HARARE – Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai says President Robert Mugabe is rattled by the mooted grand coalition which could end the warring ruling Zanu PF’s nearly four decades in power next year, when the country holds its make-or-break national elections.
This comes as Tsvangirai has emerged as the de facto face of the planned opposition alliance, which analysts say has the potential of overrunning Zanu PF in 2018 — particularly given the former liberation movement’s escalating tribal, factional and succession wars.
Speaking to the Daily News On Sunday yesterday, Tsvangirai’s spokesman, Luke Tamborinyoka said there was no doubt that “the end is nigh” for Mugabe and Zanu PF.
The bold assertions came after Mugabe warned Zanu PF bigwigs in Harare on Friday that their continued ugly brawling could gift Tsvangirai and the opposition victory in next year’s polls.
“Mugabe’s statement shows that he is now panicking. It is understandable when he talks about president Tsvangirai as if he (Tsvangirai) was on the agenda of the (Zanu PF central committee) meeting.
“Of course, what all this shows is that president Tsvangirai is the only man who has defeated him in an election,” Tamborinyoka said yesterday.
“They (Mugabe and Zanu PF) thought that it was going to be difficult for Zimbabweans to work together. This is why they are panicking because we are coming together.
“Zimbabwe’s worsening political, economic and social problems are bringing the people of Zimbabwe together … and in 2018 it will be the people of Zimbabwe versus this minority regime (Zanu PF).
“By the way, we don’t care about Zanu PF’s fights and we actually feel sorry for those who now have to sit on massage chairs because it’s not a crime to be old,” Tamborinyoka twisted the knife further.
This comes as Tsvangirai has been working with former vice president Joice Mujuru and other smaller opposition parties behind the scenes to finalise the mooted grand opposition coalition.
Analysts have also said that a united opposition, fighting with one purpose, can finally bring to an end Mugabe’s long rule, especially at a time that the nonagenarian is fighting to keep together his warring Zanu PF.
They also say Mujuru, whose liberation struggle nom de guerre was Teurai Ropa (Spill Blood), and whose late husband Solomon was the first black post-independence army commander, could provide the much-needed bridge that opposition parties have been missing to ensure the smooth transfer of power if they win the 2018 elections.
However, they also warn that without a broad coalition involving all the major opposition players, Zanu PF would use “its usual thuggish and foul methods” to retain power.
In the last few months, Tsvangirai has emerged as the undisputed candidate to lead the planned electoral alliance, after getting wringing endorsements from virtually all of the country’s serious opposition players.
Last week, Mujuru, who now leads the National People Party (NPP), moved decisively to dispel doubts about who should lead the coalition when she also endorsed the dogged former prime minister in the stability-inducing government of national unity.
A large cross section of Zimbabweans, including civil society, has also been making loud calls for Tsvangirai to be the face of the proposed electoral alliance — with former senior Cabinet minister Didymus Mutasa among the first to root for the MDC president to lead it.
Apart from Mutasa, former Finance minister and leader of Mavambo/Kusile Dawn, Simba Makoni, has also thrown his weight behind the former labour union leader.
It was against this background that Mugabe warned his ever-brawling lieutenants that their public bickering was benefitting Tsvangirai and other opposition players.
The nonagenarian’s warning came after Zanu PF supporters held demonstrations in Bindura, Masvingo and Gweru last week, where they pushed for the expulsion of the party’s national political commissar Saviour Kasukuwere and two other ministers.
He pointed out these ugly party brawls were badly exposing both the former liberation movement and its senior officials.
“Yes there may be grievances, there may be contradictions and there will always be contradictions, but when we leave our homes, when we leave our offices to shout at each other, are you aware that Tsvangirai and others are watching gleefully and laughing.
“Are you also aware that our enemies abroad who have always wanted to see regime change, who desire to see Zanu PF gone, are watching with keen interest and praying that at last the organisation we once thought was solid, undivided and firmly united, is finally cracking.
“So, do we want to give them that chance to smile and wish us death? What does that benefit us when we go into the streets to shout at ourselves?” the visibly angry Mugabe asked rhetorically.
“They (under fire party bigwigs) might be wrong, but they are our leaders. So, when we demonstrate against them, we are demonstrating against ourselves and Tsvangirai will say ‘there they are, hear them … We do not do that … We only do it (demonstrating) against the way we are ill-treated by government’.
“Let us give party organs and structures the chance to deal with these (problematic) issues. Rules and procedures must take precedence before all else,” the nonagenarian added.
Ironically, Mugabe had earlier in his address claimed that it was the opposition which was in disarray — and that Zanu PF was enjoying the squabbling within the opposition ranks.
“The opposition is in a quagmire … they have tried this and that to get together … talking about a grand coalition, but they will be in for a grand defeat as they continue to split.
“They will talk all kinds of languages and that is what Zanu PF is capable of doing when united … now they are turning their guns on Zec (the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission).
“They are making futile noises and as they expend their energies on such inane endeavors we should be uniting and moving ahead,” he said.
Last month opposition parties handed a petition to Zec, demanding its disbandment — arguing that the electoral body had lost its independence by allowing the government to hijack the procurement of biometric voter registration kits, and citing its reluctance to implement much-needed electoral reforms.