Making a truce with the devil: A strategy for Zim’s opposition

Making a truce with the devil: A strategy for Zim’s opposition

by William Muchayi

THE  tumultuous events prior and post-Zanu PF congress have completely changed the political landscape of Zimbabwe which will  never   be the same again. Indeed , so dramatic and fluid is the soap opera that many , even seasoned politicians from both the ruling party and the opposition were caught unaware , failing to figure out , grasp and even comprehend the evolution of the circus . Joyce Mujuru and her allies lick their wounds under cover from marauding wolves , while Emmerson Mnangagwa , the main beneficiary of the purges, maintained a low profile as the succession pendulum swung  in his favour. On the other hand , Robert Mugabe who wishes to portray himself as the kingmaker in the circus is in no better position as old age and frailty have caught up with him and his wife’s entrance into active politics hasn’t helped the situation . In this toxic context , several critics from renowned to little known think tanks have questioned the role of the opposition as the ruling party appears to be on the verge of an imminent split . What can the opposition do to capitalise on the internecine fights that rock the ruling party ? Regrettably , few of them have  risen to the occasion to help in the search for answers that allude many.

There are several   options available for the opposition as they try to respond to the fast changing political dispensation ushered in by the flames that engulf the ruling party . One option is for the opposition to ignore whatever happens in Zanu PF, as, none of their business. At best , Tsvangirai , Ncube , Makoni , Dabengwa and even Kisinoti Mukwazhe can assume the role of spectators while Mnangagwa , Mugabe and Mujuru are at each others’ throat and only to confront the victor . The strategy is based on the assumption that the country’s political landscape hasn’t changed much  to warrant any shift in the way the opposition will execute the struggle .   Indeed , this is the easiest and less demanding of all strategies, for, instead of playing a stranger’s   drum , the opposition can simply dance to their tune which they are accustomed to . Regrettably , the premise on which this strategy hinges upon is extremely flawed which ultimately renders its outcome futile ,for, the political landscape on the ground   has shifted dramatically of late and to assume that whatever happens in Zanu PF is of no significance in the way the opposition executes their struggle   is tragic . It is because of this shift in the political dynamics of the country that the opposition has to adapt to the changes, re-strategise and reinvent themselves if ever they are to remain relevant and capitalise on Zanu PF’s infighting .

Alternatively , the opposition can bury their personal differences and unite under one leaders to confront whoever emerges victorious in Zanu PF’s tug of war . It is a fact that the ruling party is weakened by the infighting and this is the most opportune moment    for the opposition to unite and confront the enemy with one voice . This strategy has worked successfully  in several countries , with the latest example being that of Sri Lanka where Maithripala Sirisena of the United Democratic Front(UDF) , an underdog ,caused an upset by beating the sitting incumbent Mahinda Rajapaksa in the just ended general elections with the backing of several parties in a grand coalition. Unfortunately , the opposition in Zimbabwe is as fragmented as Zanu PF itself , and that renders this option unattractive to those whose personal egos rise above national interests . It  may not be surprising s it  that it’s even easier for some within opposition circles to reconcile with Mugabe than among themselves? . In addition, however noble the strategy might be , it is ineffective in a dictatorship of Mugabe’s magnitude where rigging as opposed to popular appeal with the electorate   determines the outcome of an election . Mugabe does not need popular support of the electorate to win an election as long as Tobaiwa Mudede , ZEC and Nikuv still tilt the balance in his favour .

