More often, we tend to get distracted from real bread and butter issues as we struggle for our emancipation. We tend to major on the minor. In the process we become prisoners of common sense. In this article I seek to add my voice to whether Zimbabwe needs a grand coalition comprised of all opposition political players that are currently scattered across the Zimbabwean political landscape like lost sheep. I have painfully observed that there is a depressing lack of engagement by both ordinary Zimbabweans and by politicians (from the opposition camp) on the impossibility of a grand coalition in Zimbabwe as we journey towards the make-or-break elections in the near future.
In the previous months, the media has been awash with the tired arguments and wishes made by several so called analysts on the need for a grand coalition from the opposition movement. However, very little discussion have centered on the real challenges and the practicality of such a coalition. Disturbingly so, many so called political analysts have spent much of their time arguing on the impossible. To this end, I therefore do not seek to offer any alternatives or suggestions on practical solutions, since there is nothing practical at all in combining opposition political gladiators in preparation of the earmarked watershed elections imminent any time soon.
Rather, in this article I highlight my personal reasons why a grand coalition is not necessary in Zimbabwe, especially in the contemporary political climate. Firstly, let us be alive to the fact that a ‘spaghetti mix’ of opposition political players will not guarantee an election victory or electoral majority in favour of the coalition. In my considered view, a coalition set up will indeed be a mosaic feature, comprised of various competing power interests. I even doubt whether such a coalition will survive hours if not minutes. Pardon, my pessimism. But, anyway the political reality and truth has to be said. On a more superficial level, one will be tempted to agree that a united movement of contemporary opposition political parties in Zimbabwe namely (Mavambo,MDC-99,MDC-N, ZANU NDONGA,ZAPU,MDC-T,et al),will defeat ZANU PF. But in reality, this unity will not necessarily translate into a sweeping victory just by mere joining forces. The thinking that a grand coalition will be a ‘magic bullet’ is factually wrong and incorrect. It’s not a given.
Let us also escape from the parochial mindedness and look at the broader picture. I pose a question here, “What is lacking in Morgan Tsvangirai that will make him stronger by joining hands with for example Job Sikhala?” Pardon my candour. How many voters from MDC-N will jump ship and vote for the MDC-T.? Personally, I think we should always avoid the danger of writing history in haste. Morgan Tsvangirai defeated ZANU PF in 2008 without a grand coalition. Why not now? The very fact that some voters chose to vote for other political parties other than ZANU PF and MDC-T in 2008 also mean a lot. How are the the grand coalition proponents cock-sure that those voters will switch their minds to vote for a coalition movement? The very fact that they did not vote for Morgan Tsvangirai in 2008 mean that they do not have faith and confidence in him. Hence, it’s most likely that they haven’t changed their voting preferences. So up to this day, they might not even vote for him because he will be part of the grand coalition. What guarantee do we have that their perception will have changed because there is a grand coalition? Taking from the Zimbabwean political complexion, which is fragmented and polarised, Horrowitz’s model of vote pooling will not work.
Put simply, the chemistry of forming a coalition is somehow complicated as explored by various coalition theorists. What Zimbabweans need is a multiparty democracy. A democracy were the best candidate wins and not a grand coalition, which is nothing but a temporary marriage of convenience. A marriage which will emerge as a ticking time bomb in the making that will eventually explode. I guess Zimbabweans need a wide choice for selection. Zimbabweans might also have become fed up with voting without choosing. Let them be spoilt of choice. The whole narrative about a grand coalition is all about politics of accommodation which will yield nothing fruitful except the pursuance of the politics of ‘free rider syndrome’. Let individual political leaders enter into the ring. Let the candidate with the ‘people’ win the election. The assumption that an opposition coalition will strengthen opposition is somehow misguided, given the various divergent ideological leaning, goals and political strategy.
Will hawks, doves and penguins blend well together? I doubt very much.