Failure to establish a Grand coalition will be catastrophic for Zimbabwe

Coalitions have been known to win elections against some of the most brutal dictatorships in the world from the likes of Augusto Pinochet of Chile to the recent ousting of the Gambian dictator, Yahya Jammeh. We do not need an opinion poll to measure the mood of hope and optimism among most Zimbabweans. It is clear that most Zimbabweans want a formidable force that can unseat the brutal autocratic ZANU PF regime at all costs. A good grand coalition may achieve this by avoiding another vote split which along with repression benefited ZANU PF in 2008.

Joice Mujuru

The National Electoral Reform Agenda (NERA) which was formed to advocate for democratic electoral reforms has created a meeting place for such an occurrence in Zimbabwe. Can it go all the way? It’s success in promoting dialogue with the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission ( ZEC) surely should pave way to reducing the existing opposition parties’ conflicts and encourage responsible political leadership.

Time is running out.

Ever since The MDC T leader Morgan Tsvangirai and the then ZPF leader Dr Joyce Mujuru jointly addressed a rally in Midlands in which Dr Mujuru chanted “chinja”, talk of a grand coalition has been hyped. The prospect sounded promising.

A failure to establish a successful grand coalition will be catastrophic to achieving democracy in Zimbabwe which will result in more political uncertainty and will weaken the activists’ efforts for democratic reforms. Far more than any opposition political party, it is the activists movements that are independent from any political party who represent democracy in Zimbabwe.

It is these activists who have woken Zimbabweans to the need for a transparent and accountable political leadership for the revival our economy, something that has lacked from our opposition parties. The main opposition, MDC T has been engulfed in internal squabbles since it’s formation resulting in many splits weakening it’s position to hold ZANU PF to account.

The overall objective of a grand coalition should be to increase the opposition parties’ electoral competitiveness by pooling together their limited resources so that they are more effective. However, there are too many formations of minor political parties that threaten the credibility of the mooted coalition. Some opposition parties have already formed a partnership dubbed the Coalition of Democrats (CODE) seemingly in preparation for enjoying the spoils of office without regard for policies to improve the socioeconomic outcomes of the Zimbabwean people. They appear to have activated the scramble for self positioning ahead of the crucial negotiations for a grand collation.

In the Ideal world, there are a number of challenges for opposition parties participating in a grand coalition as they attempt to:

  • -Uphold their distinct party identity whilst respecting their commitments to their grand coalition partners and party members
  • -Develop apparatuses for harmonising with other grand coalition partners and to transfer coalition goals, duration, and it’s intended accomplishments to the Zimbabwean citizens.
  • -Show their party members that this cross party cooperation is not a sign of weakness or betrayal of their core values but rather a sign of strength given the desperate situation that Zimbabwe finds itself in.

However, ours is not an ideal world.

How many of these numerous opposition parties are actually relevant in providing an electoral choice?

Does their mere existence make them significant?

What are the motivations that drive opposition parties to split so that in a few months’ time they are involved in a political bargaining for a grand coalition? Why was there a split in the first place?

It appears as if most of these opposition parties are sorely interested in the sharing of remunerations of office, such as cabinet posts/portfolios and definitely not by party ideology. Whilst a grand coalition needs to be built around collaboration, consensus, consultation, and compromise, ideology does not seem an important factor in present day Zimbabwean politics.

There is a risk of unprincipled coalition since more of these personalised political parties have erupted. The current number of political parties in a country with a population of 14 million show that opportunism and short term political manoeuvring is at play.

Everyone wants to be the next president. Perhaps they are motivated by the impending death of a terrorist. There has been a tendency of forming political parties in order to serve particular interest of key players involved most who are now looking to capitalise on the prospect of a grand coalition. Some are clearly feeding the egos of their leaders with no regard of the concerns of the broadest range of Zimbabwean citizens, particularly those in the rural.

So far it is only the terminally ill political parties that are anticipating the prospect of a grand coalition which in my opinion is a shot at their survival. CODE is formed up of 5 such political parties:

MKD – Dr Simba Makoni

RDZ – Elton Mangoma

The Democratic Assembly for Restoration of Empowerment (DARE)

Zimbabwe United for Democracy (ZUNDE) and

MDC N – Professor Welshman Ncube

PDP-Tendai Biti

Of these 6 only MKD and MDC N have been tested in an election and have shown dismal performances. These mostly untested parties are already calling for an equal partnership in the event negotiations begin thereby making it appear to be a coalition of leaders rather than of

the people. The marrying of ideologies is obviously not without conflict but for these erelavant parties, ideologies don’t seem to matter, it’s all about who will lead, self-posturing, than anything else thus forcing themselves on the Zimbabwean people.

Consulting their members are MDC T; ZPF; NPP; People’s Democratic Party (PDP); NCA; and ZAPU whose leader Dumiso Dabengwa has been quoted as having said ” Any coalition which does not violate our identity is very much welcome” which was a concern about being sucked into other parties like it had been by ZANU PF. The only tested party being MDC T who’s role is undoubtedly very important. There had been speculation that ZPF (before it’s split) commanded a good following before it was shattered by the Bikita West by election. BZA has done very well in critiquing and presenting alternatives to ZANU PF. They seem intently focused on their mobilisation activities. Although BZA has been very careful not to attack other opposition parties, it’s leader Dr Noah Manyika has questioned leadership alternatives for inclusion in a coalition. Perhaps he is being careful for in most cases a coalition is a death sentence to a promising political party. For example, the Liberal Democrats of UK came out a damaged brand after participating in a coalition government and the MDC T raised more questions than answers after the GNU. If 2 most bitter political rivals decide to join forces in forming a GNU, what then was the point of voting or even holding elections in the first place?

On her recent visit to the UK, the now NPP leader Dr Joyce Mujuru seemed to be in favour of an Electoral alliance where political parties would unite behind a common candidate in-order to achieve a vote share required to win an election. A grand coalition is the last resort to Zimbabwe’s desperate situation since it has a potential of minimising disagreements among oppositions parties. The ultimate goal should be to free Zimbabwe for this stranglehold.

Kingstone Jambawo is a UK based activist and a member of the Zimbabwe Citizens Initiative. He writes in his personal capacity

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  • wilbert

    Yes the formation of a coalition has sometimes produced the desired result of defeating a dictator just as a swarm of bees has driven off an elephant. What we must not do is generalise too much because not many dictators in history were removed from office by a coalition just as a swarm of stingless bees will never drive off a timid mouse much less an elephant.

    We already know that the Zanu PF vote rigging machine is can generate 63% votes for Mugabe as happened in the 2013 elections as you know. So a single coalition candidate collecting the remain 37% votes will not be enough to defeat Mugabe. In the 2008 run-off Mugabe “won” 85% of the vote after beating, raping and even murdering people to overturn Tsvangirai’s 73% in the earlier vote.

    The problem in Zimbabwe is not that the opposition is splitting the opposition vote but that Zanu PF rigs the vote. You can pretend all you want that Zanu PF does not rig the vote but that is only playing in Mugabe’s hands because he will rig the 2018 elections just as he rigged the 2013, 2008, etc.

    Gambia is not Zimbabwe, just because a united opposition defeated the dictator in that country does not mean the same will happen here.

    Insanity is doing the some thing over and over again and expecting a different result!