OPPOSITION MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai has started engaging his former lieutenants People’s Democratic Party (PDP) leader Tendai Biti and Renewal Democrats of Zimbabwe front-man Elton Mangoma, as plans for the proposed grand coalition gather momentum.
BY MOSES MATENGA
Addressing journalists at his party headquarters in Harare last Friday, Tsvangirai said the two former MDC-T top officials were not being roped in for their intellectual prowess, as was the general sentiment in opposition circles, but to strengthen the coalition efforts to enable the opposition to confront Zanu PF as a unit in the 2018 elections.
“We are magnanimous. We will work with Mangoma and Biti, not on the basis of capacity, but the need to unite people of Zimbabwe,” Tsvangirai said.
“Politics is about influence — how many people believe in you — and then we begin to talk. We will leave room for discussions. Fragmentation is not the solution, unity is the issue,” he said without disclosing the nuts and bolts of the talks.
Biti and Mangoma served as MDC-T secretary-general and deputy treasurer-general, respectively, before they broke ranks with Tsvangirai in 2014 to form their own separate parties.
The duo accused Tsvangirai of being a dictator and “dismally failing” to dislodge President Robert Mugabe in three successive presidential elections.
On the other hand, in what could be seen as a major dent in uniting the opposition, Tsvangirai dismissed reports his party had engaged Mujuru’s yet-to-be-officially launched People First party, which he said only existed on paper.
“It is two years to the next elections. Coalitions are formed by political parties as institutions. So far, the media has been referring to People
First,” he said.
“I don’t know whether the party has been formed. They talk about it at individual level and people have made their own initiatives.
“Certainly, there are no coalition talks (with Mujuru) I am aware of. People wish the opposition to coalesce and work together. When the time comes, perhaps it will dawn on all political parties to have such, but for now, there are no talks. We will not fight any colleague in the opposition because we need to work together as a team.”
Tsvangirai said he had no doubt opposition parties would push for a coalition ahead of the next election, adding there was no need for a big brother attitude.
“What a beauty it will be to have two parties going for an election and that is Zanu PF versus the rest of us, and then people will have a choice and I have no doubt it will be an opposition to have that desires for change . . . people must regroup. People accuse us of being ‘big brother’, we don’t do that,” he said.
Contacted for comment yesterday, both Mangoma and Biti said they were ready for coalition talks with Tsvangirai on condition the MDC-T leader does not see himself as “the alpha and omega” of Zimbabwean politics.
“We have always said we will work with anyone with whom we have the same aspirations and beliefs,” Mangoma said.
“I put in writing issues I felt he (Tsvangirai) had to resolve and he thought otherwise. If he is now thinking in that way, Zimbabwe will make progress.
“We differ where he thinks he is the alpha and omega of Zimbabwean politics. His place for fighting for democracy will be respected if he doesn’t view himself as such.”
PDP spokesperson Jacob Mafume said his party was willing to partner with anyone on the side of democracy.
“We are open to a coalition with every well-meaning Zimbabwean to confront the myriad of challenges affecting the country. We need a solution, we need to find each other, but on terms that are clear,” he said.
Political analysts, however, warned that it was highly unlikely that Tsvangirai would reach an understanding with the two, given the acrimonious manner in which they parted ways.
“Anything in politics is possible, nothing can be ruled out. It depends on issues at hand and interests of those in the discussion,” university lecturer Eldred Masunungure said.
“Nonetheless, I would say even though that may be possible, I think it is improbable, as the things that led to their separation are still there, unless they have been resolved behind closed doors.
“I would rate it (a coalition) as low, unless they iron out their differences, which are still fresh.”
Another analyst, Blessing Vava, said opposition leaders should put aside their egos for this to be reality.
“We are tired of such stories. They should act, not just cheap talk. And I do not foresee that happening because of the deep-rooted personality differences and the inflated egos of these opposition leaders,” he said.
“They first need to convince themselves individually before they start discussions among themselves.”