By Sij Ncube
HARARE, August 13, 2016 – THE MDC Renewal Team has set August 21-23 as the tentative dates for its inaugural congress in which Tendai Biti is tipped to be elected party leader but critics say he should, instead, be working towards the formation of a formidable broad alliance against President Robert Mugabe ahead of 2018 polls.
Biti led a breakaway from popular opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai in the aftermath of the disastrous and controversial July 31, 2013 elections in which Mugabe was re-elected while his Zanu PF grabbed more than two thirds majority in parliament.
Tsvangirai was accused of blundering ahead of the elections, among them of bed-hopping after being linked with a string of women in the run-up to the elections as well as participating in a flawed electoral process that lacked requisite reforms.
The fragile nature of the opposition and its penchant for rushing to consummate splinter groups when differences emerge has been infuriating the electorate and sympathisers long itching to see the back of Mugabe and his Zanu PF.
Biti’s Renewal Team recently suffered a major spilt after former treasurer Elton Mangoma inaugurated his own political formation after being found guilty of alleged sexual misconduct.
The Renewal Team includes party acting chairperson Sam Sipepa Nkomo, former minister Gorden Moyo, and former Kwekwe legislator Settlement Chikwinya, among others, mostly renegades from Tsvangirai or Welshman Ncube’s formation of the MDC.
Information obtained by Radio VOP indicates all is now in place for the August 21-23 national convention in Harare.
“We are creating the New Way. Expected is change of party name, substantive leadership for all wings, launch of our policies document and our economic blue print,” said Butholezwe Nyathi, a Renewal Team official based in South Africa. “From our Convention, we will be going to the grassroots,” said Nyathi.
The economic blue-print – Holistic Programme for Economic Transformation (HOPE) – envisaged to be unveiled at the convention will include ways of dealing with housing problems in Zimbabwe cities.
All the party’s political provinces have already met to nominate national leadership, debate key policy issues and make submissions for the party constitution.
The party is asking its supporters to buy membership cards for $2 or R30 to be eligible to attend the convention as it emerged Biti has no challengers for the top post.
However, critics of Zimbabwe’s opposition are adamant Biti’ forging ahead with a new party does not augur well for Mugabe’s opponents. What is needed, they argue, is to close ranks and forge a united but formidable opposition ahead of 2018 polls, pointing out Mugabe and the faction-riddled Zanu PF were at their weakest.
Mugabe is reportedly battling to contain factionalism in his party since he fired former vice president Joice Mujuru in December last year. Mujuru’s allies, including former Zanu PF secretary for administration Didymus Mutasa and former spokesman Rugare Gumbo, are reportedly toying around the idea of forming another opposition party, People First, to challenge Mugabe.
Speculation has been rife the disgruntled former Zanu PF members could go to bed with Tsvangirai and other so-called democratic forces but nothing tangible has come so far.
Be that as it may, Gladys Hlatywayo, the director of ZIMCET and a Hubert Humphrey fellow at University of Minnesota, says while in a normal country, the formation of several political parties is not a problem as it gives choice to the electorate but in Zimbabwe, where the incumbent is 35 years in office, it’s only logical for the opposition to amalgamate and form a united and formidable challenge.
“Whilst the prospect of a coalition on the eve of an election looks unlikely given the hatred and disdain for each other in Zimbabwe’s opposition, one cannot rule it out a completely,” said Hlatywayo.
Bulawayo-based political analyst, Dumisani Nkomo, dismisses Biti’s formation as playing to the gallery.
“Biti guys are a bunch of clowns. We just need one strong broad based opposition party,” said Nkomo.
Tabani Moyo, a political analyst who works for the Media Institute of Southern Africa, added his voice on the issue, cautioning that Zimbabweans needed to be self- introspect and form a single and formidable opposition that will unseat Zanu(PF).
Moyo said while it is the Renewal’s democratic right to form a political entity, at least there should be an undertaking to put the country’s trajectory ahead of narrow political interests.
“After all has been said and done, opposition candidates should be mature enough to support a single candidate to take on Zanu(PF) and seek to sort out their differences when the broader goal has been achieved. Otherwise these sideshows are a worst of time, Zimbabwe is burning and looking for a serious leadership to douse of the flames,” he said.