A reader of the Daily News, which prides itself for telling it like it is, once wrote: “You have to admire Zimbabwean journalists. They are so optimistic they believe that if they write something it might actually come true.”
The reader who signed as Jonathan Gilbert Vincent was commenting on a story about the proposed coalition of Morgan Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change and Joice Mujuru’s People First.
The story said that Tsvangirai and Mujuru were scheduled to meet to discuss working together at a prayer meeting for Itai Dzamara who disappeared on 9 March this year and has not been heard of since.
Mujuru did not pitch up at the prayer meeting. Former war veterans’ leader Jabulani Sibanda was there instead.
Now there is once again speculation that Tsvangirai and Mujuru will join forces, now that Mujuru has unveiled her manifesto though she has not formally announced the formation of her political party.
With people desperate to get rid of Mugabe in the belief that his departure will see the country turning around, they are overlooking one important factor crucial for such a coalition. Who will lead the coalition?
The media has created the impression that Mujuru has a lot of grassroots support, at one time even claiming that she had more than 100 legislators in Parliament and controlled nine of the 10 party provinces. But this was mere speculation. No proof.
Tsvangirai, on the other hand, beat Mugabe in the 2008 elections. He did not get to become president but he garnered more votes than Mugabe and his party won more seats than ZANU-PF. Yet, whispers say, the West, which once backed Tsvangirai, seems to have ditched him for Mujuru- most probably because she has liberation war credentials.
The question now is: Will Tsvangirai allow Mujuru to lead the coalition? If so, for whose benefit?
Tsvangirai can do that, but that would be political suicide. His supporters stuck with him when Welshman Ncube and company left in 2005. They stuck with him when Tendai Biti and Elton Mangoma ditched him last year. Why would they turn around and support Mujuru instead?
Besides, Mujuru is a persona non grata in Matebeleland because of the way she humiliated Father Zimbabwe, Joshua Nkomo. The people of Matebeleland have not forgotten that as is evidenced in recent comments in the media about the proposed coalition.
Besides, coalitions usually work better when each party knows its own strength.
In 1979, ZANU and ZAPU, negotiated at Lancaster House as the Patriotic Front. They even said they were going to contest the elections as the Patriotic Front. But when crunch time came, ZANU said it was going to contest on its own. It won 57 of the 80 seats reserved for blacks then invited ZAPU which had 20 seats into government. The leader had already been decided by the electorate.
In 2009, Tsvangirai, Mutambara and Mugabe formed a coalition. Each one knew his strength, though Mugabe outmaneuvered Tsvangirai.
Should Mujuru and Tsvangirai decide to fight the elections separately, this might not work to their advantage as it could split the vote and perhaps favour ZANU-PF. Either way, it appears the parties are in a Catch 22.
But as one reader commented: “the fact that parties want to come together to contest Mugabe is an indirect admission that Mugabe is more popular with voters. If not why can’t multiple parties steal votes from ZANU and make ZANU the smallest party?”