UMDC: Will Tsvangirai Be Persuaded To Join?

By Prince Tongogara

Zimbabwe needs a strong and vibrant opposition political party to challenge or break the Zanu PF hegemony particular after Robert Mugabe’s resounding but disputed 2013 general elections two thirds majority victory in parliament.

The 2013 poll outcome changed Zimbabwe’s political environment forever. Opposition parties were devastated and the electorate left confounded. Zanu PF was on the ascendancy and the opposition obliteration was on the horizon unless it fundamentally restructured and repositioned itself to its 2000 strengths.

2000 remains the watershed year in Zimbabwe’s politics, for the first time the government (Zanu PF) could not tinker with the constitution at will. The opposition had won 57 of the 120 contested seats. Zanu PF still fell short of the magic 100 even after bagging another 30 non-constituency allowed then by the constitution.

It is in this regard that last Wednesday’s reunification of MDC formations makes sense. Founding members, Welshman Ncube led MDC and MDC Renewal Team, sealed a historic reunification agreement that could redefine opposition politics if taken to its logical conclusion. The reunified party is now known as United Movement Democratic Change (UMDC) till its congress to be held by August 2015.

The signing ceremony was witnessed by 31 local and international civil society organisations, 17 African diplomats and 7 international diplomats. The seven international diplomats came from Australia, France, Sweden, Norway, India, US and United Kingdom.

This support from CSOs, regional and international diplomats only goes to show how much the world needs a vibrant democracy in Zimbabwe.

This goes without saying how Zimbabwe, Africa’s crown jewel, which used to be the second most diversified and sophisticated economy after South Africa in Sub Saharan Africa has been decimated to a basket case in 15 years.

The UMDC interim co-leaders Ncube and Sekai Holland spoke of the considerable work that the party needs to do to gain political ground and complete the delayed democratic transition.

Ncube said: “It is our job to complete that agenda for change. But you cannot complete the agenda for democratic change; you cannot preside over a new democratic constitution in the absence of democratic political values.”

He immediately added: “What we are saying in the agreement that we are going to sign today is that as we come together, as we rediscover the spirit of 1999 as we re-embrace our values, we need a different narrative, a narrative that takes us to the origins of our struggle.”

Ncube reiterated that the agenda still remains as it was in 1999. It includes among other things good governance, economic reform as well, joblessness and wages which have no relationship with the cost of living. The party also had a social agenda on health, education and social services.

However, the test of the reunification starts now as the UMDC consolidates its structures and refine its policy documents as we move towards 2018. The test also includes how the UMDC will convince other opposition parties in the formation of the broader coalition for democrats ahead of the 2018 general elections.

At this juncture, it remains important that the greatest test is how UMDC will re-engage with the Morgan Tsvangirai led MDC-T. Will they be able to convince Tsvangirai to join their coalition of democrats? Will Tsvangirai remain obdurate and insist that he is the ‘face of the struggle’ and the parties should coalesce around his MDC-T?

The local civil society is watching and so is the international community as the opposition forces stand on the verge of reconfiguring national politics and verge of reestablishing themselves as Zanu PF to all intends goes through turbulent times.

Now Zimbabwe and the world awaits to see how the opposition forces will give life to the following Ncube quote: “‘Let no man, no woman doubt that today is a historical day, because the things we stand for are timeless. They are enduring; they will not change over time. Only our resolve, our commitment might be tested, but the righteousness, the correctness of our cause cannot be disputed.”

As the ululations, sings and dancing fades after signing unity agreement, the reality of the work to be done starts sinking in UMDC and there is little room for failure as the world keeps them under its gaze.