“The presidential candidate must be selected on the basis of the best individual able to win an election against the incumbent,” Tsvangirai said Tuesday at a press conference in the capital, Harare.
The decision to unite the opposition comes at a time of deepening unrest because of widespread poverty, joblessness, the collapse of basic services and an abusive police force. The worst drought in two decades has added to the gloom, with about 4 million people, more than a quarter of Zimbabwe’s population, in need of emergency food rations. Within Mugabe’s Zanu-PF, a power struggle to succeed him pits a faction backing his wife Grace against another supporting Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa, a former spy chief.
“That’s a progressive decision in the light of reality that no single party can take on Zanu-PF,” Eldred Masungure, a political science lecturer at University of Zimbabwe, said by phone.
Mujuru, 61, didn’t immediately answer calls seeking comment.
Tsvangirai, 64, has fought successive elections against Mugabe, 92, since 2000, posing the biggest threat to the former guerrilla leader who has led the southern African nation since 1980. Mujuru, who served in Mugabe’s first cabinet and later became vice president, is the wife of the late Solomon Mujuru, who led Mugabe’s guerrilla army against the then white-minority breakaway British colony of Rhodesia.
In recent months, Zimbabwe has been gripped by food shortages and a cash crunch that has delayed payment of salaries and prompted the central bank to introduce dollar-pegged bond notes that Zimbabweans dubbed “zombie currency.”