By Fungi Kwaramba and Tendai Kamhungira
Some small opposition parties, including former Vice President Joice Mujuru’s National People’s Party (NPP), are not yet ready to endorse MDC president Morgan Tsvangirai as the leader of the country’s mooted opposition alliance ahead of next year’s much-anticipated national elections.
This comes as Tsvangirai has in recent weeks received ringing endorsements from a large cross-section of the opposition to lead the proposed coalition against President Robert Mugabe and his warring ruling Zanu PF.
The NPP said this week that it had “deferred” the question of who should lead the planned coalition to party supporters, in a move which analysts say is “another miscalculation” by the fledgling new kid on the political block.
“The sentiment that progressive forces should form a grand coalition is not in dispute, but the practical way of coming up with it has to be done by the party membership at the national convention.
“You are aware that we do not have a substantive leadership and what we are doing now is seeking to come up with that because time is running out.
“We must first have a team that can negotiate,” Mujuru’s spokesperson, Gift Nyandoro, told the Daily News on Thursday.
“As the NPP, we are going to our convention to choose legitimate leadership . . . This will also inform us on how we are going to approach the coalition.
“Thus, the question of who would lead the coalition is a matter that will be resolved by the party membership.
“But we definitely want a grand coalition to unseat Zanu PF but that should be done in a proper way,” Nyandoro added.
This also comes as Mujuru’s absence at the National Electoral Reform Agenda’s (Nera’s) rally in Harare on Wednesday — where opposition parties demonstrated against the government’s hijacking of the country’s quests to procure biometric voter registration (BVR) kits — raised eyebrows.
Because of this and other developments of the past few weeks, question marks are increasingly being raised about her role in the proposed coalition, particularly as she has also had a nasty public fallout with Zimbabwe People First (ZPF) elders Rugare Gumbo and Didymus Mutasa who are playing a leading role in Nera.
Recently, Mutasa cast doubts about Mujuru’s capacity to lead the mooted opposition coalition, while praising Tsvangirai profusely and noting that the popular opposition leader had persevered against all odds in his push for a more democratic Zimbabwe.
“For me, Tsvangirai is the natural leader of the coalition because of who he is . . . What the National Electoral Reform Agenda is today stands for what Tsvangirai and the MDC built. The rest of us are latecomers in this game,” Mutasa told the Daily News last week.
“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.
Other small, lesser-known parties, especially some of those operating within the Coalition for Democrats (Code), also appear to be against Tsvangirai leading the mooted coalition.
But Code chairperson Farai Mbira has said that the group is making strides to engage those political parties that are outside their membership to deliberate on the mooted coalition.
“We have not settled on the presidential candidate but will do so when we have completed our engagements with all partners and potentials.
“Settling on a presidential candidate is not going to be difficult as each leader in Code has accepted that someone else could be chosen and none has given any conditionality,” Mbira said.
However, there have been growing calls in recent weeks from a large cross section of Zimbabweans, including opposition ranks, students and civic society for Tsvangirai to lead the grand coalition.
Apart from Mutasa, former Finance minister and leader of Mavambo/Kusile Dawn, Simba Makoni, has also thrown his weight behind the dogged former labour union leader.
“I am on record saying we need everyone, and in the case of Tsvangirai, we all know the value that he adds, having been in the opposition trenches this long.
“He is a respected leader with popularity and I only hope that other leaders in Code realise that and will also want to have him,” Makoni told the Daily News last week