Winning elections is not about coalitions

WHILE some Zimbabweans have over the years, called for opposition political parties to gang up and contest Zanu PF as a single unit, the politicians leading these parties have failed to agree to work together and share power.

Instead, the opposition political parties continue to split into smaller entities without any sound membership base, thus confusing the electorate.

Media activist Takura Zhangazha said the anticipation of a coalition of opposition parties against Zanu PF has been in vogue since 2013.

“It has, however, not been successfully implemented due to the fact that most opposition party leaders always fail to agree on who should lead such a coalition. This is as a direct result of egocentric styles of leadership and unfortunate feelings of entitlement without due consideration of leadership by posterity.
“In the current debates on a new coalition, the example that is intended to be used is that of Kenya in which varying opposition parties made electoral pacts that eventually saw Uhuru Kenyatta being elected and Raila Odinga being defeated.

“This type of framework may face the challenge of its reliance on ethnocentrism to succeed. The opposition parties in Zimbabwe are, however, well within their rights to give such a coalition a go, but must be wary of its ethnocentric dimensions as well as its over reliance on personalities as opposed to democratic values and principles, “ said Zhangazha.

Veteran journalist Regis Nyamakanga believes politics, by its nature, is a contest of selling ideas to win the hearts and minds of the electorate. It is about selling programmes to the people that will, hopefully, improve their lives.

“This is an area where the opposition in Zimbabwe has dismally failed for many years, from days of Edgar Tekere and his Zimbabwe Unity Movement to Morgan Tsvangirai and his MDC, including its several offshoots.

“The current debate about forming coalitions to wrestle power from the ruling Zanu PF is a manifestation of lack of ideas on the part of the opposition. Winning is not about coalitions, it is about crafting good programmes that resonate with the wishes of the electorate.

“Zanu PF has over the years perfected the art of crafting political programmes that speak to the aspirations of the people like land, empowerment and employment,” said Nyamakanga.
He added that it is as comical as it is tragic that while the opposition parties are busy fighting for positions in the supposed grand coalition, Zanu PF is currently busy working on its programme to sell to the people in the next general elections.
“Opposition leaders need to realise that if they are not innovative, the electorate will punish them come 2018 general elections. It is tragic that our current crop of opposition leaders spend a great deal of time engaging yesteryear student politics of hurling insults to their opponents.

“All you hear from them is Mugabe this, Zanu PF that, Dr Mai Grace this, Ngwena that etc. They should be portraying themselves as mature leaders who can offer a viable alternative to the ruling party.”

Playwright Cont Mhlanga said creating so many political parties with an objective of going into coalitions to win an election against another party is a sign of political bankruptcy that Zimbabwe faces today.

“It is an admission of parties without grassroots membership. These are political parties that are weak. So they create a whole lot of weak institutions in the first place instead of staying together to mature their institutions like good old whiskey.”
Political analyst Mcdonald Lewanika said his take has always been that opposition coalescing against Mugabe maybe necessary but is an insufficient measure to defeating him for several reasons.

“Firstly, Mugabe has not been winning elections in the past because he is popular, he has even lost some elections to candidates who had not coalesced with anyone else, he controls huge state apparatus including military might which he has used in the past to frustrate change of guard in Zimbabwe’s presidency.

“Number two, Elite Coalitions that are not supported by coalescing of a formidable support base and organisation on the ground will be good for show, but not much else — opposition political parties need to build their support bases on the ground, though questionable, recent surveys have shown that they are kissing the fight for support and the hearts and minds of the people. So that needs to be dealt with otherwise we can have an unfortunate situation where zero is added to zero only to get another zero.

“However, perception-wise, it is a good move as part of the reasons that opposition has been losing support — an impression that they are too decided, with multiple visions that are unclear — so this may help. It may also generate some excitement in which people can actually believe Mugabe can be defeated and if they are strategic the opposition can build on that hope, hopefully all the way to victory,” said Lewanika.

He added that a coalition is an interesting pursuit and if it does occur it may just show that our politicians are maturing and beginning to forgo personal and myopic interests to do what is more strategic and may yield dividends for them.

“They do have to be weary though, politics is a multidimensional game — taking care of one aspect without dealing with other factors can lead to disappointing results.

“So in Zimbabwe popular support is important, but getting people to turn from supporters to voters is important, even then safeguarding and protecting the vote is even more important and doing so in an electoral system whose integrity is not doubted.” Lewanika said

A political analyst who will remain anonymous had the politics of coalitions while necessary to bring all opposition forces together has however demonstrated a dearth of ideas and selfish ambition amongst opposition groups.

“It is given that the Mugabe group and Zanu PF are well entrenched and requires unity of purpose to uproot them. What the opposition has failed to do is to focus on the task which is mobilising against Zanu PF and the coalitions are not coalitions of people but of elites who harbour more of narrow personal ambition to be in power without any grounding in politics that moves Zimbabwe.

“The coalitions are mostly of and by the opposition elite and more about personal egos. It is the same opposition groups that split in-order to form coalitions.”

Mining activist Farai Maguwu said he is persuaded to agree especially against the failure by local parties to unite and form a strong opposition to Zanu PF. “Even if they agree to unite most likely they will disband the coalition towards the 2018 election and further confuse an already confused electorate. These parties will never agree on anything fundamental.” —Maxwell Sibanda

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