If only we had time I would have attempted to play with words and deliver the very same message in a more respectful manner just as my culture demands, but unfortunately time is so desperately working against us.
Dear reader, do not be unnerved that I have included you in “us”. I know you have your reservations when it comes to the opposition but I know deep down, you too are seeking change and yearning for a better Zimbabwe. Now listen carefully, it is our responsibility to exchange notes, try and map a way forward for our country and give advice to our esteemed leaders before it is too late. They seem to be enjoying their time in the opposition, basking in their yesteryear glory but our country cannot endure another Zanu PF government in 2018. The regime is enjoying watching us waste valuable time hurling insults at one another. It should be common knowledge by now that competing against ourselves is meaningless; there is no honour in being the biggest opposition party, any form of defeat by Zanu PF in 2018 is unacceptable.
Expect nothing from Leaders without shame.
Zimbabwe and the opposition cannot afford to miss another opportunity; 2018 is swim or sink, do or die for the opposition. Failure to obtain power should spell retirement for many and doom for some. Beyond 2018 there should be a massive reconfiguration of our politics regardless of the outcome of the elections.
Zimbabwe our beautiful motherland has been looted, brutally vandalised, and now she is burning with no hope of relief in sight. Robert Mugabe has unashamedly thrown his hat in the ring again for a record umpteenth time. I personally hope that this record will never be broken in the future but with Zimbabwe you can never know.
For those who placed their confidence in Zanu PF in the last elections hoping that it would reinvent itself by handing over the reins of power to a younger generation (younger generation in Zanu PF terms) and perhaps start addressing the myriad of challenges facing the nation, it’s rather disappointment and more disappointment. The Zanu PF leadership is more than resolute to continue taking us on this very same path that leads to nowhere and to nowhere very fast.
Desperate times call for desperate measures
It is our responsibility, collectively as a people, to stand up and take the fight to Zanu PF. For how long shall we allow these fake revolutionaries to take our lives for granted? For how long shall we allow these insensitive petty bourgeoisies to flaunt their ill-gotten wealth whilst we all drown in poverty? It is a must that we join hands with all progressive Zimbabweans to revive the fortunes of our country. The fragmented and disorganised opposition must put its house in order, coalescing around the idea of building a new and prosperous Zimbabwe. After all, we all want relatively the same things. Our economic blue prints are all written with the same neo-liberal outlook. Chief among our objectives is to see the defeat of Zanu PF, the evil blood sucking vampire.
Doing the same thing over and again expecting different results is insanity
Some people are suggesting that Zanu PF is at its weakest point at this juncture, some are over emphasising the strength of Tsvangirai, deeming the coalition unnecessary and some simply prefer to do nothing under the disguise of not disturbing Zanu PF destroying itself. While all these points at face value make sense, because they hold an element of truth and logic, a simple interrogation of previous elections should show that doing nothing and waiting for 2018 is sheer foolishness. We lost elections in the past that we thought were impossible to lose.
Perhaps it is human nature to be forgetful. We all have at one point in the past forgotten about events we were invited to, commitments we promised to fulfil, appointments we made with loved ones. Dear reader, let me take this opportunity to refresh your memory. We did not win the March 2008 election with a convincing margin albeit it being the fairest election we have had to date. All the conditions were favourable to us, the economy had completely crumbled, shops were empty, food was scarce, inflation was at 11.2 million percent. All cards were stacked against Mugabe and his regime, yet despite all that we failed to win a clear majority in parliament and Tsvangirai just managed to defeat Mugabe. Though the economy is precariously balancing on a thin rope, our current economic situation is far better than it was in 2008.
Fast forward to the 2013 elections. We claimed election rigging but to date no evidence has been provided to prove our claims. We disregarded polls that showed we were going to be defeated, even polls from our “said” friends. We lost those elections. It was a dismal performance on our part but then why should 2018 be any different if we do not do something and something drastically different?
Since the MDC’s formation the party has split two times, severed ties with some of its traditional allies in the civic society, vakuru vobva vati kunokora hakuzi kudira, teaspoon zvayakapedza gaba resugar wani. I do not know how a party that is continually dividing itself thinks that it is much stronger to fight an incumbent who will do everything it takes to stay in power. The MDC led by Tsvangirai might be the strongest in the opposition, might even be strong enough to win fair elections, but truth be told Zanu PF does not play fair and the MDC-T is not strong enough to dethrone it alone.
