Former Vice President Joice Mujuru, who hit the campaign trail a fortnight ago spreading the message of opposition unity, has charmed opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai and People’s Democratic Party (PDP) head honcho, Tendai Biti — both of whom reiterate that they are more than ready to work with her.
At the same time, Biti also told the Daily News in an interview at the weekend that his fallout with Tsvangirai is now a thing of the past — a clear indication that the long-mooted opposition coalition meant to tackle President Robert Mugabe and Zanu PF head-on in the eagerly-anticipated 2018 national elections is finally and truly beginning to take shape.
With the country’s economy in dire straits as Mugabe and Zanu PF show no signs of having the ideas and capacity to effect positive changes, Mujuru said on Saturday that the only way for Zimbabwe to claw its way out of its current challenges was for the opposition to work together to kick Zanu PF out of power, while at the same time re-engaging with the international community.
Reacting to the call yesterday, PDP international relations secretary, William Madzimure, described Mujuru as “a fountain of hope to long-suffering Zimbabweans”, while the party’s spokesperson Jacob Mafume rubber-stamped her exhortation that the opposition works together to remove Mugabe from power.
The PDP had a strong contingent of its senior officials present at Mujuru’s maiden rally in the capital on Saturday, where they delivered solidarity messages.
“We went there in solidarity with People First and we all need to work together as opposition parties,” Mafume said.
In his earlier interview with the Daily News, Biti made it clear that his differences with Tsvangirai were now a thing of the past, and that they now needed to work together in the interest of the country.
“We are beyond that now (grudges). Yes we had our big issues in the past … about values and principles where we differed, but where we are now we have to engage with everyone.
“So, I am ready to engage with Morgan Tsvangirai just like I am ready to engage with Joice Mujuru because that’s what people are expecting and I am going to do it if it means that we achieve change in 2018,” he said.
Biti said a broad alliance made up of all the opposition parties was the only chance of “liquidating” Zanu PF in 2018, insisting that the question of who should lead it, should not be the main topic at the moment.
“The question of who will lead is a separate debate. Let the best man or woman lead. Let the best man or woman be our face in 2018. The biggest challenge right now is how to get all of us in one room,” the former Finance minister in the government of national unity said.
“That’s the miracle we are praying to God for – to get all of us in one room, agree on a framework … The person who is going to lead and be our presidential candidate is the least of our challenges. Our real challenge is getting together and form the framework of a broad front that will take the fight to Zanu PF in 2018,” he added.
Contacted for comment yesterday, Tsvangirai’s spokesperson Luke Tamborinyoka said Mujuru’s call for all opposition parties to unite was “good news for the country”.
“President Tsvangirai has always said that there is need for all opposition parties to unite. However, there is need to start working on electoral reforms. We signed the National Electoral Reform Agenda (Nera) and we need to make sure that we achieve what we agreed as opposition parties.
We agree with her (Mujuru) on the issue of unity. People are suffering … Tsvangirai has always said that Zanu PF can rig elections but cannot rig the economy. They don’t have any solution to take this country forward and that’s why we say there is need for opposition parties to unite,” he said.
Amid growing calls from analysts that all opposition parties should form a grand coalition ahead of the 2018 elections, there has also been a strong sentiment that Mujuru, who was Mugabe’s deputy for 10 years, could provide the much-needed bridge that opposition parties have been missing to ensure the smooth transfer of power if they win elections again as the MDC did in 2008.
Recently, a respected South Africa-based think tank said the so-called Coalition of Democrats (Code) signed by five small opposition parties needed to include heavyweights like Tsvangirai and Mujuru for it to have a chance of success.
The five opposition parties which signed Code include Simba Makoni’s Mavambo Kusile Dawn (MKD), Elton Mangoma’s Renewal Democrats of Zimbabwe, the Welshman Ncube-led MDC, Zimbabwe United for Democracy, and the Democratic Assembly for Restoration and Empowerment (Dare).
However, in its analysis, NKC African Economics (NKC), said Code needed to attract Tsvangirai’s MDC, Mujuru’s Zimbabwe People First (Zim PF) and the PDP if it was to provide a meaningful challenge to Zanu PF.
“The formation of Code is an important development in Zimbabwe party politics, but the new formation has some way to go yet before it poses a realistic challenge to Zanu PF and … Mugabe. Important to its prospects would be the inclusion of the major opposition groupings such as MDC and Zim PF, in particular.
“Without at least one of these, the chances of success come 2018 will fall away. Preferably, the coalition needs both. What the development does suggest…is that the fundamentals in Zimbabwe’s political environment are shifting and the once invincible Zanu PF is shedding support at a potentially fatal rate,” NKC said.
“Mujuru,… would bring military backing and widespread support to the table … Egos and claims on overall leadership will be key issues. It would also be a consideration for parties such as ZPF whether their interests would be best served by joining,” NKC said.
However, Mujuru — who has so far held two successful rallies, in Harare at the weekend and Bulawayo two weeks ago — is viewed with some suspicion by some sections of the pro-democracy movement because of her 42-year relationship with Mugabe and Zanu PF.
But the widow of the late decorated liberation struggle icon, General Solomon Mujuru, has gone out of her way over the past few weeks to dismiss suggestions that she is in any way still connected to Zanu PF, or that she might one day rejoin the former liberation movement.
Biti told the Daily News that where Zimbabwe was at the moment, everyone within the opposition ranks was required “to seize the opportunity” of giving Mugabe’s party the boot.
“Even Kisinoti Mukwazhi should be there, even Egypt Dzinomunenzva should be there. We have to liquidate Zanu PF in 2018, go through a national transitional phase and then live to fight each other in a democratic Zimbabwe. That’s the basic challenge of the day,” he said.