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Coalitions! Coalitions! Coalitions!

22 May 2013 at 08:50hrs | Views
Election time in Zimbabwe always brings with it the euphoria about how to unseat the regime in view of the fragmented opposition. The belief is that for as long as parties are fragmented it is impossible win an election, therefore, the best would be to form a COALITION of "democratic" forces.

This creates an urgency to get into coalitions without applying our minds to the advantages and disadvantages of the said coalitions. This unrealistic urgency is buttressed by the ridiculous claims that some parties are "bigger"- whatever that means- and then the smaller parties are bullied into subservient roles to bigger parties baring their obvious ideological bankruptcy and leadership deficit. This article seeks to highlight some of the myths about coalitions in Zimbabwe a country that has a lot of historical realities that cannot be sacrificed on the alter of political expediency.

There is a strongly held view in this country that the best - indeed, perhaps the only - way for the democratic forces to win political power is by forming coalitions among themselves. Which such an alliance, the opposition notwithstanding the existence those who have peculiar issues they intend to address, can influence national legislation and national social patterns, tribalism, marginalisation and continued economic and political genocide could thus be ended. This school of thought sees the existence of pluralism as a disadvantage to their fascist inclinations and any formation outside them is viewed as separatist and unwilling to enter alliances. They are quick to say that other political formations are regional/Ndebele and villagized/minority so they cannot have a meaningful impact on the country's political landscape.

The MDC is not opposed to the formation of political coalitions per se; obviously they are necessary in a pluralistic society. But the questions that need to be answered are: Coalition with whom? On what terms? For what objective(s)? Our history has shown that coalitions have only been only at leadership level; dictated by terms set by others; and for objectives not calculated to bring about major improvement in the lives of the people.

Let us examine some of the assumptions of the coalition school of thought and show that our efforts do not eschew coalitions, rather, we want to establish the grounds for coalitions that can be viable. The coalitionist proceeds on what we can identify as the three myths or major fallacies.

First, in the context of present day Zimbabwe, the interests of the MDC are identical with the rest of the reform groups in the country. Some of the groups that we are being forced and or encouraged to coalesce with accept the legitimacy of the basic values and institutions of society as stated in the 1979 Grand plan - whose authorship has been recently ascribed to Simba Makoni and others- and the 14 page progress report and fundamentally are not interested in a major reorientation of society. Many adherents to the current coalition doctrine recognise but nevertheless would have us coalesce with these organizations. The assumption - which is in itself a myth - is that what is good for these organizations is good for all of us.

The major mistake made by exponents of the coalition theory is that they advocate for alliances with groups which have never had as their central goal the necessary total revamping of society. At the bottom these groups accept the Zimbabwean system and want only, if at all, to make peripheral, marginal reforms in it. Their diagnosis of the cause and solution to the Zimbabwean crisis is totally different from ours. Their reforms are inadequate to rid Zimbabwe of tribalism and other vices which are borrowed from ZANU, which they have benefited from in a very big way. They are also plagued by this overriding sense superiority that pervades Zimbabwean politics. Some sections of the opposition no less than others, are subjected and subject to it.

My point is that no matter how 'liberal' the other groups might be they cannot ultimately escape the overpowering influence – of their organizations - of their otherness in our tribalised society. Liberals often say that they are tired of being told "you cannot understand what it is to be a minority and the quest for a New Zimbabwe". They claim to recognize this. Yet the same liberals will often turn around and tell us that we should ally ourselves with those who cannot understand, who share the sense of superiority based on otherness.
I do not believe it is possible to form meaningful coalitions unless both or all parties are not willing but believe it absolutely necessary to challenge tribal conformity and other prevailing norms and institutions. Most of the liberal groups which we are familiar with (MDC-T) are not willing at this time. If that is the case, then the coalition is doomed to frustration and failure. The conformity position assumes that what is good for "Zimbabwe" is good for everyone in the country.

The Second Myth is the assumption that a politically and economically secure group can collaborate with an economically and politically insecure group. My contention is that such an alliance is based on shaky grounds. By definition, the goals of the respective parties are different.

Joshua Mhambi is the MDC Deputy Director of Strategy and Research

Source - MDC Deputy Director of Strategy and Research
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