HARARE – As opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai accelerates his nationwide consultations regarding the formation of an anti-Zanu PF grand coalition ahead of next year’s eagerly-anticipated national elections, Zimbabweans are warning him to be wary of the ruling party’s dirty tricks.
The former prime minister in the Government of National Unity, who is currently on a whirlwind tour of Matabeleland, was this week told by traditional leaders and ordinary villagers that there was a strong likelihood that President Robert Mugabe and Zanu PF would use some of the smaller opposition parties to destabilise the mooted coalition alliance.
The concerns came as Zanu PF apparatchiks have lately been working overtime to discredit former Vice President Joice Mujuru, who now leads the Zimbabwe People First (ZPF) party, in what observers have described as a desperate bid to scupper Tsvangirai’s ongoing coalition talks with her.
MDC insiders told the Daily News On Sunday yesterday that Tsvangirai had been advised during his meeting with party supporters and opinion leaders in Hwange on Thursday to treat some of the smaller opposition parties with caution, as they could be used to derail his 2018 momentum.
“The opinion leaders lauded the proposed alliance of political parties, but urged caution indeed, saying some of the parties were direct creations of Zanu PF.
“However, they also expressed optimism that the alliance would defeat Zanu PF and set the tone for a new, prosperous Zimbabwe post-Mugabe in 2018,” Tsvangirai’s spokesperson Luke Tamborinyoka said.
“The opinion leaders, like all the groups and people he has met during this tour, restated the fact that the Zanu PF government had failed miserably.
“They all gave their input to President Tsvangirai on the new society that they want after the 2018 polls. The issues they raised included the continued marginalisation of their communities by the Zanu PF government, the collapsed national infrastructure that needs urgent rehabilitation and the abuse of traditional leaders by Zanu PF.
“On his part, he (Tsvangirai) said he was finding the people’s input invaluable, particularly their views on the new Zim society that they want after 2018. He pledged to build an inclusive society that would not leave anyone behind,” Tamborinyoka told the Daily News On Sunday.
Contacted for a comment, ZPF spokesperson Jealousy Mawarire said Zanu PF was “desperate” to put a wedge between Mujuru and Tsvangirai, to scuttle the formation of the envisaged coalition.
“Zanu PF is desperate to scuttle the coalition talks between Mujuru and Tsvangirai and the media gimmicks that we are witnessing show us that some briefcase party leaders are indeed fronting Zanu PF’s desperate bid to destroy the ongoing talks.
“All this and the Zanu-PF regime’s false death stories on Tsvangirai a few days ago show the desperation that has gripped this dying regime,” he said.
Insiders have previously told the Daily News On Sunday that the former prime minister in the government of national unity is on the verge of sealing a historic pact with his other former secretary general, Welshman Ncube, and Mujuru — with whom he has been meeting behind the scenes over the past few months.
Last year Tsvangirai also told diplomats that he was wary about the “real prospects” of the panicking ruling Zanu PF using some of the country’s smaller opposition parties to put spanners in the works of a viable grand coalition.
The former trade union leader has also recently set out clear conditions for all his prospective coalition partners.
“Once again on this issue, Your Excellencies, you must understand that we reserve our right to determine who we will work with.
“There are about 42 political parties in the country, some of them deliberately created by Zanu PF to muddy the political waters. Some of them are not even institutions in the true sense of the word. We will do our own necessary diligence checks before we work with anyone,” the MDC leader told the diplomats.
Tsvangirai, who commands a huge following among Zimbabweans, and is the only politician in the history of the country to defeat Mugabe and Zanu PF in an election — in 2008 — this week gave Mujuru a big lift when he confirmed that he would work with her in 2018, despite ZPF’s defeat to Zanu PF in last week’s Bikita West by election.
In the wake of that debilitating defeat, analysts had said Mujuru was now in “a weak bargaining position” in her delicate and ongoing coalition talks with Tsvangirai.
“The president (Tsvangirai) said one swallow does not make a summer and Bikita West is the swallow. It was a farcical election that cannot be used to measure someone’s popularity.
“Yes, there are some people who want to use it to undermine the coalition. However, we will not allow that because we have already decided to do a cow-horn formation on Zanu PF.
“There is a national sentiment out there that we should form a coalition and that is what we are going to do. It is Zimbabwe against Mugabe. The decision has already been made by the (MDC’s) national council that we are going into a coalition with Mujuru,” Tamborinyoka said on Tuesday.
Since Mujuru joined hands with Tsvangirai and marched with him in the streets of Gweru in August last year — in a rare public display of unity among the opposition — there have been growing calls by fed up citizens for the formation of a grand opposition alliance.
Analysts have consistently said that a united opposition, fighting with one purpose, would bring to an end Mugabe’s long rule — especially at this time when the country’s economy is dying and the increasingly frail nonagenarian is battling to keep his warring Zanu PF united.