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'Tsvangirai, Mujuru must act the same'

by Guthrie Munyuki
24 Jan 2017 at 06:24hrs | Views

Stephen Chan, professor of world politics and international relations at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, says it is vital that opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai and former Vice President Joice Mujuru, who now leads the fledgling Zimbabwe People First (ZPF),  project themselves together  if the mooted grand coalition is to gain confidence of the general populace.

He speaks to Daily News Senior Assistant Editor Guthrie Munyuki about this and other issues and below are the excerpts of the interview.

Q: Do you see Zanu-PF finally resolving its rumbling succession issue this year and what is likely to happen?

A: There are no indications the succession battles will be resolved in the near future. It would not be surprising, however, if a successor should be named by Robert Mugabe shortly after the 2018 elections.

Q: Who holds the aces and can there be one more final twist to this saga?

A: This saga has had many twists, but there have only really been two major factions since the departure of Joice Mujuru. These are the factions of Emmerson Mnangagwa, and those who oppose Emmerson Mnangagwa -but those who oppose him cannot decide on a champion who will carry their colours forward. The problem is that neither faction can decide on a set of policies to take Zimbabwe forward. If it finally comes down to personalities and not policies, the future cannot be bright.

Q: Increasingly, Mnangagwa's backers are coming out in the open expressing confidence that he will succeed Mugabe, what's your reading into this?

A: As long as those who oppose Mnangagwa cannot identify and rally around a candidate, he will be the one who attracts international attention. All major players, from the Europeans to the Chinese, have dossiers on Mnangagwa, and outline strategies on how to approach dealing with him. This is impossible when it comes to the opposing faction. In international terms, therefore, Mnangagwa is ahead by default.

Q: Some say the Coffee Mug storm is a sign that Mnangagwa still has a lot to do to win over rivals in Zanu-PF, is this a fair assessment?

A: This was stupid. I myself had a coffee mug with the same words on it. It's just a personal joke to drink out of such a mug, first thing in the morning, when the world looks impossible. If people are quarrelling about this, it makes policy outlooks even more remote. If the mug had the words, ‘I will print money' on it, then there would at least have been a debate on fiscal policy.

Q: For long we have been told the military will eventually decide Mugabe's successor, is this possible when Mugabe clearly says they must not interfere with their internal affairs?

A: The military cannot be factored out. I doubt they will intervene directly or visibly, but they constitute a huge factor in Zimbabwean history and politics.

Q: How do the Zanu-PF factional and succession fights impact the party's chances in the 2018 national elections?

A: Zanu-PF will probably win in 2018, if only because of disillusionment with the entire political process, including the democratic process, and because of disappointment over a squabbling opposition.

Q: In what way can the opposition benefit from Zanu-PF widening fissures?

A: If the opposition was united, not only as a coalition of parties, but with united and detailed policies, then it could make inroads on Zanu-PF - particularly if the economy has worsened by 2018. It seems to me, however, that no opposition leader has anything that resembles a detailed, workable plan or set of policies. It's all generalities. There's not a technocrat among them.

Q: Morgan Tsvangirai says he has recovered from cancer, how does a fit-again Tsvangirai change the dynamics of the 2018 elections?

A: Well, one doesn't recover from cancer just like that. Recovery is a long-term affair and the body must not be subjected to undue stress - so I doubt we shall see a fully dynamic Morgan Tsvangirai. But even a fully fit Tsvangirai will change nothing without a financial plan and, I think, a clear account of what he failed to do as prime minister, and how he would do better in the future; and how he would stop his ministers and MPs from becoming corrupt clones of the worst of Zanu-PF.

Q: Can someone else lead the mooted grand coalition other than him given his popularity with ordinary Zimbabweans?

A: It is not a situation blessed with choice. It has to be Tsvangirai or Mujuru. For the sake of a decent contest, the two must learn not only to work together but project themselves together.

Q: Will it be fair to suggest that the state of the economy will also play a part in deciding who wins the 2018 elections?

A: I think the economy will be a huge factor on people's minds. It will be worse in 2018 than it is now. The new bond notes will lead to inflation, even if carefully controlled and this inflation is not the hyper-inflation of the bad old days. But those bad old days were under a Zanu-PF government; so if anything even remotely like that starts happening again, it will certainly dent the numbers voting for Zanu-PF.

Basically, from our external analyses, the country is technically bankrupt. The Chinese know this and are going slow on their own investment. Coming to terms with the IMF has been helpful, but the IMF will move very cautiously.

Basically, it seems to me like the condition Ghana faced in the early 1980s. I went to Ghana then, and people were surviving with huge ingenuity - but nothing worked anymore in the sense we associate with a formal State.

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