Simmering information that the Mugabe-backed National Patriotic Front opposition party was in negotiations with the Nelson Chamisa led MDC-Alliance were all but confirmed by the Zimbabwe Independent newspaper recently when it reported that secret negotiations were on-going between the erstwhile political enemies ahead of the watershed elections due in about a month’s time. According to the paper and other sources, secret meetings have been held at the Mugabe Blue Roof residence and in South Africa. As a fallout due to the burgeoning unholy alliance, the recent NPF split is over control of the party and issue of joining the MDC-Alliance. On one hand, NPF spokesperson, Jealousy Mawarire and other members have declared that they are joining the Alliance, while NPF leader, Ambrose Mutinhiri is against the coalition. Several NPF members have filed nomination papers as Alliance candidates, while on the other hand, Mutinhiri is adamant that he will not withdraw his presidential candidature to back Chamisa.
What begs further interrogation is the deep Zanu PF hatred that has motivated this convergence of complete political strangers. A brief history will assist readers here. It is no secret that Mugabe met the formation of the MDC in 1999 with such a harsh response. Mugabe did not accept the MDC as a genuine and home grown opposition party.
It is therefore surprising that Chamisa, probably overwhelmed by juvenile excitedness on the possibility of landing the State presidency, has chosen to conveniently forget these episodes in the history of the MDC-T and hop into bed with those responsible for the harsh treatment. Tsvangirai must be turning in his grave over this betrayal. What do these people say today seeing Chamisa, the heir apparent to Tsvangirai’s political legacy prostituting himself with Mugabe?
The NPF has not made it a secret that their main political agenda is to protest the resignation of Mugabe during Operation Restore Legacy, (ORL), and return the country to the Mugabe era. Mawarire and other prominent personalities in the NPF, like Prof Jonathan Moyo and Patrick Zhuwao have said as much during public addresses and on social media. Prof Moyo attempted to popularise a Twitter hashtag #CuretheCoup which basically called on people to reverse Operation Restore Legacy. NPF Women’s Assembly Secretary General, Revai Kausiyo openly called for the return of Mugabe during a Bulawayo Provincial Women’s Assembly meeting at Stuttaford Hall in Bulawayo recently. This implies going back to the pre-November 2017 political set-up with Mugabe as State President, Grace Mugabe as First Lady and him as a Minister of Government, among other reversals. A recent Afrobarometer survey conducted by the Mass Public Opinion Institute (MPOI) found out that 41% of Zimbabweans support the Army-backed ORL. That is unequivocal endorsement of the Operation.
To imagine then that the MDC-Alliance is going into an electoral pact with the NPF boggles the mind as to what they want to achieve. Probably they have found a common enemy in ZANU PF, hence the marriage of convenience. The marriage however, needs to be based on some congruency in political thinking and ideology. What the MDC-T claims to stand for is a complete anti-thesis of what the reign of Mugabe proved. The NPF, as conceived by Mugabe, stands for the Mugabe-era policies of unbridled corruption, land barons, toxic politics of insults, patronage and disregard of the aspirations of the majority. On land, it is difficult to imagine where they would converge, with the MDC-Alliance advocating the granting of title deeds to resettled farmers as contained in its recently launched SMART policy document. This is a complete opposite of the Mugabe stance that all land should be nationalised, a position which created the initial international dispute following the historic 2000 land reclamation programme.
What an ordinary person can discern from the mooted alliance is that the parties to the proposed alliance are seeking to cheat each other. The MDC-Alliance is hoping to use the residual support for Mugabe in some rural areas to bolster its electoral chances, while the Mugabe camp is being fooled by the hype around the candidature of Chamisa which is based on the false narrative that Zimbabwean voters now want a young leader. So it’s a case of both the farmer and the grasshopper all praying for the maize to grow, but for very different reasons. Mugabe wants to use the MDC-Alliance to stage a political comeback, while the MDC-Alliance wants to use imagined NPF support to win the Presidency. Thereafter it will be dog-eat-dog in a nasty fight for policy direction and spoils of victory.
We are in the campaign season where people expect politicians to say and do anything to win votes. To, however, expect Zimbabwean voters to vote for a political formation with Mugabe is to expect to harvest grain after sowing thorns. The Mugabe brand is damaged goods. Even Prof Welshman Ncube, a supposed principal in the MDC-Alliance, expressed his disgust at the proposed inclusion of the Mugabe party in the Alliance at the launch of the Alliance’s SMART manifesto in Harare on 7 June, fearing what he called “collateral contamination” by the discredited Mugabe’ brand. People are hoping that the best candidate will win the forthcoming elections on the basis of his or her policies’ appeal. Not the use of false narratives on generational consensus and spent forces like the Mugabe brand.