FORMER Vice-President Joice Mujuru yesterday pledged her unwavering commitment to the proposed grand coalition with fellow opposition leaders including MDC-T president Morgan Tsvangirai, brushing aside recent conflicting statements by her deputy Samuel Sipepa Nkomo, as a sign of “robust and health discourse of super democrats”.
BY RICHARD CHIDZA/NUNURAI JENA
Mujuru, through her National People’s Party (NPP) spokesperson Gift Nyandoro, urged other opposition leaders not to be swayed by recent remarks attributed to Sipepa Nkomo, who was quoted last week as suggesting that Tsvangirai was a failed politician and unsuitable to lead the coalition.
The remarks by the NPP deputy president reportedly triggered a fierce storm among opposition parties and threatened to derail coalition talks as the statements were widely viewed as representative of Mujuru and her
entire team’s line of thinking.
The latest fissures came a few weeks after Mujuru and Tsvangirai signed a memorandum of understanding paving the way for the proposed grand coalition which is expected to field a single presidential candidate to challenge President Robert Mugabe in next year’s do-or-die elections.
Tsvangirai has also signed a similar deal with MDC leader Welshman Ncube and is set to ink another coalition pact with People’s Democratic Party leader Tendai Biti.
Nyandoro said the groundwork was already laid to seal the coalition deal and no amount of sideshows would derail the process. He, however, could not disclose whether Mujuru would rein in her deputy.
“Any assumption or suggestion that Dr Mujuru could quit or dump coalition talks is far divorced from reality. She remains committed to the coalition discourse and the grand 2018 projection that democracy should return to the country,” he said.
“The diverse political posturing that may appear as conflicting statements by members across the divide is a clear reflection of the robust and healthy discourse of super democrats. It is reflective of individual preferences and not of the institutions,” he said.
Contacted for comment yesterday, Sipepa Nkomo made a volte-face, saying: “I never said Tsvangirai is a failure. My intention was to address concerns of our membership who felt that because the MoU was signed at Tsvangirai’s house we were being swallowed as a party.
“It was the MDC-T members, who, after the MoU, began declaring that Tsvangirai would lead the coalition. We wanted to put things at an equal footing. We are negotiating and when the time comes, a criterion will be set that those willing to lead would be judged by,” Sipepa Nkomo said.
Tsvangirai’s spokesperson Luke Tamborinyoka refused to discuss the issue when asked if there had been any interaction between the MDC-T leader and Mujuru in the aftermath of Sipepa Nkomo’s gaffe.
“It would be a violation of the memorandum of understanding that we signed. I cannot be of help on that. I cannot say anything,” Tamborinyoka said.
Nyandoro also revealed that the two opposition parties had set up negotiating teams to craft finer terms of the pre-election agreement.
“For the record, Dr Mujuru is [National Electoral Reform Agenda] Nera’s head of the political committee which demonstrates practical participation and commitment to the broader democratic agenda.
“Secondly, technical and strategic teams of all progressive forces are working together behind the scenes to ensure that the coalition project comes to fruition,” Nyandoro said.
He added: “We should, therefore, never mistake healthy internal discourse and debate for failure of the coalition.
Any prophets of doom praying for the failure of the project should think twice before embarking on such a futile exercise. The coalition is a reality that Zimbabweans want.”
Zimbabwe’s history of violent and fraud-riddled elections has eroded public trust in voting, but the coalition leaders hope a unified alternative to Mugabe will produce a high turnout that would make it harder to rig the result.
“For us, it is the more the merrier in this opposition alliance. This is a coming-together in great numbers as a democratic force that should give confidence to our people,” Mujuru told AFP last week.
But critics say Tsvangirai’s political sway was too narrow to build a truly broad anti-Mugabe movement that would include churches, civil action groups and radical activists behind last year’s surge of street protests.
“There is little doubt that Morgan should be the leader, the issue is on what grounds the support comes from others,” said Ivor Jenkins, of the In Transformation Initiative, the South African pro-democracy group that is aiding talks among the opposition.
“The game-changer might be the realisation that this could be their last chance. If they don’t take it, there are many years of bigger chaos ahead.”
Meanwhile, State security agents in Mashonaland West on Saturday reportedly attempted to block Mujuru from interfacing with traditional leaders in Hurungwe district.
Sources said Mujuru later outmanoeuvred them and separately met Chiefs Chanetsa, Nematombo and Dendera.
But, Nyandoro said he was unaware of Mujuru’s visit to Mugabe’s home province.