/ 27 June 2014

Progress in Zim opposition’s coalition plan

Ambition: Former Finance Minister Tendai Biti leads the MDC Renewal Team
Biti is a senior figure in the MDC-Alliance and was the respected finance minister in Zimbabwe's troubled 2009-13 power-sharing government. (AFP)

Zimbabwe’s opposition parties that are pushing for a grand coalition that will exclude MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai have agreed to retain the identities of their individual parties, although they will support single candidates in elections, including backing just one presidential ­candidate.

Five political parties – the MDC Renewal Team led by Tendai Biti and Elton Mangoma; the MDC faction led by Welshman Ncube, Dumiso Dabengwa’s Zapu, Lovemore Madhuku’s NCA and Mavambo/Kusile/Dawn led by Simba Makoni –have been engaged in talks for the last three months over the possibility of a grand coalition.

This week, insiders told the Mail & Guardian the opposition parties had set up a technical committee comprised of officials seconded by the parties to set out parameters for the coalition. Party leaders have also been meeting regularly to support the work of the technical committee.

“We have taken gigantic steps towards the grand coalition and every­one is happy with progress made so far. There were a number of issues, which needed to be ironed out, among them whether to collapse the parties and form one or whether the parties [should] keep their identities. On that issue we have agreed to keep the identities of individual parties,” said a senior official, who is also a member of the technical committee.

“We have, however, agreed to support each other in elections. This … means we will not contest each other in any election. We will have a single candidate for the presidential elections, members of Parliament and even councillors.

“At the moment, these are still proposals which will need to be accepted by members of each of the parties before they become formalised. This is the position we will announce once all the parties consult their members and get feedback. We are not expecting resistance from the members.”

Common values
Nhlanhla Dube, the spokesperson for Ncube’s MDC and his MDC Renewal Team counterpart, Jacob Mafume, confirmed progress had been made and said the finer details would be released once the parties’ members had approved them.

The technical committee member added that the parties were drafting an agreement on the criteria to be used in choosing presidential and parliamentary candidates.

“This means that, even when we get to elections, there will be a need for us to negotiate on the appropriate candidate based on the criteria we have laid out,” he said.

In addition the parties are also working on common values, which they will use to check and balance each other.

Among the values is a commitment to nonviolence, respect for national institutions, nonracism, nonsexism, nontribalism, respect for the country’s Constitution, respect for the liberation struggle and the country’s history among others.

Need for a code
Officials said the parties were also drafting a code that will govern how the grand coalition will work.

“For example, there is need to clearly spell out who will be convening meetings for the grand coalition and who will be chairing, and under what circumstances. At the moment though, it looks like the chair will be rotational,” said the technical committee member.

Talks of a grand coalition that would be strong enough to dislodge Zanu-PF from power in Zimbabwe’s next general elections in 2018 have been gathering momentum since Zanu-PF controversially romped to victory in last year’s general elections.

The electoral loss caused deep rifts in the MDC-T and caused some officials, led by secretary general Biti and deputy treasurer Mangoma, to call for Tsvangirai’s resignation.

The political parties are also planning to hold a national convention, once the members approve. Dates for the convention have yet to be agreed.

An organising committee has however been set up for the convention. It’s terms of reference, which were seen by the M&G, include supervising structure formation for the convention, creating a delegates list, setting up a provincial convention co-ordination committee, educating ­structures on convention goals and creating as well as supervising provincial committees.

Meanwhile, the MDC Renewal Team is now moving to set up its own political party, which will use orange for branding purposes. Mafume said that, despite the “rebranding”, the breakaway party is “the real MDC”.