Another  option is to  extend an olive branch to   disgruntled members in Zanu PF and work with them to confront a common and more poisonous cancer in Mugabe and Mnangagwa . Can the opposition afford to stand by and watch Fortune Chasi wrestle Grace Mugabe as she evicts hundreds of farmers in Mazowe to pave way for her game park and expect in return to gain credibility ? Is it too bitter a pill to swallow for the opposition to mend ties with Didymus Mutasa however soiled his hands are and work with him as he fights  Mugabe and Mnangagwa ? Even if Zanu PF is rotten to the core , there are still elements the opposition can work with who can be of benefit to the struggle and an olive branch can be extended to them . This strategy is premised on the idea and realisation that the opposition has to choose between a crocodile and a cobra to befriend as they execute the struggle ,for, they cannot ignore both. It is time for Tsvangirai and other opposition figures to choose who the worst enemy is between Mugabe/Mnangagwa and Mujuru. For long , the opposition has dreamt of a split in Zanu PF and this dream has been realised with the factional fights being witnessed .It is the most opportune moment to reach out to disgruntled Zanu PF members from the cabinet , security sector , province, ward and village levels in a goodwill gesture to confront the worst enemy . Ignoring both factions in Zanu PF   can be counter productive  in the long run for the opposition . Even where there are by-elections , the opposition can work with these disgruntled elements in tactical voting and the time has never been as ripe as now . The idea appears not to be new as evidenced by Dumiso Dabengwa’s utterances of late who claims to have had an olive branch extended to him by disgruntled members from the Mujuru faction. However, what appears strange with  the former ZIPRA supremo’s  claims are his motives for going public even before a deal is struck . On the opposite end of the political spectrum is Sekai Holland’s new found love with Emerson Mnangagwa that raise  eyebrows and the latter’s wish to engage MDC politicians to set their input on restoring peace and reconciliation clearly add credence to rumours that there are behind the scene manoeuvres in motion between the two formations . In addition , when Sekai Holland , the MDC Renewal interim leader praises the appointment of vice president Phekelezela Mphoko as Minister in the National Healing Organ, arguing that she has confidence in him as the best person for the job, it indicates that the two parties appear to have an understanding between them . For, what is it that Sekai Holland sees in Mphoko to be the right person for the job which the rest of Zimbabweans don’t see? In any case , what meaningful role did the national healing organ achieve since the birth of the GNU to be of any significance to ordinary Zimbabweans ? Is Mnangagwa the right person to spearhead the gospel of reconciliation as Sekai Holland wishes Zimbabweans to believe yet he never acknowledges let alone apologise for his involvement in Gukurahundi and the 2007-8 atrocities? Whatever position is taken by any opposition party at the moment should acknowledge and be informed by the changing political landscape on the ground and any failure to do so can be catastrophic .

That being said , the latter strategy is a double -edged sword for both the opposition and the Mujuru faction . An open rebellion by the latter against Mugabe can be catastrophic in that its members may end up losing the little they have in possession , from farms and other business ventures as the dictator will unleash his militias to punish renegades. No wonder why some hawks in the Mnangagwa faction threaten to invade Ray Kaukonde , Didymus Mutasa and Bhasikiti’s farms as a way to decapitate not only the political fortunes of the victims but their financial base as well . Given this scenario , most renegades within the Mujuru camp may opt to bury their heads in the sand for now until Mugabe dies before emerging from hibernation to execute the struggle although it might be too late as Mnangagwa and Grace would have consolidated power . With this realisation in mind , most victims of Mugabe’s purges would rather seek audience with the dictator rather than confront him head on . That may explain Bhasikiti’s attempts to exonerate himself before Mugabe  when he was accused of being in the wrong basket. Refuting the allegations , the MP embarrassingly distances himself from the Mujuru faction as he recounts, ‘’ I told him(Mugabe) that I was the only one who still believed in him in the entire politburo and even in parliament despite that I was also in the wrong basket as others have since abandoned him for their new leaders.’’ These are the pleas of a man who has thrown his towel in the ring , defeated and with no hope of rising again.   As such , any talk of an alliance between the opposition and the Mujuru faction to confront Mugabe is premature if not misguided . In any case , is it worth to negotiate with a faction that appears to have been totally decimated overnight?  Not only that, this strategy may have a premature death ,for, it will be resisted vehemently by cadres from both parties who belong to two extreme ends of the political spectrum . Jabulani Sibanda and Jimmy Kunaka of Chipangano , although victims of Mugabe’s purges  are known thugs who have terrorised MDC supporters in the past and how can they be embraced by their victims unilaterally? That also applies to  Mutasa whose hands aren’t clean either just like  Mujuru . In any case , Mujuru and Mutasa strive for survival and political hegemony in Zanu PF through the perpetuation of the party’s grip on power as opposed to democracy which the opposition fights for . In that sense , the two camps have little in common to enter into an alliance .   These figures epitomise all the evils the opposition fights to eradicate and any attempt to embrace them unilaterally can destabilise the opposition . In the same way , most cadres in the Mujuru faction still view the opposition with contempt as products of the West meant to destabilise the country and that explains Didymus Mutasa’s wisdom of challenging Mugabe in the courts beside raising the issue with SADC ,routes which will have a dead end as they are premised on the flawed assumption that these bodies are functional and yet the opposite is true .

Strategic alliances are not a new phenomenon in international politics. In 1941-1945 , Winston Churchill and Joseph Stalin muted an alliance against Adolf Hitler and yet for the bulk of their professional lives , the two remained political adversaries . What brought them together were political and strategic circumstances more than anything else. Who is the worst of the two evils , Mnangagwa or Mujuru? The opposition can’t afford to ignore the changing political dynamics that sweep across the country. A truce with the devil may be strategic for now as Zanu PF implodes but it should not be misinterpreted as a permanent cessation of hostilities as the struggle continues to weed out incompetence , corruption and other vices at the centre of the country’s demise .

William Muchayi is a pro-democracy activist who has written for several publications and can be contacted on