12 December 2012

Zimbabwe: Election Pact - Whither Ncube, Tsvangirai?

IT has been often said that the coming election is for Prime Minister (PM) Morgan Tsvangirai and his Movement for Democratic Change (MDC-T) to win.

Yet PM Tsvangirai's admission two weeks ago that ZANU-PF is a juggernaut betrayed the thinking within his own ranks despite public proclamations that the MDC-T will win the next elections.PM Tsvangirai who is reported to have described ZANU-PF as "a well-oiled machine", is also said to have paid tribute to the mentorship of President Robert Mugabe's party, admitting that his formation would have messed up in government had they gotten into power before the apprenticeship given via the inclusive government.

In the latter years of the inclusive government, MDC-T critics have said some in the PM's party have become so comfortable under the unity government that their wishes are for an extension to its lifespan.

But President Mugabe seems determined to have harmonised elections next year and there is a general belief across the political divide that this should be so.

In a speech reflecting his personal feelings, MDC-T secretary-general Tendai Biti, last week called for the formation of alliances ahead of the 2013 elections as a way of toppling ZANU-PF, but he admitted that hammering out the agreements for such a pact would be a difficult feat.

According to Biti, the collapsed reunification talks with Welshman Ncube's MDC formation in 2008 over the distribution of parliamentary seats between the two parties were always going to be difficult and became a boon for President Mugabe and his ZANU-PF party.

Biti is reported to have told a gathering in Manchester, England at the weekend that those who preached unity were vindicated as the presidential run-off election was caused by the nine percent "theoretically lost to Simba Makoni" of Mavambo/Kusile/Dawn (MKD) party who stood as an independent with the support of Ncube's MDC.

While Biti admits the two MDC parties were unlikely to reunite, he still hopes an electoral pact can still be possible to unseat the 88-year-old President Mugabe who has been in power since 1980.

Political analysts agree with Biti that a reunification is next to impossible under the current circumstances but building alliances for the coming election was key in defeating President Mugabe's party.

Dewa Mavhinga of the Zimbabwe Democracy Institute says for ZANU-PF's foes to get a decisive victory in the next elections, it was crucial for the MDCs, MKD and other smaller parties to get into an election pact for 2013.

"However, it is most unlikely that such a pact will happen given the sharp personal differences and the prevailing political culture of winner-take-all characterised by individual glory rather than collective interest. Without uniting it will be a herculean task to defeat ZANU-PF," opines Mavhinga.

Dumisani Nkomo, a political analyst, also dismissed a reunification, calling instead for a "strategic electoral alliance through an electoral pact involving the MDC-T, MDC and other so-called fringe parties including ZAPU and MKD, among others".

In an earlier piece in a local weekly, Nkomo wrote that negotiations for an electoral pact must focus on obtaining political realities based both on previous and current electoral strength of each of the political parties.

This would include mapping of the relative geographical strengths of the parties, their competitive advantages, skills, resources, competencies and expertise, as well as how these can be transformed into a cohesive electoral unit.

He said a new inclusive government would then be worked out, minus ZANU-PF, as part of the electoral agreement, which would include a general covenant that Cabinet posts should be shared.

"It is inevitable that an electoral alliance will lead to another Government of National Unity (GNU). The key difference would be the fact that this GNU would not have the obstinate ZANU-PF as a partner," argued Nkomo.

But it is on negotiating the actual agreement that the MDCs have previously failed. The 2008 talks of a similar pact suffered a dramatic collapse.

Also, while Ncube's party backed Makoni in 2008, this time around, such an alliance is unlikely as the MDC leader is keen on running for office himself as reflected in his current campaigns.

Yet, the absence of a broad alliance has left questions on whether ZANU-PF foes have the stamina to torpedo President Mugabe's party.

Asked whether PM Tsvangirai, Ncube and Makoni have the political stamina to outwit President Mugabe Mavhinga said:

"I would say the leaders of the three parties need to be politically astute and pragmatic - they must remember that in politics there are no permanent friends or enemies, but interests - such a realisation will make the all important alliance building a reality.

"For the sake of a greater common cause they must be prepared to set aside their petty personal differences."

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