By Sij Ncube
Harare, August 14, 2016 – ZIMBABWE’S mainstream opposition political parties have initiated moves to forge a broader coalition against Zanu PF ahead of the next elections but analysts feel this could come to naught if the prospective allies fail to use their collective strength to force through requisite electoral reforms to better their chances of upstaging their common opponent.
Questions abound on whether the envisaged loose merger will invent a formula in time to stop Zanu PF violence ahead of polls; better still, stall its rigging machinery and thwart the abuse of national resources to oil President Robert Mugabe’s patronage system.
There is general consensus the opposition should push for the speedy reform of the security sector which is blamed for Mugabe’s continued stay in power, among other reforms, if the parties want to peacefully defeat Mugabe in the next polls.
The military and other state law enforcements agencies, are accused of dabbling in politics in apparent favour of Mugabe and Zanu PF, rendering the electoral processes and elections unfavourable for the opposition.
In past elections, security commanders have publicly declared their interests, insisting they would not salute anyone who emerged out of any presidential race without any liberation war credentials on his CV, in what was widely viewed as a reference to MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai.
The military is accused of leading the 2008 terror campaign which preceded the disputed presidential run-off election where an estimated 300 opposition supporters were killed with support from militant Zanu PF groups which were avenging the veteran leader’s defeat to Tsvangirai during the first round of the presidential race.
Tawanda Majoni, a political analyst based in Harare, agrees most prominent in the envisaged coalition’s to-do list was to ensure there was sustainable electoral reform ahead of the polls.
“You can form as many coalitions as you want, but will not win an election in Zimbabwe if the electoral field is not evened out sufficiently. This is because, historically, Zanu PF has mostly capitalised on a skewed electoral model to win elections,” said Majoni.
He said reforms should ensure that whatever anomalies or fraud occurs would be challengeable in the country’s Constitutional Court.
“It must then be provided that as long as the apex court has not finalised any significant challenge to poll results, no candidate can claim victory. Of course, this can create a constitutional crisis where challenges become drawn out, but the devil is worth including in any electoral reformation.”
He said requisite electoral reform was critical considering the role of the military, voter registration, funding for both political parties and the reconstitution of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) which is charged with running all polls in Zimbabwe.
The opposition charges that ZEC, which is chaired by Supreme Court judge Rita Makarau, was biased towards the incumbent, adding that the ZEC secretariat was packed with members of the military and state security agents.
There are also allegations of the involvement of external agencies such as the Israeli-based Nikuv Corporation which the opposition accuses of tinkering with the voter’s roll in 2008 to tilt the poll outcome to President’s Mugabe’s favour.
The reforms ahead of any future polls are needed to ensure that all parties and candidates have access to public and private media, address the role of traditional authorities, interference with voters and voter education.
Reward Mushayabasa, a political analyst based in the United Kingdom, added his voice on the issue, pointing out the notion of forging a broad coalition among the opposition parties was a welcome development which was long overdue.
“It is a sign of political maturity. Let us hope the opposition parties will resist the temptation to put their narrow political interests before the broad national agenda. The parties’ leaders should always remember that no single individual or party is bigger than Zimbabwe.
“To unseat the Mugabe regime is not going to be a stroll in the park. Hence the opposition parties need to cast their net wider and include the various civil and social organisations in the country as part of a broad coalition of forces to unseat the ruling regime. The recent spate of protests show that there is a power vacuum in Zimbabwe and a clear appetite for political change in the country,” said Mushayabasa.