By Whitlaw Mugwiji
There can be no doubt that Robert Mugabe’s grip on power is slipping. The so called one centre of power can longer hold Zanu PF together. Even after expelling a whole faction led by Joyce Mujuru, factionalism remains rife in the party.
Not only is Zanu PF riddled with factionalism but 2016 has also seen a rise in public discontent marked by public sector strikes and street protests. Bond notes have come, they might be able to cure symptoms like cash shortages and bank queues in the short run but rest assured they will not be able to resolve Zimbabwe’s underlying economic problem. At some point in the near future the country will not be able to finance its ever-growing import bill. Which will in turn cause high inflation, shortages of basic goods and the re-emergence of the black-market.
Not so good news for the ordinary person but in all intents and purposes a conducive environment for the opposition to thrive going into the 2018 elections. In spite of this promising prospect, the opposition in its foolishness has turned its knives towards one another.
No, we will not allow them to kick the ball into the woods (kurovera bhora musango) when the goal is gaping. Their minor squabbles will not detract us from the task at hand, change is too an important objective to forgo on account of a few inflated egos.
Whether or not to participate in 2018 elections without reforms.
As we all engross ourselves with preparations for 2018, the opposition must make its position on 2018 clear. We need to know if they will participate in the next general elections or not. What we know is that Zanu PF is most unlikely to institute further reforms. Common sense tells us, they will not reform themselves out of power.
I hope no one thinks that the opposition is capable of forcing these reforms through Zanu PF’s throat. Remember, all it took to stop the NERA demonstrations was a single police order issued by a little known Chief Superintend Newbert Saunyama who commands the Harare district.
We therefore, must expect a flawed electoral playing field going into 2018. Never the less, an election boycott is still unacceptable, a no brainer at least in my humble opinion. Timing is everything in politics. In 2013, boycotting the election made sense. Then, the opposition had leverage, even the SADC mediation team advised the opposition to boycott the election. Not only that, the world’s eyes were on Zimbabwe and more importantly, Zanu PF was in desperate need for legitimacy after the sham 2008 election. Unfortunately, boycotting the next general election is not different to closing the stables when the horse has already bolted. The boycott will certainly make headlines for a couple of months but will be soon forgotten, just like how we have forgotten crises in Burundi and Ethiopia.
A case for a coalition
If we are to participate in the next general elections, then we must draw lessons from the opposition in Seychelles and Gambia who recently won elections against authoritarian regimes in their respective countries.
Seychelles’ opposition having boycotted the 2011 elections, demanding electoral reforms, came together and formed a coalition which contested parliamentary elections this year. The coalition won a majority in the parliament for the first time since the country returned to multiparty democracy in 1993.
In Gambian for the first time in two decades, the opposition came together and formed a coalition, rallying behind a single candidate who ran against president Jammeh. They were able to bring president Jammeh’s 22-year rule to an end by re-energising their support base in the face of intimidation and other underhand tactics employed by the former president.
With this positive message coming from across Africa, that it is possible to defeat these tyrants, it is sad to hear all this bickering in the opposition camp. More so, when they all believe that a united opposition stands a much better chance of unseating a weakened Zanu PF from power. Only through a coalition can the demoralised voter be re-energised. Joining hands shows a serious intend of purpose and has the potential of exciting the new voter, creating a momentum that has been lacking ever since that election in 2013.
As I have highlighted above, I am no fan of boycotting the 2018 elections. But assuming there were no reforms and the opposition were to boycott the election, would it not be better to do so collectively under the banner of a coalition?
An indictment on Tsvangirai’s leadership
In the midst of verbal insults and bickering, great leaders have the ability to read between the lines, to listen to the words unspoken. If only Tsvangirai could listen, listen not only to his kitchen cabinet, I am sure he would hear the smaller opposition parties begging for his leadership.
The only reason why smaller parties and outsiders took the initiative to set the Cape Town talks is because Tsvangirai has failed to provide that much required leadership. If 2018 is going to mean something then he must step up and take responsibility, time is not on our side. After all the objective of the coalition is to try and rally behind his candidature against Robert Mugabe in 2018.
There are those who do not want Tsvangirai to join hands with anyone, saying the MDCT is big. Of course, it is true that Tsvangirai leads the biggest opposition party in the country but what honour is there in leading an opposition party that never gets power. History is awash with so many forgotten opposition leaders. He must be reminded that he stands to personally benefit from working with his former colleagues. Even in elementary politicking one is taught to work with their enemies to achieve their objectives. We cannot afford to miss another opportunity in 2018, its totally unacceptable considering how vulnerable Zanu PF is at the moment.
Politics is always a game of imperfect choices, decisions are never completely right or wrong but never the less they must be made. All we demand from the opposition is clarity. They must come clean with the people of Zimbabwe who have placed their hope for a new Zimbabwe in them. They must tell the people whether they want to form a coalition or not and whether they will participate in 2018 elections or not.
The people have a right to know the options on the table, 2018 is too important an election to walk blindly into.