15 May 2017

Zimbabwe: Coalition Not a High School Reunion, Mafume Says to MDC-T

Photo: New Zimbabwe
MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai.

People's Democratic Party (PDP) spokesperson, Jacob Mafume has urged the MDC-T to abandon the narrow view that a grand coalition should comprise former MDC allies who went separate ways after the main opposition's formation 1999.

Mafume has also revealed PDP leader Tendai Biti had no immediate ambitions to lead the much-tauted grain coalition of opposition forces.

He was speaking during a panel discussion at renowned publisher, Dr Ibbo Mandaza's SAPES Trust this past week.

MDC-T deputy president Nelson Chamisa and former party CEO Toendepi Shonhe were co-panellists.

"A grand coal needs to be able to hold most of the opposition parties if not all," Mafume said.

"The grand coal is not necessarily a high school reunion, as it were, or of people who started the opposition.

"For instance, when the opposition was started, my colleague here (Chamisa) was a youth president. So, if you design a coalition like a reunion, you may be suggesting that he goes back to being a youth president because you are uniting people who were leaders then."

Although he did not mention Morgan Tsvangirai's party, the ex-prime minister's party has made its intentions known that it was seeking alliances with parties that have a traceable following on the ground.

He has since signed memoranda of understanding with Welshman Ncube's MDC and ex-vice president Joice Mujuru's NPP party ahead of the envisaged loose merger.

Ncube and a group of disgruntled politicians from the original MDC broke ranks with Tsvangirai 2005 to form a political outfit that has kept the party name.

In attempts to seek alliances with fellow opposition parties ahead of next year's elections, Tsvangirai has kept at bay what MDC-T spokesperson Obert Gutu has described as briefcase parties.

But Mafume told diplomats and members of the intelligentsia who formed the gallery that the envisaged merger should not be an elite pact.

"It is not necessarily that people have to look at the coalition more than simply a reunion of the characters who were in opposition in 2000 and they try to place themselves back to the positions where they were.

"A coalition around creating a new dynamic that allows and recognises the growth that has occurred in opposition politics and societal leaders, the changes that have occurred and be able to react to the landscape of the political parties that are there and that there are individuals that have grown in terms of the politics."

Mafume said coalition proponents should also be patient enough to shelve issues of positions and concentrate energies on pushing for reforms which he said were crucial to its victory prospects.

He said his party was not as fascinated with who shall be leader of a united opposition.

"As the People's Democratic Party, we are committed to a grand coalition," he said.

"We are not necessarily worried about leading it ourselves or being the presidential candidates.

"We do believe that it can be sorted out through a process and we are going to be joining or sitting down with other parties to form that coalition."

Meanwhile, Chamisa denied his party sought to alienate prospective allies adding that their calls for a loose merger were being misconstrued.

"The issue of the coalition is being taken in a very narrow context; it is supposed to be convergence," he said.

"We must have liberation war heroes, we must have students, we must have constitutional movements, we must have the social movements in their various manifestations as part of this convergence process so that the discourse itself is broader than just the narrow discourse of a coalition."

Shonhe, on his part, chastised his erstwhile comrades for allegedly ignoring advice from the country's intellectuals and allegedly investing their trust in supernatural forces to turn their political fortunes around.

"My worry is that the parties that we have don't seem to have attraction towards intellectual input. I think that's a serious danger. They would rather rely on spiritual input than intellectual. So, you see them going to TB Joshua (popular Nigerian prophet) and all those other places...," he said.

Shonhe, now a PDP member, urged coalition proponents to abandon the idea and stay out of next year's polls if the Zanu PF-led government continued suppressing opposition demands for poll reforms.

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