Many people have argued that National People’s Party (NPP) leader and former Vice-President Joice Mujuru should support a Morgan Tsvangirai-led MDC-T coalition because the opposition leader has the numbers compared to Mujuru. Tsvangirai poses the greatest threat to Zanu PF, he is more experienced in the opposition camp, his party has roots in Zimbabwean society, and that his party is better organised in terms of internal functioning.
guest column: MOSES TOFA
These reasons have to do with comparing Mujuru and Tsvangirai and, by extension, their political parties. I depart from this “comparative analysis” by focusing on why it is good for Mujuru to support a Tsvangirai-led coalition.
First, Mujuru should support a Tsvangirai-led coalition in order to build electoral trust in her credentials as an opposition cadre. Being a former Zanu PF stalwart, Mujuru came into the opposition trenches with a tainted and hated past. To make this worse, Mujuru did not leave Zanu PF on the basis of irreconcilable principles.
Instead, she was sacked on the basis of many allegations, including that she wanted to oust Mugabe. There is not a vestige of doubt that had it not been that she was sacked, she could have been in Zanu PF. Her case is different from those of people such as the late Edgar Tekere and Nkosana Moyo. The former was sacked because of his criticism of corruption, the one-party State agenda, and authoritarian politics in general. The latter resigned under unclear circumstances, but he claims that he differed with the policy and other directions which the country was taking. Although these claims could still be doubted, at least there is something to say about the principles of these two.
Mujuru is an odd case. I watched a video in which an angry and bitter citizen narrated to Mujuru how his mother was killed by Zanu PF thugs. He proceeded to ask her the hard question that what should make him trust her as an opposition cadre when all forms of atrocities were committed by Zanu PF under her watch. Mujuru has been asked similar questions, including on television programmes across the world.
Her responses to these questions have been far from convincing. My advice to Mujuru is that the question of trust can never be completely answered via words, no matter how hard she may try to explain, of which she has already proved incapable of explaining. It is a question which is best answered through the credible political steps which she takes going forward.
What it means is that she needs double effort in order to dispel the perceptions that she is either a Zanu PF project or an opposition leader who is not different from Zanu PF.
These perceptions cannot be dealt with completely, but it is only when they are largely dealt with that Mujuru can start to speak about building a solid profile as an opposition cadre.
When the controversy about who should lead the coalition was going on, some opposition supporters expressed the concern that should Mujuru be placed at the helm of the coalition, she may play a Zanu PF card immediately before elections and leave the opposition in a state of confusion. Such people need not only time, but also some concrete steps from Mujuru before they begin to take her opposition credentials seriously. I argue that one critical step for Mujuru would be to be part of a Tsvangirai-led coalition. This step can be seen as a demonstration of her commitment not only to bring about change in Zimbabwe, but also to reform herself and to completely dissociate herself from her Zanu PF past.
Second, Mujuru needs to show that unlike the leaders she left in Zanu PF who believe that it is better to rule in hell than to serve in heaven, she is committed to “put Zimbabwe first”. Her forming of the party after she left Zanu PF is vulnerable to the perception that she was driven by opportunism than by an alternative vision for Zimbabwe. Given her unquestionable liberation credentials and her vast experience in government and politics, supporting a Tsvangirai-led coalition can be regarded as evidence that she is a humble leader who is willing to sacrifice her personal ambitions for the good of the nation.
This can also present her as someone who did “put Zimbabwe first” when she joined the liberation struggle and is “putting Zimbabwe first” again by supporting a coalition which promises to deliver Zimbabwe from the jaws and claws of evil governance. There is no doubt that by doing so, she will take a road which had not been travelled by Zanu PF psychopaths.
Third, Mujuru needs to build her capacity as an opposition cadre. To come into opposition politics directly from Zanu PF and want to present herself as the doyen of the opposition is a wrong step. Her vast experience in government and politics stated above is not really essential in opposition politics. Her party is one of the most recent parties, but it has already experienced bitter internal fights which other parties have not experienced within such a short space of time.
Mujuru should be aware that after her exit from Zanu PF, many of her weaknesses which were concealed became apparent. Supporting a Tsvangirai-led coalition may communicate the message that she is a patient, pragmatic and principled leader who is ready to acknowledge that there are people who have worked in the trenches before her and that she is willing to learn and familiarise herself with the “new” terrain under the tutelage of such people.
Moses Tofa is the founder of the Itai Dzamara Alliance. He is completing a PhD in Politics with the University of Johannesburg. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org