Opposition learnt nothing, forgot everything from 2013 debacle
IN 2008 I watched as a seemingly defeated President Robert Mugabe emerged from a Sadc meeting in Mozambique, his body language and his demeanour betrayed his frustration, things had not gone his way.
Opinion with Nqaba Matshazi
As the Sadc leaders posed for pictures, Mugabe looked out of place and the proceedings seemed torturous.
On the other side, then Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, his aides and MDC leader Welshman Ncube and his small team, seemed contented, they had managed to convince Sadc leaders that Mugabe’s call for elections without reforms was out of order and the three parties were to approach the courts and ask for the postponement of the election date that the President had proclaimed.
Later, then MDC-T secretary-general, Tendai Biti expressed his admiration at the Ncube and Tsvangirai tag team that had managed to floor Mugabe and hoped they would take this united approach to the elections.
In the evening, I was to meet Tsvangirai’s aide, Jameson Timba, who again reiterated the need for a coalition ahead of the elections, saying what Ncube and Tsvangirai had done showed unity could be achieved.
When we left Maputo, we were convinced that a deal was in the works and it was only a matter of time before a coalition was announced.
But, as history would have it, a deal was elusive and MDC suffered a crushing defeat, while MDC-T came a distant second, both parties were humiliated and were left to lick their wounds, with the ramifications of that loss being felt till today.
Four years later, the country is ambling towards the next election and talk of a coalition is dominating the discourse, but as with 2013, it seems the opposition has a helter-skelter approach to coalescing and this could be to the country’s detriment.
The players are largely the same as they were in 2013, being Tsvangirai, Ncube and Biti, with the notable addition being former Vice-President Joice Mujuru.
Every time hope is raised that the parties are on the verge of an agreement, something else comes up that gives that hope a body blow, leaving prospective voters in a quandary.
It seems the opposition players learnt nothing from their 2008 and 2013 experiences and, like the 19th century French Bourbons, forgot nothing.
The need for a coalition has never been more pronounced and with the opposition, collectively and individually, in disarray, only a unity deal could salvage the situation or the country could as well brace for five years of Mugabe, who would be 99 years old were he to complete his term.
Egos and misplaced self-importance seem to be the bane of the opposition and this has led to their repeated losses in past elections.
Opposition parties do not have to go into a coalition for the sake of a coalition, but it is self-evident that what unites them is stronger than what divides them.
Kenya and The Gambia, among others, have shown that diverse parties, not the Mickey Mouse disagreements in Zimbabwe, can come together and bring about change and what can unite them could be something as small as getting rid of the incumbent.
Tsvangirai, Biti and Ncube once worked together and surely they can do it again, if they can just retrace their steps to pre-2005 or at least invoke the spirit of Maputo.
If they are in politics for the people of Zimbabwe, as they claim, then the logical thing is for them to come together and look for priority issues they can deal with now, as they claim low hanging fruit and draw up quick-win plans ahead of the polls.
Right now, very few can tell between the head and tail of the so-called poll boycott strategy, which the opposition has been implementing since the 2013 elections.
It is almost inconceivable that Mugabe will allow for electoral reforms before 2018, or for Sadc, the African Union or the United Nations to conduct the polls, meaning the opposition’s campaigns in this regard are a misplaced waste of time and money.
The opposition has better things to expend their energy on and that is preparing for elections or providing clarity on what their poll boycott was all about and what was achieved.
This they can do more effectively if they are united and have one goal to achieve, rather than when they are divided and giving contradictory statements that are as unhelpful as they are distractive and destructive.
A good example is the latest National Electoral Reform Agenda (Nera) feedback rally, which if truth be told, was a monumental failure and failed to attract the thousands that the opposition had threatened.
A coalition deal announced soon will cure the country of despondency and replace it with hope, kill apathy and replace it with participation.
Zimbabweans have suffered for far too long and if there aren’t any changes at the next elections, then the opposition would be as culpable as Zanu PF for leaving this country to rot.
Opposition parties need to find each other now, rather than try to stroke their egos with the crowds they pull individually, when they can all but get the country on their side by coming together.
Self-importance and grandiloquence will be the opposition’s downfall — for the third time — when Zanu PF is there for the taking.
If they do not want to unite because what divides them is insurmountable, then the least they can do is to come together for the sake of long-suffering Zimbabweans, who have not had much of a reprieve in the past two decades.