THE biometric voter registration (BVR) mop-up exercise ends this week and President Emmerson Mnangagwa can proclaim elections anytime from now to ensure the polls are held before August in accordance with the country’s Constitution. The opposition MDC-T last year entered into an electoral pact with six other opposition parties to form the MDC Alliance. Since then, the alliance has been holding rallies, though painstakingly without leader Morgan Tsvangirai, who is out of the country for medical treatment.
BY Everson Mushava
His absence has forced the alliance to hit political turbulence due to leadership wrangles. NewsDay chief reporter Everson Mushava (ND) yesterday caught up with Transform Zimbabwe leader Jacob Ngarivhume (JN), one of the partners in the electoral pact to hear his views on the alliance and its prospects in the forthcoming polls. Below are excerpts from the interview:
ND: It is close to six months now in the MDC Alliance? Do you believe you are on course as a grouping of the opposition parties to win the 2018 elections?
JN: We were fully aware of the challenges the alliance would face, even before we signed the agreement. The fact that six months have gone by and the alliance is still intact demonstrates the bond we have developed. We have made significant progress together and we are very confident that we will win the election this year. The rallies we have held around the country have been very successful and we do have a programme of activities to deliver the election victory this winter. We are 100% on course as an alliance. It shows the concept of the alliance has knocked some sense into those who yearn for a change. Victory is certain.
ND: Zanu PF has been scoffing at the alliance, sighting disunity and chaos in the MDC-T camp due to Tsvangirai’s ill health. To what extent do you think Tsvangirai’s health condition will affect the alliance?
JN: Zanu PF is a clueless party. It must focus on mending the economy it has ruined rather than deflect attention to imaginary chaos in the alliance or in the MDC-T. We do not expect Zanu PF to ululate for the alliance. What they are doing is normal and healthy in a democracy. It is also ironic, coming from a party that was for a long time being led by Robert Mugabe, who was demented by reason of age.
Our alliance agreement has provisions for change of leadership as and when it is necessary. Tsvangirai has been unwell for some time now, but the alliance continues to function. We wish him a speedy and complete recovery so that he continues to lead the alliance. In the event that his health does not permit him to continue, the alliance has put in place a mechanism to ensure that it finishes the job of dislodging the Zanu PF system.
ND: What mechanisms do you have in place for the selection of a new leader in the event that Tsvangirai fails to recover in time for the polls?
JN: Section 3.0 of our agreement covers that. Section 3(i) says in the event of a vacancy occurring for the presidency for whatever reason before the election then the alliance partners shall select another candidate based on the criteria in clause 3 (b) above and if such vacancy occurs after the election then the provisions of the national Constitution shall apply. 3(b) says the presidential candidate must be selected from among the parties on the basis of the best individual who can win the election against the incumbent based on popular support.
ND: You talked of three issues the Chitungwiza rally on Sunday that will allow the alliance to succeed in the next elections. These are electoral reforms, unity and demilitarisation of government by the Mnangagwa government. Do you think that can be achieved in the space of time remaining before polls?
JN: President Mnangagwa has promised the nation and the world free, fair and credible elections; the three things I highlighted are the essentials of a free, fair and credible election. They do not require a long time to implement; they simply require sincerity on the part of the President. We challenge him to walk the talk and deliver a free, fair and credible election. Like I said, we will also be vigilant to ensure the electoral playing field is levelled. We will take peaceful action that is within the confines of our Constitution such as demonstrations and aggressive lobbying locally, regionally and internationally.
ND: On unity, you said Mnangagwa will infiltrate the alliance and sponsor divisions, have you witnessed anything of that sought or its mere speculation?
JN: We have intelligence to the effect that Mnangagwa has deployed military intelligence to infiltrate and destroy the alliance. He knows he has no chance against a solid alliance and will abuse State resources and machinery to weaken the alliance. We have it on good authority that he is backing certain rubble-rousers to frustrate the alliance and that he will fund certain rebellious elements to stand as independent candidates in order to split the alliance vote. Besides infiltration in Zimbabwe politics is a reality, with many cases of Zanu pf personnel in opposition parties having been reported over the years.
EM: Do you think the chaos in the MDC-T can be traced to Mnangagwa?
JN: I can’t comment on the internal politics of another political party. Suffice to say the infiltration will obviously come through individual parties in the alliance.
EM: As TZ, in the event the MDC Alliance collapsed, which seems likely due to the unresolved succession wars in the MDC-T, are you ready to stand alone in the elections?
JN: First, I differ with your view that the alliance is likely to collapse due to what is happening in the MDC-T. Our alliance partners in the MDC-T have demonstrated a strong desire to resolve the challenges they are currently grappling with. Once the issues are resolved, the alliance will soar to victory. However, in the very unlikely event that the alliance collapses, TZ has always been ready to contest on its own.
ND: You said Mnangagwa rose to his post due to a coup, but some of your alliance members like the MDC-T have refused to publicly make such a claim, how do you relate with such varying viewpoints?
JN: There can be no denying that Mnangagwa ascended to power on the back of a military coup. I have no idea why others are shy to call it that. But from a TZ point of view, it was a coup albeit a unique one. Apart from the aesthetics of it, in substance it was a coup. Other players in the political space are at liberty to call it what they want.