TSVANGIRAI WAS CONVINCED
by DENIS MOYO HUNT
18 August 2021
Since inception in 2013, ZUNDE has been unfailingly committed to building a free, democratic, peaceful and prosperous Zimbabwe characterised by good governance and the rule of law. Fundamental to our efforts during the five years leading up to the 2018 election was our campaign to convince the disparate opposition parties to come together as a genuine, inclusive and effective coalition.
That we failed in our efforts is a matter of record. Each of the opposition parties, great and small, pursued its own vision, policies and strategies, insisting that it had the best chance of success and ignoring the experience of the preceding three decades. So we saw the opposition vote split and squandered by 23 presidential candidates and at least as many opposition parties on 31 July 2018.
Nelson Chamisa, Thokozani Khupe, Joice Mujuru, Joseph Busha, Noah Manyika, Lovemore Madhuku, and Elton Mangoma were prominent among those who were determined to go it alone and Dr Nkosana Moyo, whose Alliance for the People’s Agenda had presented the most enlightened manifesto of any party, refused to work with others. Even Morgan Tsvangirai had famously said “I would rather fight it alone” (Newsday 26 April 2016), explaining that his experience of the GNU had taught him to stay away from coalitions.
However, in the hope of reigniting the campaign for a united opposition, ZUNDE can now reveal that the one opposition leader who became convinced of the necessity to form a grand coalition to defeat ZANU PF in 2018 was Morgan Tsvangirai and he sought out ZUNDE’s views on how it should work. But his health was failing and there was no support in his party for the idea. Nelson Chamisa, Morgan Komichi, Douglas Mwonzora, Obert Gutu and others were all opposed to a coalition.
Without any doubt, Morgan Tsvangirai has been the most effective leader of any opposition party in Zimbabwe. We know now that he convincingly won the 2008 Presidential election — even Mugabe conceded this in December 2014 — and he would have led Zimbabwe in a different direction in subsequent years but for the murderous intervention of the military and ZANU PF.
Morgan Tsvangirai was a man of conspicuous courage. He helped to found and then led the Movement for Democratic Change to be the only serious rivals to Robert Mugabe and ZANU PF for more than 20 years. A fundamentally decent and gentle man, Tsvangirai was a charismatic and inspirational speaker who could carry a crowd as he expounded his vision for reform, democracy and empowerment. He endured wrongful arrests, trumped-up charges, trials for treason, a savage beating while in custody, assassination attempts and the apparently politically motivated murder of his wife, with courage and determination while holding fast to his vision for Zimbabwe.
Tsvangirai’s memory looms large because he fearlessly stood up to Robert Mugabe and his exercise of power and patronage through ZANU PF structures backed by the military. He would not be cowed and resisted to the end when cancer, not Mugabe or ZANU PF, finally defeated him.
That Morgan Tsvangirai came to favour the formation of a grand coalition should give us all pause for thought and cause us to seriously revisit the idea as we prepare for elections in 2023.
A Hopewell Chin’ono Tweet on 02 August 2021 crystallises the argument for a grand coalition.
He is right.
Together, MDC-T and MDC-A still constitute the largest opposition movement in Zimbabwe today — and they have a huge following. But, while critically important, numerical strength is not everything The MDC needs other players whose vision includes what they have not yet seen, who know what they do not know and can do what they cannot or have not done. ZUNDE’s understanding of an effective coalition is one that brings together our collective wisdom, strengths, strategies and aspirations to fight the common enemy united as one. We need combined strategy, tactics and energy. We need all hands on deck, working together not some of the time but all of the time. Each of the genuine opposition movements will bring something of value to a grand coalition.
An analogy can be drawn from funerals in our remote and often poor villages to illustrate how a coalition will work: When somebody dies, the word is sent around by elders, often through the traditional leader’s messenger. In no time, you see villagers trooping in with all sorts of goods and items. Some will bring firewood, others bring chickens while some bring small portions of maize meal and yet others simply bring their voices to sing or jokes to share. These seemingly small contributions significantly alleviate the burden for the bereaved family. Before you know it, the deceased will be buried and it will be back to normal chores in the village again. Even those with comprehensive life or funeral insurance policies need mourners when the day comes. This analogy presents in microcosm what a coalition could achieve for Zimbabwe.
In 2018, we witnessed the folly of 23 presidential candidates and at least as many opposition parties fragmenting a good proportion of the opposition vote. That was sheer waste. We must not do that again. Albert Einstein is supposed to have quipped that “insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results” and that “we cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used to create them”. It really would demonstrate a not inconsiderable degree of insanity to again turn our backs on a grand coalition.
ZANU PF is clearly alert to the threat that a united opposition poses to them. Their unashamed courting of the leaders of the minor parties and the formation of POLAD under the guise of inter-party dialogue constitute a none-too-subtle ploy to control this segment of the opposition and to hive it off from the mainstream opposition parties.
As we prepare for 2023, we must keep the big picture in view. An effective coalition is not about individuals; it is not about positions; it is about the future of our potentially great nation.
It is incumbent on the MDC to heal the divisions in its own ranks by drawing together its splinter groups around the ideals that unite them and by putting aside petty personal rivalries. That is the way to clearly demonstrate to all that they are truly open to forming a united opposition.
No other opposition movement will go into a coalition with a unified MDC if they do not feel that their contribution will be truly valued. Most if not all opposition political parties were MDC sympathisers at some point. Their current diversity indicates the level of people’s dissatisfaction with the MDC in recent years. They have more in common with the MDC than divides them and the way forward for a unified MDC is to reach out with generosity of spirit to other groups who share their democratic ideals. Ultimately it is the politics of ideals, not the politics of personalities that must prevail.
What must we do differently in 2023?
There are three keys to defeating ZANU PF at the polls in 2023.
The first key is the formation of a united opposition as discussed above. By uniting, our opposition parties will fundamentally change the political scene in Zimbabwe. By showing that they are willing to change themselves in order to change the nation, they will clearly demonstrate to the people that real change is possible.
The second key is mass voter registration. We have only to look across the border to Zambia, where 7 million people registered to vote, in order to see the effects of mass participation in the electoral process. More than half of eligible voters in Zimbabwe are under 35. They are a new generation of voters who are not blindly loyal to political parties nor swayed by propaganda. They are open to the ideas, ideals and principles that will rebuild Zimbabwe. We must encourage every one of them to register and register now.
The third key is mass voter turnout. Mass voter registration must translate into mass voter turnout on election day. Our “bornfrees” know that they are not free. They want change. They want jobs. They want the opportunities, freedom and prosperity that they see in liberal democracies around the world. They can carry the vote.
We must protect our vote
Zimbabweans could well emulate what happened on election day in Zambia. Zambians did not go home after they had cast their vote but they stayed in large numbers at polling stations until votes had been tallied.
We too can exercise this kind of people power to safeguard our votes, prevent ballot boxes from being stuffed, and protect polling agents from intimidation and violence for refusing to sign false declarations or for reporting election irregularities.
Change is possible
The winds of change are blowing across our nation. Now is the time for opposition parties to form a truly united opposition, a grand coalition with unity of purpose and united behind one leader to demonstrate to Zimbabweans that change is possible. That is how to ignite the fire of hope in their hearts and trigger a groundswell of people power that will finally win freedom for Zimbabwe.