MDC-T leader Mr Morgan Tsvangirai formally launched a coalition with six other opposition parties in Harare on Saturday.
The event, like the period leading to it, was divisive and controversial, portending a difficult future for the coalition and parties to it, particularly MDC-T.
He will lead the outfit, the MDC Alliance that, apart from his party has Transform Zimbabwe, Professor Welshman Ncube’s MDC, Zimbabwe People First, the Multi-Racial Christian Democratic Party, People’s Democratic Party and Zanu Ndonga.
The unveiling was marred by the absence of key MDC-T officials among them Mr Tsvangirai’s long-time deputy, Ms Thokozani Khupe, the organising secretary Mr Abednico Bhebhe and national chairman Mr Lovemore Moyo.
Not many think that the seven-party alliance will make an electoral impact strong enough to shake Zanu-PF. They are a coalition of zeros, as President Mugabe said recently, and a pile of zeros does not add up to anything more than a zero.
But the boycott of the launch by the trio, who have been publicly opposing the formation of the coalition, will certainly be material in further weakening the alliance right from its birth. These are the face of MDC-T in Matabeleland region, a strong power-base for the coalition.
Without them will the party amount to anything in the region? Time will tell, but we argue that their absence at Saturday’s event will weaken the initiative in the region.
Actually, their boycott might lead to yet another split of MDC-T. This suggests that what Mr Tsvangirai thinks he is gaining by bringing in Prof Ncube’s MDC, he is losing the same, or more, by the departure of Ms Khupe and Messers Moyo and Bhebhe. Add to the trio’s snub of the launch the attack on them at the party’s provincial headquarters in Bulawayo yesterday and a reaction to the violence by a close ally of Mr Tsvangirai, Mr Charlton Hwende.
Mr Bhebhe accused Mr Tsvangirai for personally setting party youths on them yesterday.
“We are a democratic party and democracy should prevail. We are all shocked somebody sent a team from Harare to come and beat us up. That team came in the name of the party president,” Mr Bhebhe said, adding, “We are going to confront the president (Mr Tsvangirai) as to why he sent a team to beat us.
We want to find out,” he said.
This echoes the message we heard when the party split for the first time in 2006 when the likes of Prof Ncube and former top official Mrs Trudy Stevenson were set upon by youths allegedly sent by Mr Tsvangirai. Party leaders had disagreed over whether to participate in senatorial elections that were held that year, leading to the emergence of a pro-senate faction to which Prof Ncube and Mrs Stevenson belonged, and the anti-senate faction that Mr Tsvangirai led.
The pro-senate group later became MDC after a bitter fight over the party name and assets. The anti-senate group adopted the name MDC-T.
The violence of yesterday also echoes what we witnessed in February 2014, when then MDC-T deputy treasurer-general Mr Elton Mangoma and youth assembly national secretary general Mr Promise Mkwananzi, were assaulted outside Harvest House for opposing Mr Tsvangirai. The violence culminated in the defection of Mr Mangoma, Mr Tendai Biti, then secretary general, Mr Mkwananzi and a host of others.
Now we have a pro-coalition wing that Mr Tsvangirai leads and an anti-coalition group that Ms Khupe leads and violence is involved too. Thus, considering the hard positions adopted by either side, we foresee yet another separation of Mr Tsvangirai’s party.
He maintained the tough line at the signing ceremony at the weekend, firing what might be a parting shot on those against the coalition.
“I would like to thank our negotiators,” said Mr Tsvangirai.
“There were some among us in the MDC who were against the coalition. They would call me, asking why we had conceded some seats to other parties. I told them point blank that that is what it was, and at the end of the day, don’t be sad. They must know that seats belong to the people of Zimbabwe; not individuals. Why are you refusing to see the objective that we have?”
The discord must be sweet music in the ears of Zanu-PF.
We don’t think Prof Ncube will, without the support of Ms Khupe and her group deliver the Matabeleland vote to MDC Alliance. The professor hasn’t done well electorally since the MDC split. Also, he has failed to organise a congress since 2011. His party lost dismally in the 2013 harmonised elections. No one knows if the party is bigger numerically than the party leader himself and his spokesman, Mr Kurauone Chihwayi, after high-profile defections over the past few years.
As for the other alliance members, not many know who Transform Zimbabwe is, who Multi-Racial Christian Democratic Party is, Zimbabwe People First or People’s Democratic Party. Zanu Ndonga died with its founder, Ndabaningi Sithole, 17 years ago.
Will anyone doubt therefore that the coalition is indeed a pile of zeros unlikely to make any impact electorally in next year’s elections?