Going forward we must be brutally honest with each other, dear reader. All I am saying, or rather trying to say, is that we must exercise caution. Our position is less secure than it was in the past. We must not leave 2018 elections to chance. Let Zanu PF rip itself apart but let that not stop us from organising ourselves.
They say if a man cheats you once shame on him, if he cheats you twice shame on him but if he cheats you thrice shame on you. Have we not already been shamed more than thrice? We all need each other in the opposition. This idiotic, worthless arrogance must come to a stop and must come to a stop now.
Who then should be involved in this Coalition?
There is no shadow of a doubt in anyone’s mind that the MDC led by Tsvangirai is the most credible opposition in the Zimbabwean political scene. But it is also equally true that it is incapable of dethroning Zanu PF as it has shown in the past when it was still in a much stronger position. Thus it is logical that they must closely work together with other opposition parties to accomplish a shared goal of unseating Mugabe and his regime.
Many decried the Tsvangirai led demonstration, branded it as useless, but I am of the opposite view. If used strategically it could serve three vital purposes going forward. Firstly, it can be used as a bargaining chip in the negotiations if they are to ever happen. Secondly it can be used as the beginning of a mass mobilisation strategy geared towards 2018. Finally, if intensified, demonstrations can be used as a tool to de-legitimise the regime in the eyes of the international community, more so when the government’s re-engagement commitments with the international community are still fragile.
I personally however suspect that the demonstration was done to strengthen the voice that wants to go it alone in the 2018 elections and drown the voice calling for a coalition. Tsvangirai should at least see the lack of wisdom in going it alone, even from a very selfish standpoint. The coalition will have to revolve around his party and his candidacy because he has a really strong bargaining hand, whereas the other parties have really weak hands.
Any party that wants to participate in this coalition must provide some unique benefit to the coalition. Thus the challenge is to the other parties, to show what benefits they bring to the coalition table. Instead of deriding Tsvangirai when he says he wants to go it alone they should take it as an open challenge and put their cards on the table, prove why it would be foolish for him to go it alone. This can be done in three very simple ways:
1. The other parties can organise mass protests to show their party’s organising skills and their scale of support base.
2. They can organise large rallies, not the meet the local leadership tours they have been having countrywide. This also simply to show what following they have.
3. They can also start penning incisive well-articulated alternative policies and countering the regime at an intellectual level. Brains are always welcome to any coalition table, albeit not a strong arm to negotiate on.
It makes no sense to fight an authoritarian regime like Zanu PF from many little different corners. We must join hands and fight our common enemy from a united front. But if we must, the earlier we start the process the better, for we learned during the formation of the Government of National Unity that forming a coalition is difficult and time consuming. The wise would say make hay while the sun shines, 2018 is not far away.
Advantages of the Coalition from a broader perspective
While each individual party has to prove its worth to be included in the coalition, I want to look at the broader picture and highlight a few advantages of having a pre-election coalition in preparation for 2018 elections. Dear reader I might fail to convince you, but at least give some thought to these points I raise.
There is a growing sense of voter fatigue and understandably so. Voters have been promised change for far too long, with each passing year the flame of hope burns with less lustre. Nothing but drastic measures can re-energise the electorate and make it believe that change is possible within Mugabe’s life time. Unfortunately rallies or public meetings no matter how well attended cannot do the trick.
However, a coalition can send a clear and unambiguous signal that the opposition is sufficiently organised and can amount a credible threat to the regime. Which in turn can help draw away votes from the ruling regime, reinvigorate and re-energise the demoralised voters who would otherwise not bother to participate in the electoral process as they will begin to view the coalition as a government in waiting.
Over Exaggerated Support Base
Judging from past elections and the by-elections taking place now, we can see that Zanu PF’s electoral support, which is mostly based in rural areas, has not changed much over time. We also already know that the majority of Zimbabweans live in rural areas, it is thus imperative not to over exaggerate our support when we see large demonstrations or rallies in urban areas as they are not enough to dethrone the regime.
We should also bear in mind, that in the past elections we did little as the opposition to help those who were victimised for supporting the opposition in rural areas. Now it is harder to convince the rural folk to support the opposition, more so when there is no guarantee that we will be able to topple the regime in 2018. Joining hands with former Zanu PF people should be able to reduce the credibility gap, and induce those who would otherwise fear to vote for a losing opposition to participate in the elections.
