Opposition must learn from past mistakes

HARARE - Charles Maurice de Talleyrand’s remarks on the behaviour of the Bourbon monarchy after their restoration following their ouster during the French Revolution seem to aptly apply to opposition politics in Zimbabwe.

Talleyrand is famously quoted after the first fall of Napoleon Bonaparte in 1814 and restoration of the French monarchy under Louis XVIII.

He felt they had “learnt nothing” about why one of their predecessors had been the only French king (Louis VI) ever executed at the start of the French Revolution and they “had forgotten nothing” about their appalling conduct which had helped to spark the revolution in the first place.

After going into the trenches against Zanu PF around the turn of the millennium, one would have thought Zimbabwean opposition political parties, especially the Morgan Tsvangirai-led MDC, were now well aware of the ruling party’s modus operandi as Zimbabwe inches towards yet another election in 2018.

Indeed they seem to “have learnt nothing and forgotten nothing”. The five years they spent in a shaky unity government with President Robert Mugabe, Tsvangirai’s MDC — together with the smaller faction led by Welshman Ncube — failed to take advantage of their time in the unity government to fight for key reforms they are now clamouring for.

Zanu PF is very good at its game and has all these years been working to perfect their modus operandi. There is no denying that they are very good at ambushing their rivals and current goings-on point to the fact that Mugabe may proclaim election dates earlier than expected.

It is obviously very difficult to tell what Mugabe is going to do next but perhaps what is playing out seems to be fears over his health and age.

Keen observers of Zimbabwe’s political trends seem to point to the fact that Africa’s oldest leader, and the only one Zimbabweans have known since independence from the British, may want to contest the elections and then hand over power to his preferred successor after the 2018 polls.

This can only be guaranteed if he continues playing one faction against the other between, on the one hand, the Generation 40 — fronted by Jonathan Moyo, Saviour Kasukuwere and Mugabe’s nephew, Patrick Zhuwao — who are rabidly opposed to Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa taking over the reins from Mugabe and Team Lacoste who prefer to have the Midlands godfather post-Mugabe.

Today, Zanu PF seems to enjoy the haggling in opposition parties over who should lead the mooted grand coalition with the two main players, Tsvangirai and former Vice President Joice Mujuru apparently signalling different intentions.

Perhaps what the opposition might have been doing now is to reach out to the electorate selling their ideas so that come 2018, they can claim a victory that has been elusive since 2000.

Economic conditions in the country, meanwhile, reflect a tired Zanu PF that has run out of ideas to turn around the fortunes of the country, which has hopped from one crisis to the other over the past 37 years.

This could have provided the opposition with pertinent campaign cards.

However, they do not seem to be thinking along those lines as they spent valuable time seeking electoral reforms they have been told may not come at all.

Mugabe has a clear advantage over the opposition — the power of incumbency — which allows him access to State apparatus as well as resources. There is no way he will implement reforms that will give the opposition leverage to elbow him out of power.

The opposition must accurately read the political barometer and possibly even come up with scenarios Zanu PF may want try out.

Victory in elections can only be ensured through winning over the voters, a phenomenon the MDC and its colleagues in the opposition do not seem to accept.

Opposition politicians must wake up and smell the coffee.

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