Zimbabwe’s mainstream opposition, now in the form of a number of MDC offshoots, has been having a bit of a spat over former Zanu Pf second secretary and national vice president, Joice Mujuru.
It began with the MDC Renewal’s Elton Mangoma, in the throes of factional fighting, accusing his then leadership rival, Tendai Biti, of liaising or at least wanting to join Mujuru in her newfound political endeavours.
A few days later, Biti retorted that it would be the height of idiocy for them not to seek some sort of political pact with the former vice president. Though he also stated that it was highly unlikely that he would ever form a similar coalition with Morgan Tsvangirai, the leader of the largest opposition party in Parliament.
Not to be outdone was the MDC-T spokesperson, Obert Gutu, who warned Mujuru against taking the MDC-R seriously because, in his own words, ‘they don’t have numbers’.
Add to this the wannabe-mediator voice of Simba Makoni, and you have an opposition falling over its feet trying to be in Mujuru’s loop.
In return, the spokesperson for the still-to-become-a-physical-reality People First party, Rugare Gumbo, confirmed meeting with some of these outfits to sound them out. He is also reported to have said that they are looking for those with numbers on the ground.
While avoiding mirth, one can be forgiven for thinking that it is Joice Mujuru who has been in opposition politics all of this time.
A key question is how it is that contemporary and long duree opposition parties are caught wanting to curry favour with their one time and rather obtuse rival over and above their own programmes of action?
Of the opposition parties in the mix, only one is actually fully constituted. This being the MDC-T. It held a congress and had a national leadership elected from the same for a reasonable period of time.
The other parties that are clamouring to be at Mujuru’s table have never held full elective congresses in the aftermath of the 2013 harmonised election. And they are all in parlous internal states with factionalism, defections and resignations.
Moreover, none of these parties have so far articulated an alternative post-2013 national program to rival the generally defunct Zanu Pf one of ZimAsset. Even where they have a substantive national leadership.
Instead, their national plans of action appear to either split, cause further splits within splits, caused by elections they do not participate in and then immediately thereafter seek coalitions with personalities that have been their rivals all along.
This is, however, not to say that coalitions are a bad thing in themselves. One only needs to look a the Kenyan example of multiple coalitions toward general elections to get an idea as to how these may work. It was the National Rainbow Coalition that defeated ruling party candidate Uhuru Kenyatta in 2002. Eleven years later it was another coalition, the Jubilee Coalition, that eventually brought Uhuru Kenyatta to power.
The key difference is that those opposition parties that joined electoral forces all had their own initial programmes and organizational capacities that they brought to the coalition table.
In our Zimbabwean contemporary case, the collective opposition is not in a state to form a serious or organic coalition among the old players or the much vaunted new player on the scene. At least for now.
What would be required is for each of the opposition parties to get their internal affairs in proper democratic order, articulate their national visions, and then seek out broad coalitions.
The default route, which can be appealing for its populism, to merely gather personalities together and claim a grand coalition, will, sad to say, not work. There will be scrambles and disputes over leadership positions and uncoordinated presentation of the overall national agenda of such a coalition. As already evidenced by the media spats over who Mujuru should join forces with.
The saddest thing, though, is that for all these years, the opposition has not learnt to continually stand its own organic political ground. It has to wait for Zanu Pf to help it find a new cause along the way. Its own issues get clouded in the dust of factionalism, petty personality differences and an unfortunate propensity to seek international recognition before all else.
Perhaps this time things will be different. Perhaps there will be a statesman or stateswoman who will emerge from the raucous opposition politics in Zimbabwe. But on the basis of current events, it will be tremendously hard work for democratic success to be realized. If only for the country.