HARARE – Former Presidential Affairs minister and one of the caretaker leaders of the Zimbabwe People First (ZPF) party, Didymus Mutasa, says the popular former prime minister during the government of national unity, Morgan Tsvangirai, is the only person “capable and deserving” of leading the country’s mooted opposition coalition.
Speaking to the Daily News in an interview yesterday, Mutasa said while there were many people who aspired to lead the planned grand alliance, only Tsvangirai had the support and “the credentials” to take that position — completely rubbishing in the process both the capacity and chances of former Vice President Joice Mujuru to lead the opposition.
Mutasa was effusive in his praise of Tsvangirai, making special mention of the way the MDC president had persevered against all odds in his push for a more democratic Zimbabwe, including taking on President Robert Mugabe and a Zanu PF that often behaved thuggishly when challenged.
Mutasa’s sentiments resonate with those of a large cross section of Zimbabweans, including political analysts and civic groups, who all say that the former trade union leader is the only opposition leader capable of giving Mugabe and the warring Zanu PF a run for their money in the eagerly-anticipated 2018 national elections.
The gushing Mutasa described Tsvangirai as a “real fighter for democracy”, adding that the dogged former premier was the “natural leader” for the opposition.
“For me Tsvangirai is the natural leader of the coalition because of who he is … What the National Electoral Reform Agenda (Nera) is today stands for what Tsvangirai and the MDC built. The rest of us are latecomers in this game.
“We want a leader who will do what we thought Mugabe would do, but failed to do, and as ZPF we want to have discussions about who should lead the coalition because when we wanted to do it while we were still with Mujuru she prevaricated,” Mutasa told the Daily News.
“As a party we cannot accept a situation where Mujuru leads the coalition having proved her lack of capacity with ZPF, although she is welcome to be part of the coalition because we need everyone,” he added without hiding his disdain for the leader of the National People’s Party (NPP).
The former senior Cabinet minister and other ZPF bigwigs have been engaging in an ugly feud with Mujuru, ever since their spectacular public fallout last month.
This happened after Mujuru announced that she had expelled Mutasa, another ZPF elder Rugare Gumbo and five other party heavyweights — on account of them being alleged Zanu PF agents, and working to topple her from her then interim ZPF position.
But no sooner had she announced her surprise decision than the situation turned into a complete farce, when Mutasa and Gumbo announced at their own press conference that they had also similarly and summarily expelled Mujuru from ZPF.
Mujuru was later dealt a further body blow when she suffered mass desertions, including receiving resignations from some of her longtime top aides such as Sylvester Nguni, Ray Kaukonde and retired brigadier-general Aggripa Mutambara.
Last week, Mujuru moved to formally cut her ties with ZPF when she formed the NPP, ending her relationship with her erstwhile colleagues which dated to their time in Zanu PF.
Before problems rocked ZPF, Mujuru had been working behind the scenes with Tsvangirai and other smaller parties towards the formation of the planned grand opposition coalition.
And Tsvangirai has since given Mujuru some political oxygen of sorts, despite his being disappointed by the ructions which eventually led to her departure from ZPF.
However, People’s Democratic Party (PDP) leader Tendai Biti said yesterday that the question of who should lead the mooted opposition coalition was not an issue at the moment as there were more pressing issues to deal with.
“The issue of leadership is the least difficult of the hurdles we are faced with because coalitions are already there in the Coalition of Democrats (Code) and Nera, but the challenge is bringing the leaders from the two groups under one roof to discuss why we need a coalition.
“As long as there are some among us who think they can win against Mugabe by themselves we are not going anywhere. We need a rebirth, a reawakening of the opposition in this country,” Biti said, adding that Mutasa was, however, entitled to his views.
On her part, Mujuru herself has said that she remains confident about her involvement in the mooted grand opposition coalition ahead of the 2018 polls.
“In line with our core values of inclusivity, we remain committed to a coalition of all progressive and democratic opposition forces to ensure we end the country’s autocratic rule in the 2018 elections.
“To that end, as the NPP we would like to inform our members, supporters, sympathisers, well-wishers and Zimbabweans from across the political divide that we remain committed to a democratic Zimbabwe.
“We remain builders of Zimbabwe in peace. We are the future, and we have the solutions,” she said last week as she announced the formation of the NPP.
Analysts have previously told the Daily News that a united opposition, fighting with one purpose, can finally bring to an end Mugabe’s long rule, especially at a time that the nonagenarian is fighting to keep his warring Zanu PF united.
They also say Mujuru, whose liberation struggle nom de guerre was Teurai Ropa (Spill Blood), and whose late husband Solomon was the first black post-independence army commander, could provide the much-needed bridge that opposition parties have been missing to ensure the smooth transfer of power if they win the 2018 elections. – Daily News