards Tsvangirai, maintaining that all opposition parties were working with the goal of uniting ahead of the eagerly-anticipated 2018 elections.
“We are not enough as the 13 of us, hence the need to engage others.
“We gave ourselves up to before the end of this year to come up with a structure and working strategy for the coalition. We are committed to doing what is necessary to achieve this noble objective whose time has come for the benefit of Zimbabweans.
“Nobody was left out. This is what the facilitator told us saying he made three trips here and met every one of us including Tsvangirai and Mujuru’s representatives. But each of us took a decision whether to attend or not to attend.
“Our meeting was meant to explore the prospects of working together and we hope to have engaged each other in all the areas that are necessary. Numbers are important in any election . . . ,” Makoni said then.
The MKD leader’s latest sentiments resonate with those of a large cross section of Zimbabweans, including other leading politicians, analysts and civic groups, who all say that Tsvangirai is the only opposition leader capable of giving Mugabe and the warring Zanu PF a run for their money in next year’s polls.
Recently, former Cabinet minister and caretaker leader of the Zimbabwe People First (ZPF) Didymus Mutasa praised the former labour union leader, saying he had persevered against all odds in his push for a more democratic Zimbabwe, including taking on Mugabe and a Zanu PF that often behaved thuggishly when challenged.
“For me, Tsvangirai is the natural leader of the coalition because of who he is . . . What the Nera 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.
“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.”
This week Biti also made an impassioned plea to Tsvangirai and other opposition players to act decisively on the mooted grand coalition, warning that any further delays could gift Zanu PF victory in next year’s make-or-break polls.
Biti also warned that the opposition could face a different Zanu PF candidate in Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa whom he said was a shoo-in to succeed Mugabe.
“Mugabe is now history. We have to talk beyond him, we have to be scientific and look beyond someone who would be 94 next year, and if we look at Zanu PF it is Mnangagwa who has one hand on power right now and as the opposition, we cannot allow someone who has violated human rights during the Gukurahundi to lead the country. We have to stop him,” Biti told the Daily News.
“Our failure to come together and our permanent state of fumbling, blundering and mediocrity is making Mnangagwa’s take-over inevitable,” he added.
Mnangagwa has publicly denied that he orchestrated the Gukurahundi atrocities, saying he was being unfairly targeted by his political foes.
“Electoral reforms and rebirth of the opposition through a grand coalition are necessary. A grand coalition is a necessary but not sufficient. Same as electoral reforms, they are necessary but not sufficient on their own.
“Code is already there . . . the leadership of Nera must come together with the leadership of Code and discuss immediately about forming a coalition,” Biti added.
Analysts have also 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 a time that the nonagenarian is fighting to keep his warring Zanu PF united.
They also say Mujuru, whose liberation struggle nom de guerre was Teurai Ropa (Spill Blood), and whose late husband Solomon was the first black post-independence army commander, could provide the much-needed bridge that opposition parties have been missing to ensure the smooth transfer of power if they win the 2018 elections.