Home » Governance » Grand Coalition – What Went Wrong Last Time?

WITH plans of a grand coalition currently on Zimbabwe’s political table, it is key to note that this is not the only time this issue has been mooted in the recent past. The latest effort was in the run up to the 2013 harmonised elections. The as yet untold full story of the behind the scenes efforts of the last coalition attempt are instructive, if current attempts at an alliance are to be successful. This time around, months after the idea was mooted, talks are dragging on without yet anything solid taking off the ground.

The delay in taking definite shape of the alliance is indicative that there are as yet a number of issues still to be in place, and if comments by participants are anything to go by it will be some more months yet before the coalition, in its desired grandeur, walks. “We are still engaged in discussions. We are not yet done. We are looking at each other’s principles and policies and it will only be after that, that we will be certain,” Dumiso Dabengwa, ZAPU leader, told the Financial Gazette recently.

“We are also studying each other so as to establish how sincere we are to this coalition.” While it has been reported that Morgan Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change (MDC-T) and Simba Makoni’s MavamboKusileDawn (MKD) joined hands and that Dabengwa’s ZAPU and Welshman Ncube’s Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) had some understanding, in the run up to last year’s harmonised elections, these pseudo unions, were actually part of larger botched attempts to a union that could have been bigger with more players.

Bad faith, lack of sincerity the need to hog the centre unwarranted credit taking not holding out one’s end of the bargain to the end dwarfing out of smaller players — all this happening without any signed agreement are what failed the last attempt at a grand coalition. By his own admission, Makoni said they would have wanted it to be a bigger coalition, but in the end only a few players participated.

A memorandum of understanding (MoU) could perhaps have saved the day, but some key players were unwilling to have that in place. According to Moreprecision Muzadzi, president of little known Voice of the People party, who together with a few colleagues approached Tsvangirai on the idea of combining voices, the MDC-T leader was not keen on signing anything.

Muzadzi along with Kisinoti Mukwazhe, president of the Zimbabwe Democratic Party and other colleagues had agreed with more than 10 other smaller parties, including the Multi-Racial Christian Democrats, Zimbabwe Youth in Alliance and the United People’s Party — to back one leader for president, Tsvangirai. But what started off in earnest as a major unity effort was later scuttled by, among other things, lack of properly drawn out and agreed upon parameters.

Muzadzi, acting upon the aice of veteran politicians, had wanted to see an MoU in place. He says Margaret Dongo, president of the Zimbabwe Union of Democrats, whom they had approached on the issue of coalitions, had gly aised him that the only way this could go forward with certainty and with all players fully on board was if a signed understanding could be entered into.

“She (Dongo) said son, ‘these politicians are mischievous, draft a memorandum of understanding that stipulates what the coalition stands for and are signing in for because you don’t want to be surprised in future. These guys can pull strange things out of the bag in the future, things you never signed for,'” Muzadzi told the Financial Gazette.

Dongo confirmed to the Financial Gazette that she aised on the signing of an MoU. “In Africa you cannot have a coalition and not put it in writing. Agreements that are not reduced into writing can end overnight,” she said. Dongo’s aice found few takers, with Tsvangirai, hugely popular before the July 2013 polls, spurning the initiative.

“But Tsvangirai refused to have an MoU and so we ended up just going ahead without,” said Muzadzi, adding that with 15 smaller parties in place to rally behind Tsvangirai, coalition talks were also entered into by the MDC-T and the other bigger parties MKD, ZAPU and MDC. “MKD and ZAPU were for the idea but Ncube never wanted to come on board right from the start. He was skeptical of Tsvangirai’s sincerity and was not for the idea of rallying behind the MDC-T leader at all,” Muzadzi said.

With the smaller parties raring to go full steam ahead in support of Tsvangirai, Muzadzi said, in no time at all they were surprised by how all of a sudden they were sidelined, booted out of the effort and left out. “It then became about the bigger parties only. We had no idea now what was going on. Morgan Komichi (MDC-T deputy national chairman) told us to seek audience with Tsvangirai. We went to Tsvangirai’s house to get clarity on what was going on, but the security after enquiring inside threw us out and physically shoved us out of his house unceremoniously,” Muzadzi said.

“We (later) met Tsvangirai at Harvest House and he added more empty promises (on top of) earlier promises. Mukwazhe was livid and withdrew and went on to give his support to (President Robert) Mugabe and his ZANU-PF,” Muzadzi said.

Mukwazhe has since confirmed to the Financial Gazette that he withdrew his support for the Tsvangirai-led coalition because of the MDC-T leader’s “brother attitude” which he felt did not honour others.

According to Muzadzi, most of the smaller parties then “shipped out as well”, although he (Muzadzi) continued hanging on albeit with diminishing hope that perhaps in the end all could work out. Dabengwa and Ncube went on to form their side alliance and ran for the presidency separately. Makoni who had decided to stay on in collaboration with Tsvangirai till the elections, did not have a bright ending to the effort. After endorsing Tsvangirai and deciding not to contest for the presidency, he ran, instead for House of Assembly in Makoni, but odds were against him and he lost.

Although Makoni himself, has not come out blaming his loss on the coalition, others like Muzadzi believe the MKD president lost because Tsvangirai did not hold out his end of the bargain to the very last with Makoni. “Tsvangirai humiliated Makoni. He should have ensured that the other MDC-T candidate who ran alongside Makoni did not run but he failed to clear the path for the MKD leader. It just shows how Tsvangirai does not deal with integrity,” Muzadzi said.

Makoni, undeterred by whatever happened in the past is keen, this time around to participate in a coalition and he told the Financial Gazette recently that for it to succeed the coalition should be inclusive of any party, organisation or individual interested in rebuilding Zimbabwe regardless of sector or affiliation.

Ncube and the MDC-T renewal faction which has been aocating for leadership change within their party, both prominent proponents of a grand coalition, are not keen to engage with Tsvangirai in the alliance. Like Makoni, Dabengwa is against excluding anyone. It is already apparent, therefore, that gaps to be budged in finding common ground and aligning wishes and preferences are many.

Nonetheless talks of a coalition have resonated with many parties. Parties that have publicly displayed their interest and keenness include leaders of MDC, ZAPU, MKD, and the MDC-T renewal team led by secretary general Tendai Biti. However, some veteran politicians like Dongo are scoffing at the current efforts. “This coalition does not make sense to me. I think these people’s orientation to power is different. They should focus less on power and more on the people,” Dongo said.

Muzadzi is keen, this time around as last time, to get on the bandwagon of an alliance. “I blame Tsvangirai for the failure of last time’s efforts, but am willing to join forces with those that are working on a grand coalition. As long as everybody can come to the table genuinely and sincerely,” Muzadzi said.

Source : Financial Gazette