Coalitions of the elites without the people will fail

Malvern Mkudu

The recent clamouring by various opposition formations to form a coalition with the Mujuru led ‘rebels’ who were expelled from ZANU PF shows that the opposition has learnt nothing over the years. The party has clearly lost its initial consciousness and takes its followers for granted.

In the late 1990s, civil society led by the ZCTU and other groups came together to form a coalition to challenge the rule of Robert Mugabe. They were bound together by the different grievances they had against his government.

The long term discontent had emanated from the falling standards of living for the workers, deteriorating service delivery and massive unemployment.

Things deteriorated after the government implemented the Economic Structural Adjustment Programme (ESAP) where it had cut on social spending and introduced a number of austerity measures that brought untold suffering to the majority poor. This caused discontent amongst the masses who mobilised to confront the government.

There were short term catalysts that culminated in the formation of the opposition party. Firstly the constitutional referendum victory had given civil society some wind in their sails and the needed confidence that they could unseat the ZANU PF government.

But in its quest for power the opposition also accommodated capital in its rank and file. Capital had come under attack from the policies of ZANU PF and those who controlled capital were keen to remove the government of President Mugabe. They did so by bankrolling the opposition. The result was that the opposition lost its focus and this is clear in the near death of key civil society groups such as labour ZCTU and student groups.

From this point the leadership in the MDC allowed capital interests to hijack the project of the people. The money that capital brought oiled the opposition and it seemed to work for a while. In fact in 2008, the MDC won the elections but transfer of power did not occur. Things have since gone awry as the opposition has gone into irreversible decline while civic society which was a dependable ally to the opposition is also disorganised.

Talk of a coalition with Mujuru is clear testimony that the opposition has leant nothing from its previous shortcomings. They have already gone into a coalition government and failed to influence any change. In fact the opposition became complicit in many of the anti-people polices that were implemented during this period. For example the opposition MDC said nothing when 1500 workers were fired by diamond firm ANJIN despite the opposition being a labour backed political party.

Currently the opposition MDC-T, Tendai Biti’s PDP and other opposition parties are falling over each other to have a coalition with the rebels expelled by ZANU PF led by Joyce Mujuru. We have already seen Tendai Biti defending forme Reserve Bank Governor Gideon Gono who is said to belong to the Mujuru faction in a corruption case and this has raised eyebrows. Why are opposition icons becoming defenders of perceived corrupt officials?

The MDC appears desperate to just remove Mugabe from power. There seems to be no other plan than just to remove Mugabe. To achieve this, they are willing to join hands with anyone regardless of the repercussions. But Mugabe may not even be a factor in the 2018 elections so there is need for the opposition to really assess why they need to have a coalition with Mujuru. Who will benefit from this coalition?

The rebels expelled from the ruling party have nothing in common with the majority poor Zimbabweans. While the majority Zimbabweans are concerned about jobs, houses and civil liberties the expelled lot are only concerned about securing their economic interests in the post Mugabe era.

Mujuru and her allies for years used the state as a vehicle of wealth accumulation and they are keen to bounce back after their unceremonious ejection from the gravy train. Their interest in a coalition has nothing to do with reforming or changing the system but a lot to do with them regaining control of the levers of power of the state that enable them to perpetuate their quest for wealth accumulation.

It is therefore interesting what Tsvangirai or Biti think Mujuru will bring in this coalition. We have already had some say Mujuru will bring the disgruntled supporters of ZANU PF into the opposition. But what about those opposition supporters who resent Mujuru and her ZANU PF roots. Will they not be lost?

The opposition must be careful not to subordinate the interests of the people to the economic interests of those expelled from the ruling party. Already the opposition has shown its true colours by allowing its councils to moot considering installing water meters in the urban areas. During its tenure in the GNU the opposition also pursued anti-poor policies.

The people are wary of the opposition’s shortcomings and this coalition with Mujuru will remove any lingering doubt about what to expect from any opposition government. The opposition also failed to make any significant noise when workers were fired a few months ago. They are on record of advocating for the civil servant wage bill to be reduced. This of course means having people losing their jobs and voters will not forget this easily.

The opposition needs to go back to basics and ask itself if it still represents the interests of the majority poor. Failure by it to clearly define its identity may prove costly for them in the coming 2018 elections. It is necessary for the opposition to define the exact areas of cooperation if they are to get into any sort of coalition. Clarity on what this coalition will achieve is very important especially to those who believe that the opposition is selling the ideals of the democratic struggle in order speed their way into government for self aggrandisement.

It is also important for broader civil society to stay out of any coalitions whose objectives have nothing to do with promoting the interests of ordinary Zimbabweans. Already there are groups talking of having a conference that brings civil society together for a broader conversation. If the objective of these coalitions is to mobilise for another political assault on the ruling party then it is bound to fail like all previous attempts. People will no longer accept being used by a few individual as a means to an end of capturing power. They want solutions for their day to day issues.

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