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Unpacking the rigmarole of opposition political coalitions in Zimbabwe

22 Jun 2016 at 11:20hrs | Views
Few weeks ago a motley of fringe opposition parties in Zimbabwe singed a political agreement called Coalition of Democrats "CODE" in which they pledged to work together in elections. Conspicuous by their absence was MDC-T and Zim-PF.

The signing in ceremony did not receive a lot of media coverage and it was more of a "damp squid" owing to the absence of the face of opposition politics which is none other than MDC-T led by Morgan Tsvangirai. This may sound unpalatable and akin to massaging the ego of Tsvangirai but that is the verdict in the Court of public opinion.

The political discourse of the day is replete with political coalitions and it is important at this juncture to unpack the rigmarole of opposition political coalition in Zimbabwe. In South Africa a "Pact" between EFF and DA is in the offing in the next local and municipal elections notwithstanding the ideological gulf between the two parties. Coalitions are now a common phenomenon on African   political landscape and this installment will extrapolate on the efficacy of political coalitions in opposition politics of Zimbabwe.

A political coalition can be formed either before or after the election. There exist governing or opposition coalitions. The dominating motif of a coalition is normally to achieve a political goal through numerical superiority but it's no walk in the park, it's like walking on egg-shells.

It takes a lot of courage, tolerance and sacrifice to come up with a political coalition. Individuals have to swallow their pride but most importantly they have to keep their eyes wide open since not every opposition party is genuine. Some opposition parties can be planted by incumbent regimes to achieve political ends like legitimacy and at this juncture every sane Zimbabwean wonders who the so called CODE Chairman Dzikiti is, where he came  from and what he brings in to the coalition. The opposition formations in Zimbabwe risk being out-foxed by the incumbent ZANU-PF if they do not guard against infiltration. By making this unknown Dzikiti CODE Chairman one is tempted to believe that ZANU PF has hijacked the coalition process at its embryonic stage and indeed satan has fled with the gospel in full glare of the congregants.

Instead of the glee and glamour that normally characterise political signing ceremonies observers could have mistaken the signing ceremony to funeral processions owing to the somber atmosphere that characterised it.

Whilst coalitions do sound noble and very tempting especially for opposition parties, they are not a silver bullet to their political fortunes in Zimbabwe. As long as opposition parties do not make efforts to bring about a level electoral field, electoral victory will remain an elusive pie in the air. Popping the champagne over political coalitions without addressing electoral irregularities that characterised the past elections is akin to putting the cart before the horse. If opposition formations synergise to address the toxic issues surrounding the voters roll political dividends can be reaped.

There is strength in numbers but the deep rooted animosity among opposition players makes the so called grand coalition a delusion of grandeur. Our politicians are highly adept with politics of personalities and coming up with a coalition or pact is a gigantic task. It's highly unlikely for individuals like Professor Welshman Ncube, Tendai Biti, Professor Lovemore Madhuku, Mangoma and Dr Morgan Tsvangirai to work together to achieve a common political goal. These are individuals who espouse the same ideology of social democracy but cannot work together because of bad blood among themselves. There has been a lot of vitrolic horse trading and name calling such that coming together will hardly be realised.

The chasm among political players is not ideological but personal and this renders the possibility of a coalition impossible. We can only talk of lack of an ideological congruency in the case of Joice Mujuru who is a new kid on the block in opposition politics and hails from a nationalist school of thought. But do the people of Zimbabwe mind about ideologies in the face of such a political and economic quagmire? It sounds luxurious though.

The problem of political coalition is that all partners in the coalition will be painted with the same brush with those with an abominable past. Honestly joining hands with people like Didymus Mutasa and Jabulani Sibanda will be a disservice on the part of coalition partners because of their record of gross human rights abuses. It will be a herculean task to convince the masses that coalition partners will champion human rights whilst in the company of ex-human rights accomplices. Issues of Image management are important in the game of politics and sacrificing principles on the altar of political expediency is costly and should never be misconstrued to mean pragmatism.  

Yes it's a fact that political coalitions do unify the masses even along ethnic lines as was the case in Kenya when Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto coalesced, more bargaining power and political clout can also be achieved but it's also important for political players to reap where they sow. Some want to reap where they didn't sow behind the facade of a coalition.

Political coalitions create a lot of internal rivalries and political squabbling as individuals from different formations jostle for positions. It's a cumbersome process which has the potential of distracting political players from pertinent issues. The historic elections in Senegal in 2012 are instructive in this regard. Competing against Abdoulaye Wade, an increasingly disliked incumbent from the Senegalese Democratic Party (PDS) who was running for his third-term in office, Senegal's major opposition parties attempted to form a variety of alliances and coalitions before the elections; it was a painstaking process although the opposition formations finally coalesced in the Run - off resulting in the defeat of Wade.

Let the best individual win and form the next government in 2018.

Wilton Nyasha Machimbira, is a Political Analyst. For feedback and comments can be contacted on

Source - Wilton Nyasha Machimbira
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