opinionBy Itai Zimunya
THERE seems to be some convergence, though to different degrees and for different reasons, within Zanu PF and the MDC parties ahead of the former's conference next month that President Robert Mugabe is now beyond his sell-by date and must retire to save Zimbabwe from further regression and misery.
Besides, many Zimbabweans across the political divide also agree that Mugabe must peacefully quit for the sake of what remains of his legacy and the nation.
So what does this mean or suggest? The political environment in Zimbabwe is very fluid and the painting of future scenarios is one of the most difficult things to do due to this current state of flux.
It must be remembered that the "Mugabe must go" mantra started within Zanu PF and not MDC formations. It was Zanu PF officials who realised a long time ago that for Zimbabwe to go forward Mugabe must step down to allow a younger generation of leaders to take over the party and the country.
While there were many others from outside his party who saw the country was heading for disaster and wanted Mugabe to quit much earlier after independence, internally it was the late Edgar Tekere who first voiced concerns before he was expelled, leading to the formation of his Zimbabwe Unity Movement.
A decade later Dzikamai Mavhaire, then a Zanu PF MP and now a politburo member, also made the famous or infamous, depending on one's standpoint, "Mugabe must go" statement which attracted a serious backlash against him and his late mentor Edson Zvobgo, one of the most senior Zanu PF officials who demanded change from within.
Even though demands in Zanu PF for Mugabe to go have now weakened following the death of retired army commander General Solomon Mujuru, the bhora musango (sabotage) approach mainly applied during the 2008 elections and whispering campaigns in Zanu PF confirm the prevalence of the underlying "Mugabe must go" sentiment.
However, since its emergence, the MDC usurped the mantra which became part of its campaign to oust Mugabe. As a result Mugabe and Zanu PF lost to Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and the MDC-T as convergence between Zanu PF and MDC voices that Mugabe must go grew.
As Zanu PF prepares for its conference next month ahead of elections next year, the question remains whether or not Mugabe will face the same political wave for him to retire spanning Zanu PF and MDC ranks and how that would affect his re-election bid.
Although the environment and conditions have changed since 2008, there remains a strong feeling that Mugabe is the main stumbling block to progress. So this invites the question whether it is realistic to expect Zanu PF and MDC interests to converge at some point before or after Mugabe's departure to create new re-alignments.
These questions, though complex, are interesting. It can be argued that events are overtaking Mugabe in many ways and thus he is no longer the main issue in Zimbabwe since there is this politically heterogeneous convergence on the demand that he must go sooner rather than later. It is important to qualify that this convergence is not settled and stable within and across parties, but very fluid and uncertain.
In that context, it is critical to note that the "Mugabe must go" refrain in Zanu PF is largely defined and influenced by the party's explosive succession battles.
The sentiment is strong, but the problem is that those engaged in this campaign largely operate underground and within informal structures, thus weakening their demand for him to quit as that fails to crystalise the move and give it gravitas. It may be strategic to do so at initial stages but there has got to be a point when the issue is tabled formally for it to carry weight and gravity.
However, there is a serious problem on how to raise the issue formally as party structures simply don't allow such an engagement.
Those who have tried to be courageous like Tekere, Mavhaire, Dumiso Dabengwa, Mujuru, Simba Makoni, the late Thenjiwe Lesabe, and the Tsholotsho Declaration movers, were ruthlessly silenced. So it is a risky business to openly campaign against Mugabe.
Externally, the MDC's "Mugabe must go" slogan has been forceful, consistent and aggressive, but there has been no systematic attempt by the party's leaders to establish common ground and make a connection between their interests and those of Zanu PF officials making the same demands albeit for different reasons.
In other words, Zanu PF and MDC officials who want Mugabe to go have not been able to find each other and that has weakened the campaign as it lacked cohesion and common vision. Until that happens Mugabe is likely to remain in power as the forces of change fail to coalesce and develop a common agenda and vision.
The lack of cohesion among the factions fighting each other over succession in Zanu PF, the MDC parties, the business and military elite and other groups that want Mugabe to go have resulted in him staying longer. As long as there is no negotiation and convergence of interests on a cohesive platform, Mugabe will remain in power as unpopular as he is.
If all these parties and interests cannot converge and act purposefully, they will always find themselves at cross-purposes. That is why there is need for a national interest-based convergence -- not convenient arrangement -- to deal with this issue on a non-partisan, but broad basis to rescue Zimbabwe from Mugabe's choking yoke of tyranny.