Zim opposition gangs up ahead of election

Opposition political groups and civil society movements in Zimbabwe have started consultations to form a united front to support a single candidate in the 2008 presidential election, 23 months ahead of the crucial poll.

Information obtained this week shows there have been numerous meetings among officials of factions of the divided Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), other opposition parties and civil society groups in a bid to form a broad united front against the ruling Zanu-PF—along the lines of Kenya’s National Rainbow Coalition, which brought President Mwai Kibaki to power in 2002.

Apart from the MDC factions, other groups involved in the plan include the South African-based Zimbabwe Diaspora Civil Society Organisations Forum, which brings together a number of formations and civic organisations.

The forum was formed in November last year as a network of at least 20 local civic movements based in South Africa and working for a democratic dispensation in Zimbabwe.

The United People’s Movement (UPM)—a shadowy assemblage of disgruntled Zanu-PF officials plus former information minister Jonathan Moyo and former ruling-party MP Pearson Mbalekwa—has also been involved in efforts to form a coalition to fight the presidential election with one contender challenging a Zanu-PF candidate, possibly Vice-President Joice Mujuru, in March 2008.

Zanu-PF has been contemplating amending the Constitution to delay the 2008 election until 2010 when Mujuru, who now seems to be destined to take over from President Robert Mugabe, would have consolidated her grip on the ruling party and government. Since she came into office in 2004, Mujuru has been holding political roadshows and rallies in a bid to build a national profile and drum up support as Mugabe’s possible successor.

Sources said meetings have been held since last July between MDC officials, UPM members and civil society leaders—including influential church heads—to find a common strategy to confront the current political and economic crisis, as well as prepare for the 2008 election.

“There have been a lot of meetings between MDC officials, some now aligned to the Morgan Tsvangirai [leader of the MDC] faction and others to the Arthur Mutambara camp,” a source said. “Various meetings have been held between and among opposition and civil society leaders.”

Sources said MDC officials from Tsvangirai and Mutambara’s factions such as Paul Themba Nyathi, Gandi Mudzingwa, Nelson Chamisa, Renson Gasela and William Bango have had meetings with UPM members, including Moyo and Mbalekwa, over the issue. The meetings have been running since July—before the MDC split in October last year—and are continuing. The involved officials were not available for comment on Thursday.

Moyo and others, sources said, were recently invited to the Tsvangirai faction’s congress to give a “solidarity message”, although the move was later aborted as it was seen not to be strategic. The source said there have been many SMSs and phone calls flying around among the officials trying to come up with a united front against Zanu-PF.

Both Tsvangirai and Mutambara have been calling for the formation of a united front against Zanu-PF.—Zimbabwe Independent

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