Zimbabwe Opposition Alliance Wobbles as Leaders Scrap Over Posts
A coalition formed by Zimbabwe’s main opposition parties to contest next year’s elections against President Robert Mugabe’s Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front is at risk of unraveling as its leaders scrap over who will lead it.
Cracks in an accord signed on April 20 by Movement for Democratic Change leader Morgan Tsvangirai and Joice Mujuru, head of the National People’s Party, emerged when Mujuru told a conference in Ghana that she was preparing a bid for the presidency. Tsvangirai supporters then threatened to exit the coalition, which includes a breakaway arm of the MDC led by Welshman Ncube. The opposition pact didn’t address the alliance’s leadership structure.
Mujuru, 62, claims her experience as a veteran of Zimbabwe’s 1970s liberation war and her 34 years as a Zanu-PF cabinet minister and vice president under Mugabe has prepared her for the task of leading the southern African nation, which is contending with cash shortages, widespread poverty, joblessness and the collapse of basic services.
“The coalition hasn’t been confirmed,” NPP spokesman Methulseli Moyo said by phone from Harare on Thursday. “Neither Morgan Tsvangirai nor Joice Mujuru have been officially endorsed by each other. All we have is an intention to work together for an electoral pact. Until the final comprehensive pact is signed, each party is on its own” and Mujuru is her party’s presidential candidate, he said.
Tsvangirai said while discussions over leadership posts are ongoing, he expects the coalition to survive and win the elections.
“We’re on the right path, even if it seems slow, but democratic forces are now coming together,” he said by phone on Thursday.
Mugabe, 93, has held power in Zimbabwe since 1980, after being declared the winner of a series of elections that the opposition has said were rigged, and is Zanu-PF’s presidential candidate for next year’s vote. Within the ruling party, a succession struggle is underway between two factions, one that’s coalesced around Mugabe’s wife Grace and the other around Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa, a former spy chief.
Lloyd Sachikonye, a politics lecturer at the University of Zimbabwe, expects the opposition coalition to fail.
”Mujuru’s recent statements reported in the media are all part of what’s wrong with the opposition’s strategies, if one can even call them that,” he said. “It won’t work, not when the parties are negotiating through the media.”
Brian Latham and Desmond Kumbuka