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AS the crisis in the MDC-T continues, the acrimony has provided a catalyst for other opposition parties to mull the possibility of setting up a grand coalition that would take on President Robert Mugabe’s ZANU-PF in the next general election. Although efforts towards a grand alliance are still in infancy, the need to join hands has resonated with many in the country’s opposition politics, albeit in principle. The Financial Gazette takes a look at opposition leaders who could take up the reins of the grand coalition in the event that it takes off.

Simba Makoni, MavamboKusileDawn (MKD) president

The former ZANU-PF politburo member and finance minister has endured a disappointing political career since he broke away from the ruling party in the run-up to the 2008 election to form MKD party. To all intents and purposes, he has been roaming in the political wilderness over the last six years. His party has been dealt a body blow by a funding crisis on the one hand, while it has also failed to strike a chord with voters on the other hand. His joint efforts with Morgan Tsvangirai in last year’s election brought him back from the brink of political obscurity. A technocrat and thinker, Makoni’s choice as leader of the grand coalition may give it traction in the eyes of business and the middle class, but would be a tough sell to the ordinary man on the street. The question at the back of everyone’s mind is that if Makoni failed to command his own sizeable following over the last six years, how likely is it for him to suddenly command g grassroots support as head of the grand coalition? His g links to Tsvangirai may also cast suspicion over him in the eyes of his peers in the grand coalition who would be worried as to whose interests Makoni would really be serving.

Welshman Ncube, MDC president

Pitted against the main contenders — President Mugabe and Tsvangirai — in last year’s general elections, Ncube fared worse than had been expected. His party failed to win a single parliamentary and council seat. Predictions that the MDC was on the threshold of taking the wind out of Tsvangirai’s MDC-T in Bulawayo and its hinterland turned out to be nothing more than hot air. The “devolution is the revolution” election mantra was also a tough sell among voters. Defections by his top lieutenants after the elections have made Ncube’s position even more precarious. Ncube has, however, been the most vocal among those pushing for a grand coalition — a not so subtle admission of the futility of trying to dislodge ZANU-PF as individual parties. Like Makoni, Ncube talks right, thinks right and has briefly been in government, but has so far been unconvincing to the voters who in the political scheme of things are the real kingmakers.

Dumiso Dabengwa, ZAPU president

Dabengwa would stand to benefit the most in the event that he is picked to lead the grand coalition. ZAPU has old scores to settle with ZANU-PF hence a showdown between Dabengwa and President Mugabe would be the perfect script between two former friends turned foes. Yet working against Dabengwa is the fact that he is seen as being a member of the old guard. There is concern regarding how much fresh blood and new ideas he would be able to inject into a grand coalition that desperately is in need of a breath of fresh air in order to attract the young electorate. After a 15-year-long attempt to remove President Mugabe from power, putting forward the right leader for the grand coalition may turn out to be as equally important as avoiding disgruntled voters casting their ballot for President Mugabe because of the lack of a g candidate put forward by the opposition to aance their cause.

Tendai Biti, MDC-T secretary-general

Biti emerged from Tsvangirai’s shadows after orchestrating a palace coup against the MDC-T leader. The bloodless coup signified a shift in the MDC-T that business could not go on as usual without any introspection. Yet it also revealed that Biti would waste no time in turning the dagger on those around him if he believed he was justified — a prospect that would make other leaders in the coalition uneasy in their dealings with him. However, of all the pretenders to the throne, Biti remains the most untested as he leads no party of his own and has never contested in any presidential election. Betting on the wrong horse may prove fatal for the coalition, but in Biti’s favour is that he has nearly four years within which to canvass support from voters. Whether that would pay off or not, would only be decided at the 2018 polls.

Morgan Tsvangirai, MDC-T president

After contesting in three consecutive elections, Tsvangirai should have stood out as the most natural choice for the grand coalition. But he is currently being seen by his peers as the bad boy who should not be allowed anywhere near the grand coalition. Yet Tsvangirai has the pulling power among the voters which leaves all the other opposition leaders green with envy. Tsvangirai knows this and has not been shy to flaunt this aantage in their face. Yet despite his pretensions that he does not need their help, it doesn’t need rocket science to note that Tsvangirai actually needs the grand coalition if he is to see through his 15-year-long push to unseat President Mugabe from power. Tsvangirai intimated at a coalition of sorts when he mulled the formation of a “big tent” earlier this year, an admission that he is willing to accept all the help he could get to dislodge President Mugabe from power. A political settlement with his rival Biti may be the first step towards securing his leadership of the grand coalition. Thereafter, there would be need to sanitise his leadership in the regional and international community which has been tainted left, right and centre since the party was formed in September 1999.

Source : Financial Gazette