HARARE – Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai is set to end months of frenzied speculation around the country’s mooted coalition alliance — with insiders telling the Daily News yesterday that the dogged former premier will soon announce his preferred political partners for next year’s watershed national elections.
Well-placed sources said the popular former trade union leader appeared to have made up his mind on which political players he could work with, amid revelations that he will hold a crucial meeting with his MDC executive on Thursday this week — where he is expected to first unveil his preferred partners.
This comes as former senior Cabinet minister and one of the caretaker leaders of the Zimbabwe People First (ZPF) party, Didymus Mutasa, has said Tsvangirai is the only person “capable and deserving” of leading the country’s proposed opposition coalition alliance.
Mutasa’s sentiments resonated with those of a large cross-section of Zimbabweans, including political analysts and civic groups, who have all said that the former trade union leader is the only opposition leader capable of giving President Robert Mugabe and the warring Zanu PF a run for their money in next year’s eagerly-anticipated national elections.
Tsvangirai’s planned meeting with the MDC national executive this week, also follows his recent nationwide consultative tour, where he met traditional leaders and rank-and-file party supporters — as he prepared to announce his coalition plans.
His spokesperson Luke Tamborinyoka confirmed to the Daily News yesterday that the former prime minister was indeed ready to pick his preferred partners in the opposition alliance.
“He has heard what the people have to say and now it is time to come up with the coalition. However, it should be noted that coalitions are not only with political parties, but also with other groups such as war veterans, the church and civil society.
“In this regard, the president (Tsvangirai) will on Thursday meet with the (MDC) national executive and thereafter he will make a statement on the way forward,” he said.
“Mashonaland West marks the end of the president’s listening tour which has seen him visit all the country’s 10 provinces, and where Zimbabweans have made invaluable contributions to issues related to political alliances, the 2018 election strategy, as well as the governance culture the people envision post-Mugabe in 2018.
“President Tsvangirai is more informed after his tour of the entire country. He will soon be making decisions in tandem with the national pulse, as informed by his interactions with ordinary Zimbabweans,” Tamborinyoka added.
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 a time that the nonagenarian is fighting to keep his warring Zanu PF united.
Tsvangirai has also 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 Mutasa, on untested charges of seeking to assassinate and topple Mugabe from power, is seen as one of Tsvangirai’s likely partners.
However, question marks have been raised over her influence in the proposed coalition, following her nasty and public fallout with Gumbo and Mutasa, which led to her forming her own political outfit last week, 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 ZPF.
On her part, Mujuru has said 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 last week as she announced the formation of the NPP.
But Mutasa later told the Daily News that while the proposed alliance was likely to include all progressive forces, only Tsvangirai had the support and “the credentials” to lead the coalition — completely rubbishing in the process both the capacity and chances of Mujuru leading the opposition coalition.
“For me, Tsvangirai is the natural leader of the coalition because of who he is . . . What the National Electoral Reform Agenda (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,” he added without hiding his disdain for the leader of the NPP.
But the proposed opposition coalition has had its fair share of problems with one of Tsvangirai’s deputies, Thokozani Khupe, at some point appearing to differ with her MDC colleagues on the need of having coalition partners in Matabeleland, where the MDC has traditionally performed well.
Khupe, while throwing her weight behind the mooted electoral alliance, questioned the wisdom of the MDC having to open the door to rival opposition parties in the region, when it has been dominating in the area since its formation.
“I am not against any coalition, but for me the question that we must ask ourselves is why we want a coalition as a political party.
“As a political party, when you want a coalition you will have realised a gap in your party, and as the MDC where is our gap? It is clear our gap is in Mashonaland East, West and Central where we have consistently not done very well,” Khupe said last month.
“So when looking for a coalition partner you must look for a partner who is going to be able to cover that gap . . . You can’t look for a partner who will come and disturb where you have won consistently since 2000.
“What value are they going to add? On a coalition, you must want value addition to what you already have. You don’t want someone who will come and disturb what we already have,” Khupe added.
A magnanimous Tsvangirai said, however, it was “okay” that Khupe was expressing her views, adding that in a democratic movement, “everybody is entitled to their opinions”.
“However, my party has given me a mandate to deal with the issue of a coalition and I am going to pursue it to its logical conclusion.
“Indeed, I as president am in charge of party policy and am mandated to deal with that, and what the vice president was saying reflects her opinion.
“We have already been talking to many parties and their leaders, and the fundamental issue is that the alliance must be based on respect for each other, as well as an acceptance of the reality.
“I know what the national mood is and an alliance will take place for the next election. It will be a dereliction of duty if I were to fail on this having been given this mandate. We cannot fail to have an alliance,” he emphasised during an exclusive interview with the Daily News last month.