Unless your name is ROBERT MUGABE,you are bound to really sympathise with the state of affairs in Zimbabwe’s opposition ranks.
It wasn’t just losing last year’s election that dealt a
knock-out blow to Zimbabwe’s main opposition
groups, in particular Morgan Tsvangirai’s Movement
for Democratic Change faction (MDC-T); it was how
the election was lost, by such a wide margin that
even if Zanu-PF had rigged the elections – and we’re
not saying they did, although we have our suspicions
– it did not need to.
Look at it this way: despite everything that Robert
Mugabe has done, despite the economic calamities
he has presided over and the steady erosion of basic
rights he has legislated, a majority of Zimbabweans
would rather have Mugabe and his henchmen in
charge than trust in any of the alternatives.
For Morgan Tsvangirai, this realisation must be a
particularly bitter pill.
The veteran opposition leader,
now 62, came as close as anyone has to unseating
Mugabe from his presidential throne in those
disputed elections in 2008.
But by hook and by
crook, Mugabe clung on to power, forcing Tsvangirai
into an unhappy power-sharing arrangement that
kept real power in Zanu-PF hands.
This proved to be
Tsvangirai’s eventual undoing: tainted by his
association with Mugabe, and perhaps distracted by
affairs of state (not to mention affairs of the heart –
Tsvangirai’s messy love life generated huge
publicity, almost all of it negative), Tsvangirai and his
party drifted into the 2013 elections, where they
were walloped by a well-organised and highly-
The other main MDC faction, led by Welshman
Ncube, fared just as poorly; even losing out to the
MDC-T in its traditional Bulawayo stronghold.
Since the election, things have gone from bad to
worse for the opposition. MDC-Ncube has been
weakened by several high-profile defections, as has
MDC-99, yet another MDC faction.
Meanwhile,Tsvangirai has been battling an internal revolt as a
group of disgruntled party members seek to replace
him. So far, he’s held on to power, but the rebel
group is getting larger and louder with every passing
“Those opposed to ZANU PF are in disarray,”
concluded David Coltart, a former MDC-Ncube
senator and education minister in the government of
national unity. “There a plethora of opposition
parties, many of whom have similar policies and it
appears the only reason for them all is because of the
‘big man syndrome’. There is very little willingness
amongst opposition leaders to take a subordinate
role in the national interest and that has resulted in
far too many parties and the resultant splitting of the
vote. However, it would be wrong to say that those
opposed to Zanu-PF tyranny have lost all fight.
Zimbabwe is in such a dreadful state that there is
more reason than ever for opposition to Zanu-PF rule
and there are plenty with a lot of fight left in them.”
Coltart’s attempt at optimism is laudable, but the
truth is that the chaos in the opposition ranks is
simply playing into Zanu-PF hands.
“The net effect of
what is happening in the opposition ranks is that
voters are fast losing confidence in its ability to put
up a strong front to Zanu-PF in 2018,” said Ray
Ndlovu, a Zimbabwean journalist who writes for the
Mail & Guardian and Business Day.
Ndlovu points out
that the chaos within the opposition ranks allows the
ruling party to get away with poor governance and
service delivery, as it is not being effectively
“It therefore is important that the
opposition buries the hatchet and seriously looks into
some form of unity pact–as this is a matter of
survival, not only for the individual opposition
political parties but for the greater good of opposition
politics in Zimbabwe.”
For Ndlovu, Tsvangirai remains a pivotal figure.
“I don’t think this is the end for Morgan Tsvangirai. He
still enjoys unmatched support from the grassroots
and any pretenders to the throne will have to grapple
with winning over the grassroots, who at the end of
the day are the ones who cast the vote. The struggles
in the MDC are taking place at the upper levels of the
party and not at the grassroots and this is
Tsvangirai’s saving grace, he can go back to his
supporters and say his version of events and they
buy into that and continue supporting him.”
Despite his residual support, holding on to Tsvangirai
would probably be a mistake.
For all his undoubted
bravery and commitment to the cause, he has proven
himself over the years to be a divisive figure, and not
immune to the temptations of power (he altered his
party’s constitution to give himself a third term as its
head – not exactly a promising sign).
He’s also shown
he’s out of fresh ideas.
Whatever he is saying, it’s
clearly not resonating with voters any more.
But if Tsvangirai must stay – and let’s be honest, he
doesn’t look like he’s going anywhere –
Zimbabweans opposed to Mugabe should learn from
the example of Nigeria, where a new coalition of
prominent opposition figures is putting up a serious
challenge to President Goodluck Jonathan’s ruling
People’s Democratic Party.
Realising no one can
defeat the PDP on their own, Nigeria’s opposition has
adopted a big tent approach – and, provided it can
keep all those ‘big men’ happy and untangle all their
conflicting policies, it has a real chance of upsetting
Jonathan’s 2015 re-election bid.
This approach requires real sacrifice and compromise
on behalf of opposition leaders.
current crop have what it takes to put aside their
differences for the greater good?
Or, come 2018, will
Zimbabweans still choose the familiar faults of Zanu-
PF over the infighting and unpredictability of the
In retrospect,it is easy to draw pararrels of the Zimbabwe case for Kenyan opposition icon Mr. Raila Odinga,Kenya’s Former Prime minister in a similar coalition government formed out disputed general election results in 2007 and 2013m.
I think it is true to say that coaltion government in Africa between winners and losers in disputed elections is almost likely to be the graveyard of accomondated election losers in subsequent elections.
The proponent of this type of government,one Mr.Koffi Annan seems to have concoted a lethal experiment more so for opposition party candidates and has resulted in weakened opposition which is thrown into dissaray after the expiry date of these coalition.
There is no middle path for democracy in african nations in as far as co-opting losers in disputed elections is concerned,or so it seems from these two failed experiments.
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