RECENT alleged overtures from the MDC camp purportedly advocating for dialogue with Zanu PF in an attempt to address the socio-economic and political tsunami that engulfs this impoverished diamond-rich Southern African state, if they are anything to go by, are not only ill-timed but, at worst, premature and ill-advised.
In his State of the Nation address, Morgan Tsvangirai advocated for dialogue with Zanu PF which would involve other interested stakeholders with the sole purpose of finding common ground in tackling the worsening crisis that grips the nation. The opposition leader has repeated the same calls of late, echoed by Tendai Biti who observed that “It is a very dangerous situation to have a country which is not talking to each other…. Zimbabweans have to talk to each other to come up with a solution”. Not only empty talking, but, “the dialogue must vaccinate itself against elite capture and the reproduction of another GNU”, the secretary general is said to have emphasised.
The failure of the current regime in improving the economic fortunes of the country is one argument upon which this idea of another inclusive arrangement is premised. That being said, this gesture with all its good intentions appears premature, more so in the context of the opposition’s earlier non-association stance epitomised by Biti’s famous “Those who have won must govern on their own; tongai tione.”
Not only that, the olive branch was also extended from the wrong camp since it’s the ruling party under pressure to deliver on it is election manifesto that should have initiated dialogue with the opposition and not the other way round. In any case, assuming that the opposition is eager to engage in dialogue with the ruling party, what bargaining power do they have at the negotiating table to strike a deal that is in their favour? Do you enter into dialogue from a position of weakness?
In as much as it is acknowledged that the previous GNU saved the country from total collapse, it is undeniable that this marriage of convenience helped in resuscitating the ghost of Zanu PF. Not only did this unholy marriage in hell mask the rot behind the country’s demise, it aided Mugabe’s grip onto power at a time nature was taking its toll on his reign. Is the opposition prepared to pump fresh air into Mugabe’s lungs again at a time he is clearly gasping for breath?Advertisement
What lessons did the opposition learn from the previous coalition arrangement to be in a hurry to advocate for dialogue that would culminate in another GNU? Mugabe agreed to a power sharing agreement in 2009, not in good faith, but because he was bloodied and on the ropes, fighting for survival. Extending an olive branch to his adversaries was not only a necessity, but a tactical manoeuvre as well. Indeed, the strategy paid off as evidenced by the opposition’s naivety in bleaching the incumbent’s soiled image on the global arena to the extent of campaigning for the lifting of the targeted sanctions.
Calls for dialogue with Mugabe by the opposition today are misguided in that the incumbent is currently not under the kind of pressure as he was in 2009 to entertain such overtures. The best the opposition can do, for the meantime, is to mobilise grassroots supporters, re-engage with civic society and engage in legal acts of disobedience to paralyse the regime while articulating their policies rather than advocating for another GNU in which they would be junior partners with only ceremonial roles.
Who would have imagined the opposition contemplating another coalition with Zanu PF in the wake of the humiliation they suffered at the hands of Mugabe during the inclusive arrangement? Were their posts not largely ceremonial? Even assuming that the opposition has put national interests above party politics, isn’t there a realisation within the rank and file that a coalition arrangement devoid of good will on either party is a recipe for disaster since it perpetuates the dictatorship that the opposition claims to fight? How else can this naïve gesture by the opposition be explained?
In as much as the opposition may attempt to portray themselves as victims of Zanu PF’s evil machinations, it is evident that the allure of wealth and flamboyance has compromised their behaviour and image. Politics, the world over, is viewed by many as a lucrative business worth sacrificing even life for. With the formation of the inclusive government in 2009, it’s alleged that each of the 44 ministers received two personal vehicles upon assuming office and the same individuals got a new fleet in 2011 which included Land Rover Discoveries , latest Mercedes Benz E-class, Jeep Cherokees, Toyota SUVs, among other brands.
It is on record that during the life span of the inclusive government, it was only David Coltart who turned down these state-of-the-art brands arguing that it was untenable to squander so much money on cars while the learning institutions received paltry funding. Besides Coltart, none of the other legislators both from Zanu PF or MDC ever raised any objections to this plunder of the country’s resources to fund a life of luxury at a time the majority of the population survived on less than $2 dollars a day.
Is it any wonder that just recently, a leaked document purportedly from MDC legislators to the Speaker of the House of Assembly proposed better and bigger perks for MPs from Treasury at a time the country fights for survival? In this leaked document, allegedly co-signed by MDC-T deputy President Thokozani Khupe with the party’s Chief Whip Innocent Gonese, the MPs proposed a hike in their sitting allowances from $75 to $200 a day, which adds up to $600 per week per legislator.
Other demands included executive cars like the Land Rover Discovery or Jeep Cherokees, with each costing the taxpayers not less than $100,000. In addition, there was a demand for exemption from paying toll fees, 100 litres of fuel a week and accommodation allowances for all legislators including those residing in Harare. With all due respect, why should a legislator residing in Harare claim accommodation allowance? These revelations, if they are anything to go by, are shocking and may explain the opposition’s willingness to be bed-mates with Zanu PF in another coalition government in which they are junior partners.
Acknowledging the existence of this leaked document, Thokozani Khupe is quoted arguing that, “the issue is not about the letter, but about the failure by this government to look after honourable MPs, who have to use public transport because they have no vehicles or fuel. Oh dear dear! Can the honourable MP justify the need for a Land Rover Discovery let alone a Jeep Cherokee when millions of citizens survive on less than a dollar a day? Do these revelations partly explain the opposition’s willingness to enter into an unholy dialogue with Mugabe as early as this hour just behind the backdrop of a rigged poll?
It doesn’t need a rocket scientist to figure out that the country’s hopes lies in another coalition arrangement but the million dollar question is on whose terms? Surely, clamouring for dialogue with Zanu PF by the opposition when Mugabe is silent after having imposed himself on the throne is not in the best interests of the former, nor is it strategically plausible as the basis for striking a long lasting deal. A coalition government that results from a stolen election may provide temporary solace for its citizens but its life span is short-lived before the underlying problems re-emerge.
The best the opposition can do is to put their house in order, reach out to other interested stakeholders and mobilise the population in fighting the regime through different means of legal civil disobedience rather than begging to be bed-mates with the devil as junior partners. Mugabe is on the steering wheel but he forgets that he will soon run out of fuel and that is the best time to negotiate and bargain, not now. A coalition arrangement that leaves Mugabe at the helm of power is not only ill-advised but futile and, ultimately, it will not succeed. Those with ears let them hear.
William Muchayi is a pro-democracy and political analyst who can be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org