The reality of factional fights rooted in the fluid succession battle subsisting in Zanu PF and President Robert Mugabe’s incapacity to function at full throttle due to old age are incontestable. Regrettably, the opposition is not utilising those factors as opportunities as much as it should as a result of its peculiar frailties and challenges.
Unless more work is done by the opposition, or unless something outrageous, unforeseen and natural (Mugabe’s death) happens, all indicators are pointing towards the fact that Mugabe is likely going to win in 2018. If he does win, I shudder to think that we will witness an implosion of the opposition soon after the election. After 18 years of brave and consistent fighting but failing to remove Mugabe, MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai will either bow out or be pushed out.
If Mugabe wins in 2018, Zanu PF would have rewarded itself with a lifeline and enough time to manage its leadership transition. At some point, Mugabe’s successor will be established. If that happens, Zanu PF will regenerate itself into probably a much stronger monster.
Admittedly, whoever is going to succeed Mugabe, will have big shoes to fill. However, despite the fact that the individual might not have Mugabe’s clout and star power he/she will have the power of incumbency and a well-oiled system undergirding him/her going into the 2023 elections.
On the other hand, after the imminent implosion, the opposition will approach 2023 deeply fractured, without a unifying face and without a convincing narrative.
Depending on who is going to take over from Mugabe and the work that shall be done chiefly towards rejuvenating the economy and if that actually happens, then the wait for a transition is going to be painfully prolonged.
A new formula and formation within the old opposition
The honest truth is that what the opposition needs right now is a new formula and formation altogether. The opposition must reform and rebirth. Antiquated rhetoric and dogma predicated on sloganeering will not inspire hope and action. A new formula and formation comprising of the old and new is needed as soon as possible.
While it is commendable that the old guard seems to be taking baby steps towards finding each other, it is the omission of the new that is worrying and can be the premise of the opposition defeat in 2018. The game changers for the 2018 elections are the young people. As such, any process which doesn’t have the young people at its core is doomed to fail.
Approximately above 65% of eligible voters are under the youth bracket. 2% of those between the age of 18 to 35 voted in 2013. 82% of those between the age of 35 to 55 voted in 2013. Those above 55 years constituted 16% of the voters in 2013. Even though 2% of the youths (those between 18 and 35 years) voted in 2013 they remain the biggest constituency and anyone who increases that number from 2% is going to win the 2018 election.
Above and beyond efforts being registered to address issues such as a transformational and transition blueprint, reforms, mobilisation, voter education, coalition, voting, defending the vote and ultimately implementing the blueprint, if deliberate and uncompromising effort is not channelled towards capturing the youth vote as the mainstay of the 2018 elections, everything being done will not usher in the eagerly awaited and delayed transition.
Capturing and inspiring the cardinal youth vote will take more than an alliance of old people. New blood and talent that is in touch and appealing to youths of all classes must be harvested into the opposition. The opposition must do away with its arrogance based on imaginary power and act on this as a matter of urgency.
The third force
Failure to invoke a new formula, formation and to harvest talent is only going to lead to the emergence of a third force. The form and nature it will take is not yet clear to me. I hope to unpack that aspect in the not too distant future.
If the opposition continues on the precarious path of arrogance, we are going to witness a rapid increase of independent candidates in the 2018 elections. Those are individuals who would have been stonewalled out and denied space within the peripheries of established opposition parties. What is critical to note is the fact that the majority of those people are good talent.
Sadly, this good talent seems to be equally confused and megalomaniac too. It is as though they inherited the demons of disunity, frivolity, selfishness and naivety which have become hallmark features of the current opposition.
I nonetheless foresee and project the emergence and crystallising of a third force or way as some may wish to call it in the not too distant future. This force will be made up of chiefly fresh and untainted set of faces. The young people of Zimbabwe are going to rise up and they are going to force every person who is not going to be a part of their future to resign from the charade of purportedly leading this nation or fighting for its total liberation.
I am not a defeatist neither am I pessimistic, but realism sometimes inoculates us against the pain of impracticable expectations. In the same vein, I do not subscribe to the fallacious notion that Zanu PF is invincible. It can be uprooted, but it won’t be a stroll in the park. Much more work can and must be done.