Tichaona Zindoga Political Editor
Those with an interest in semiotics will find discomfiting connotations in our mention of Morgan Tsvangirai and houses. The MDC-T leader has been haunted by the fact that he lives in a Government house, nay mansion, in Harare’s Highlands area. The house is worth an estimated US$4 million. Tsvangirai has been staying there since his tenure as Prime Minister during the era of the inclusive Government.
The inclusive Government lapsed in 2013 when Tsvangirai was comprehensively defeated in that year’s election which saw President Mugabe and Zanu-PF romping to a massive victory that reversed the shock narrow first round trailing of 2008.
There have been a lot of talk about Tsvangirai’s stay at that Highlands house with his supporters expressing anything between disbelief that the opposition strongman would stay in that expensive house at the mercy of his assumed Government foes; and they have expressed utter disgust on the other hand.
For his own part, Tsvangirai has defended his stay at the house arguing his right to stay or buy the property as a sitting tenant, etc.
It’s an uneasy, uncomfortable situation.
And when Tsvangirai first mooted the idea of a coalition of opposition parties and rapprochement with former colleagues who broke away from the party, he touted the idea of all forces coming to a “big tent”.
Literally, it could as well have been a “big house” but that symbolism would obviously be too hard to swallow.
But wonders never end!
Actually, Tsvangirai has just been summoning opposition leaders to that same Highlands house to undertake deals towards the formation of a coalition to challenge President Mugabe.
On Wednesday it was Joice Mujuru who went there and yesterday it was Welshman Ncube, the first man to rebel against Tsvangirai in 2005 to lead his own MDC splinter.
The details of the deals are still very sketchy but these are basically Memoranda of Understanding or what Tsvangirai has called “pre-election pacts”.
With Mujuru and Ncube having agreed, we may see a few more faces being hauled to the Highlands mansion: a Tendai Biti, another rebel and now leader of People’s Democratic Party; possibly a Simba Makoni of Mavambo Kusile Dawn and perhaps a Dumiso Dabengwa of Zapu.
The stage appears set for the much vaunted grand coalition.
The biggest question is, what will it hold and mean for Zimbabwean politics?
There are three schools of thought.
The first is optimistic: the opposition in the country has over the years become weak and fragmented and exponents of the coalition route believe that if all opposition forces coalesce, they can be able to defeat Zanu-PF and President Mugabe.
The rationale is that in 2008, the opposition vote was split between Tsvangirai and Ncube.
It is hoped that when the MDC parties are united – possibly including Biti as well – the reunited MDC-T will be stronger and more formidable.
The tacit admission is that Morgan Tsvangirai has failed alone and is likely to fail again in the next election.
Connected to this, it is hoped that the incorporation of Joice Mujuru – a former Vice President and leader of the National People’s Party – along with other former Zanu-PF rejects such as Makoni and Dabengwa will eat into Zanu-PF support base and swing the pendulum in favour of the opposition.
This school of thought has fundamental flaws.
Its optimism is blind to the fact that, first of all, the opposition will no longer be back to its former virgin self of 1999.
The conditions that obtained then and now are drastically different, including lack of organised labour and a vibrant civil society.
It is also a fact that the opposition has in the past 17 years been tried and tested and found wanting.
Tsvangirai no longer carries that halo on his head.
Opposition politics has long been deflowered and its performance in different spheres of governance has exposed its brand and officers.
Supporters and donors have grown weary and weaker.
The absence of a strong message and policies outside the “Mugabe Must Go” mantra is a serious downside.
Not even new voices from the likes of Joice will inspire: actually when Joice joins the chorus, she loses – as she has already done – any claim to the support of Zanu-PF members.
On the main, the streets, buses, bars and kombis are not abuzz with news of this grand coalition.
It is like the proverbial loud fart that everybody agrees never happened!
Which leads to the second reaction to the idea of a grand coalition.
President Mugabe best captured it when, a few days ago, he said: “We look with glee as they daily turn on each other, while pretending to chase a mirage they have termed ‘grand coalition’, apparently unaware of the grand defeat that stares them in the face.”
He has previously mocked the “coalition of zeros”.
There is even a clip that circulates on social media when he recalls how his primary school teacher taught him how, when you added zeros, they still remained zeros, no matter how many!
That is how uncharitable President Mugabe and his school are.
Someone yesterday remarked that Tsvangirai was arranging a domino which would be knocked out spectacularly next year.
Away from these two hardline positions people are pretty disinterested and perhaps apathetic.
The opposition must have something really special to excite political stakeholders.
That includes donors.
They will not be too impressed with just a collection of political heads whose primary motivation appears to cream off the last of dwindling donor money and goodwill.
For Tsvangirai it is definitely his last chance.
You can understand his desperation.
He is afraid.
He cannot even stand alone to fight a man he routinely tells us is now too old – at a ripe age of President Mugabe’s 94 in 2018.
And when you look at the statements that Tsvangirai delivered at the occasion of both signing ceremonies, which were insipid and uninspiring and devoid of any clear or changed path, you know that this coalition is doomed.
And it is to be remembered that these are just memoranda of understanding – the agreements to agree.
Agreeing, which comes with a lot of intervening and ensuing negotiations, is something else.
So much can happen in between.
As we will doubtless see.