Opposition Grand Coalition A Pipe Dream

By Prince Tongogara

As the 2018 elections clouds loom on the horizon, the opposition political parties are still toying with the idea of a grand coalition to sweep Zanu PF and Robert Mugabe from government for the first time in four decades.

Zimbabweans and political pundits have been over the years, particularly after 2000, calling for a broad coalition to wrestle power from Zanu PF.

The calls for a broad coalition get shriller each time there is an election but at the eleventh hour the talks falter. There are various reasons why the talks crumble but it has been mainly due to fights for leadership and sharing of the spoils.

The political situation still remains the same if not worse after continuous splits among the opposition parties. Over the last 16 years the MDC has split into more than four parties.

The call for coalition has intensified as Zanu PF for the first time is involved in intractable factionalism. The party in 2014 split right in the middle as Vice President Joice Mujuru and more than 100 senior members were booted out for allegedly plotting to succeed Mugabe.

Mujuru has since formed her own party – Zimbabwe People First – which is working towards participating in the 2018 polls. The Mujuru entry will most likely change the rural political terrain that has always Zanu PF stronghold.

Mujuru’s political entry is a double edged sword. It weakens Zanu PF but also re-arranges the opposition politics. It has bolstered the calls for opposition parties to form a broad alliance.

However, the talks seem to have suffered a stillbirth. The reasons vary if you talk to the parties but the reality is the issues boil down to two points of whom will lead the coalition and how will the parties share parliamentary seats to contest.

These are not new issues to coalition talks. These are the same issues that boggled down 2008 negotiations between MDC-T and MDC led by Welshman Ncube.

MDC-T by virtue of its bigger representation in parliament than Ncube’s as a bargaining chip in the negotiations. MDC-T demanded to field the presidential candidate and 70 percent of the seats in the national assembly.

Things have not changed much in the last eight years; Tsvangirai still believes he is the face of opposition in Zimbabwe and his party still thinks it is the biggest opposition party by support.

MDC-T still has the big brother mentality and is willing to negotiate with other opposition parties on its terms. Tsvangirai’s supporters and hawks in his party insist they have established support and can therefore not allow Mujuru who is untested to lead the coalition.

This means the coalition is dead from the start but is still being pushed by political financiers. It therefore remains to be seen if the donors can force the parties to enter into the coalition using the purse as a whip?

For the umpteenth time the big political egoes than pragmatism and broader national interests have got in the way of grand coalition and again it wins.