Home » Governance » Challenges Lie Ahead for Ncube, Biti

MONTHS of behind-the-scenes negotiations between Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) formations led by Welshman Ncube and Sekai Holland culminated in the formation of the United Democratic Union (UDU). The development, coming after years of fragmentation, provides a glimmer of hope that opposition parties in Zimbabwe may now well be on their way towards finding each other in order to put up a g fight against ZANU-PF. But amid that glimmer of hope, the Financial Gazette’s Assistant Bureau Chief Ray Ndlovu takes a look at the challenges that still lie ahead for the new political outfit.

Who will lead UDU?

While the leaders of both the MDC and the MDC Renewal Team have relegated the issue of its leadership to congress next year, it may be the single biggest threat to internal harmony among the foes-turned friends. Ncube has led the MDC for three years since defeating former party leader Arthur Mutambara in a bloodless palace coup. Although he fared dismally in last year’s elections, Ncube has some leadership credentials under his belt. On the other hand, the MDC Renewal Team has struggled to come up with a front man since its bitter split from Morgan Tsvangirai’s MDC-T in March. Samuel Sipepa Nkomo presided over the party’s affairs at the beginning before Holland took over as the interim leader. In the background is Tendai Biti who is widely seen as the brains behind the formation. Elton Mangoma is also another dark horse thought to harbour leadership ambitions. What this all points to is that the elephant in the room is whether Ncube would be willing to step aside and hand over power to Biti or other aspirants on a silver platter?

What will the party offer?

Zimbabwe’s opposition parties have gravitated around one central message and that has been to remove President Mugabe from power. After nearly 15 years of the same rhetoric coming from the MDC parties, fatigue has set in among voters who want to know what the opposition has to offer beyond the mantra that “Mugabe must go”. The ability to articulate the vision the UDU has for ordinary Zimbabweans will be crucial in the months that lie ahead. Biti said the new political formation’s intention was to build a “new narrative”, an open admission that the shine has come off the once popular “Mugabe must go” refrain. “We are here to create a new narrative of building and showing the big-tent and the liberation movement that we can create a new way of doing things that of building and putting people first,” said Biti. Whether there will be buy-in from the voters in what the new party will offer will only be measured by the results of the ballot box in 2018.

How will the rival MDC-T be handled?

Intimations to invite Tsvangirai have been flatly rejected by both political parties. The question of how UDU will handle the rival MDC-T party is one that is unlikely to go away anytime soon. While aspersions have been cast at Tsvangirai for running the MDC-T as his “personal project” and for being afflicted with “the big man” syndrome, he still is unquestionably in charge of the country’s largest opposition party that commands a formidable grassroots following. Failure to incorporate the MDC-T in any grand coalition will come short of unseating ZANU-PF. As postulated by political analyst, Charles Mangongera, the biggest test of the new party is going to be whether it can strike an electoral coalition that does not exclude anyone. “I think that is going to be the major test of their tolerance and ability to set aside their moral indignation for the sake of progress,” said Mangongera.

Will the MDC name be kept or not?

Given the bitter splits in the original MDC firstly in 2005 and then in April this year, tough decisions will have to be made by the new political party on whether to keep the MDC name or to abandon it completely. That is not going to be easy. The MDC brand has been eroded over the years, buckling under splits, infighting, corruption claims and the consecutive defeats at the hands of ZANU-PF in three elections. If the new leadership is serious about creating a “new narrative” and offering voters something new, it will have to break away from the comfort provided by using the MDC brand name. Yet abandoning it, will raise legal questions in Parliament over the defection by legislators to the new political movement – setting the stage for a bruising fight with the rival MDC-T which has been agitating for the firing of rebel legislators from the august House. Whichever way it settles, eyes will be on the new movement to walk the talk and not give Zimbabweans more of the same.

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tendai biti Tsvangirai United Democratic Union Welshman Ncube

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Source : Financial Gazette