IN the past week, the buzzword was “coalition”, as MDC-T leader, Morgan Tsvangirai signed memoranda of understanding with his MDC and National People’s Party (NPP) counterparts, Welshman Ncube and Joice Mujuru, respectively.
opinion: NQABA MATSHAZI
Tsvangirai has said he is going to sign more such agreements with civil society actors and war veterans.
While war veterans – or at least their executive – are seen as key players, it is important to take a step back and evaluate what they bring to the democratic table or there is a risk that the envisaged coalition will suffer stillbirth.
Since the war veterans’ leaders were expelled from Zanu PF, they have made the right noises about democracy and how President Robert Mugabe is a tyrant that the country needs to get rid of.
This has come as sweet music to the ears of all that want Mugabe out, but there has been a serious dearth of analysis of what the war veterans stand for because of this desperation to get Mugabe out that the so-called democracy activists are willing to turn a blind eye to what could cause a coalition to wobble and this could be fatal.
Because of the desperate desire to see the President’s back, anyone who says “Mugabe must go”, is immediately seen as a friend and there is little interrogation of what that person proposes in the post-Mugabe era.
The war veterans have made it abundantly clear that their preferred candidate in a post-Mugabe era is Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa and they are not willing to budge on that.
They have evoked the Mgagao Declaration, which they say paved the way for Mugabe to take over the leadership of Zanu in 1975 and they say they are doing the same now to revoke their support for him and pave the way for Mnangagwa.
In all their pronouncements, there is also a scary sense of entitlement, that because they fought in the liberation war, they should be the principal kingmakers and the rest of the country should dance to their tune.
Every right-minded Zimbabwean is grateful to those that fought for the country, but this should not give them the right to hold the country to ransom by inferring they are more equal than other citizens.
These are hardly the goals of the coalition that Tsvangirai is trying to put in place and this already sets the stage for future conflict.
Just recently, the war veterans’ leaders were quoted saying, in the fight against Zanu PF political commissar, Saviour Kasukuwere, they were willing to forget their differences with First Lady Grace Mugabe and fight in the same corner with her.
What comes to the fore is that war veterans are angry at a faction of Zanu PF for ostensibly pushing them further away from the feeding trough and cannot be genuinely calling for change in the country’s political terrain.
If Mugabe, for example, were to fire Kasukuwere and the G40 faction and pronounce Mnangagwa as his preferred successor, it is not unimaginable that the war veterans will troop back to Zanu PF hat in hand to apologise for the breakdown in their relationship.
The war veterans’ leaders, in spite of their being axed from Zanu PF, continue to make pronouncements about that party as if they still belong to it and this should be a red flag for any so-called pro-democracy activist.
By all intents and purposes, war veterans’ leaders have remained part of Zanu PF and the only reform they want in that party is for Mugabe to make way for Mnangagwa and they may not be bothered by the rest.
If Tsvangirai manages to get war veterans on his side, which will be a huge coup, then that sets the stage for conflict with another arm of the planned coalition – that is Mujuru.
Mujuru’s aides have in the past said they were not too keen on joining hands with the war veterans’ executive, as the former fighters had made it clear that they were doing Mnangagwa’s bidding – and as the world knows, there is no love lost between Mujuru and her successor in Zanu PF and government.
In this regard, Tsvangirai has a decision to make to either go with Mujuru or the war veterans’ leaders.
In the desperation to see out Mugabe, the opposition needs to be very careful of who they go to bed with because if they go into coalitions blindly, they might be set back decades and with that their only chance of ousting the veteran ruler would have gone begging.
The war veterans’ leaders could be well-meaning, but their fixation with Zanu PF, its internal contradictions and succession is toe curling and should be enough for anyone to think long and hard before calling on them to join a pro-democracy coalition.
The war veterans have been part of Zanu PF machinery for eons and it would be folly to expect them to get over their connections with the party that hastily, but if they are out of Zanu PF they ought to behave like it.
For example, Dumiso Dabengwa turned his back on Zanu PF and hardly pronounces himself on its succession or factionalism and neither does Mujuru, so if these two former senior party members can do that, why can’t war veterans do the same?
Tsvangirai, in his wisdom, can decide that the war veterans’ executive is a key cog in any coalition, but he should also prepare for heartache, as the fights in Zanu PF now point to the former freedom fighters’ man having the upper hand and that makes their return into the ruling party’s fold likelier.