Since Zimbabwe People First has been operating in rural areas as Zanu PF in the past, it has better networks and infrastructure to woe some of that rural support to our cause. Anyway, what would Tsvangirai’s party lose if they were to let Zimbabwe People First contest in rural areas and in turn not contest urban areas and they both rally behind each other?
Another point many know but never want to acknowledge, is that a lot of young people have lost hope in Zimbabwe recovering any time soon. They have lost hope in the opposition and in elections. The fortunate ones are able to seek greener pastures across the border, but some of those who remain have lost hope to even want to participate in elections. It is therefore important we do not over emphasise the youth support base.
Zimbabwe People First brings with it a heavy baggage from Zanu PF, but it also brings with it a rich history of the liberation struggle which can be used to mobilise support throughout Africa and the African diaspora. This should help in weaning the opposition from that derogatory tag of “puppets of the West”. For with the collaboration of former freedom fighters our struggle for democracy will be seen for what it really is. Once that tag has been successfully removed if for whatever reason any inter-mediation is required in 2018, the mediators will be able to operate freely without the fear of being taken as Western lackeys if they act against the regime.
Not only have the voters been fatigued, but so have the donors too. They have grown weary, pouring money into a struggle that has failed to yield results. We certainly cannot blame them and neither are we surprised that they have begun to warm up to the regime.
Whilst we want their money, we do not want to be “Western puppets” or regarded as such. On this issue I am a little worried that all the opposition’s economic blue prints are neo-liberal in outlook but I will reserve this topic for another day. What is important to note is that the international community is most likely open their financial tapes when there is a pre-election coalition and a higher probability of regime change.
Not only will the coalition be able to open the international community’s cheque books, but it also has the potential of convincing Zimbabweans in the diaspora to play a meaningful role in financing the struggle. In as much as money is important in running a successful campaign in politics it should never be our primary objective of coming together. We have to own this unity, motivated by the right reasons. Monetary issues are only but an added advantage.
The Splits left Tsvangirai poorer in terms of the party’s intellectual depth.
This, my last point, might seem a bit harsh, but dear reader bear with me I promised nothing but honest truth. Tsvangirai’s latest shadow cabinet is testimony to this fact. People on that shadow cabinet do not inspire any confidence, the cabinet does not show a party that is serious, a party that wants to govern in two years’ time. Whilst there could have been loads of improvements in the selection of the shadow cabinet, it is self-evident that there is a serious lack of talent and intellectual depth within the ranks of the Tsvangirai led party.
This concern can easily be addressed by having the whole opposition come together and provide a wider pool of intellectual resources. You might not like Tendai Biti, Welshman Ncube, Simba Makoni, Elton Mangoma and Lovemore Madhuku but you cannot deny they all possess intellectual stamina. If this talent were to be combined and put into one shadow cabinet, would signal a serious opposition ready to demand back our country from the greedy and selfish regime.
For those in the MDC-T high ranks who do not want the coalition: in my simple logic, it is better to be a Secretary General of a ruling party even without a government post, than being a Secretary General and a Shadow Cabinet Minister. Having access to influence government policy and direction is political power not these useless titles in the opposition.
Only time, the great magician will tell, but I posit that only through a coalition can the opposition yield enough political clout to overthrow Zanu PF hegemony. Necessity demands we join hands with our former opponents (Zimbabwe People First) and our estranged brothers in the opposition to achieve our desired end. As Karl Marx would say development proceeds in spirals, not in a straight line. I too am tempted to believe that. Despite the presence of internal contradictions, splits and conflict of various forces within the movement our democratic struggle as a whole is moving forward. At this present moment in time, we have an opportunity to take our struggle to a higher plane only if we are able to realize what is required of us.
Political wisdom informs us, there are no permanent friends, only permanent interests. We should be wise enough to be guided by logic, not by our emotions. Our emotions want to prove a point that Tsvangirai is more popular than Mujuru, that the breakaway factions are only brains without popular following. Whilst this might be true to a certain point, guess what, there is no prize for being the most popular opposition leader. Logic would rather bask in shared victory and glory for it knows history is not in the habit of honouring failure. Almost does not count.
I really hope Hegel was wrong when he said we learn from history that we never learn from history. Let us unite, move the struggle forward and not repeat yesterday’s mistakes. A new Zimbabwe is possible in Mugabe’s lifetime.
The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.” Eleanor Roosevelt