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Zimbabwe opposition seeks alliance to send Mugabe home

Thursday April 20 2017

Zimbabwe's opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai delivers a speech in Harare on January 24, 2014. PHOTO : JEKESAI NJIKIZANA | AFP

Zimbabwe's opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai delivers a speech in Harare on January 24, 2014. PHOTO : JEKESAI NJIKIZANA | AFP  

By KITSEPILE NYATHI
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HARARE

After three failed to attempts to dislodge Africa’s oldest ruler, Zimbabwe’s veteran opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai is convinced he has finally found the formula to send President Robert Mugabe to retirement.

Mr Tsvangirai, a former trade unionist, will face the 93-year-old ruler for the fourth time in presidential election next year, and unlike in previous polls, he has started his campaign early.

He has been working on building a coalition of opposition parties that would bring all President Mugabe’s opponents together and this would make 2018 the most anticipated poll in Zimbabwe’s history.

The former Prime Minister believes an opposition coalition would give Zimbabweans, especially the youth, a reason to take part in the polls as voter apathy has in the past played into the veteran ruler’s hands.

CALL FOR ALLIANCE

“We want an alliance that will address the apathy in the country, especially among the young voters, and to ensure that the possibility of victory is assured before we even go into that election,” he said.
“That is going to be a game changer.”

Mr Tsvangirai recently concluded a nationwide tour to consult his Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) supporters on the proposed coalition and it appears his mind was already made about joining hands with former Vice-President Joice Mujuru and her newly-formed National People’s Party (NPP).

Mrs Mujuru was fired from both the ruling Zanu-PF party and government in 2014 after she was accused of plotting to topple President Mugabe.

She has since become an attractive partner for the opposition parties seeking an alliance because of her liberation war history and the belief that she still enjoys some form of support in the security forces.

Her husband, the late General Solomon Mujuru, was Zimbabwe’s first black army commander and was considered a power broke in the ruling party.

BLACK ARMY COMMANDER

Top security commanders have publicly challenged Mr Tsvangirai’s presidential ambitions, saying he had no liberation war record and that he was too close to Western countries.

An alliance with Mrs Mujuru, which the MDC leader is convinced, was now close to becoming a reality, would help win over the doubting Thomases, some observers say.

“It is too early yet (to comment on the coalition with NPP, but I can tell you that it is a process that has been fully endorsed by my party and I have been given the sole mandate to ensure that an alliance for the opposition succeeds; I can tell you that it will succeed,” Mr Tsvangirai added.

“I am not at liberty to reveal (the nature of the negotiations) because we have made a commitment that we will not negotiate in the media.

“Much as we would like the media to cover these stories, I always think it is something instructive that you do not negotiate in the media.”

UNITED FRONT

On the other hand, Mrs Mujuru has been speaking more confidently about prospects of a united front against President Mugabe in the next elections, indicating that a deal between the major opposition parties was imminent.

“Like what I have said already, from what you have heard from Mr Tsvangirai that he is ready to work with us and that even from our side, we are also ready to work with other democratic forces that are ready to work with us,” she told The Standard newspaper recently.

“Right now, it is MDC we are talking to on a bilateral basis but we also have many more that we are talking to.

Mrs Mujuru added: “So for 2018, we are sure the democratic forces will be ready to work together because the enemy we are facing is one.

“We are not enemies amongst ourselves as opposition parties.

BRIDGE GAPS

“We know what the Zimbabwean people are aiming to have at the moment, so our focus is to bridge the gaps that separate us so that come 2018, which is very close, we will pull together,” she said.

While the gap between Mr Tsvangirai and Mrs Mujuru’s parties was narrowing, they were viewed with suspicion by smaller parties who have since formed their own alliance known as the Coalition of Democrats (Code).

Code, which has among its ranks parties led by former Finance ministers Simba Makoni and Tendai Biti as well as former Industry minister Welshman Ncube, has over a dozen parties.

It also shares the belief that a divided opposition would be a gift to Zanu-PF in next year’s elections.