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endorsement "opportunity" for opposition
Institute for War and Peace Reporting (IWPR)
Mike Nyoni (AR No. 148, 23-Dec-07)
December 23, 2007
The ruling ZANU-PF's
endorsement of Robert Mugabe as its presidential candidate in next
year's elections might present the opposition Movement for
Democratic Change, MDC, with its best chance of gaining power -
if it can present a united front.
All ten provinces controlled
by ZANU-PF endorsed Zimbabwe's independence leader at its
extraordinary congress in the capital Harare last week - an event
attended by nearly 10,000 delegates, as well as representatives
of ruling parties from ten Southern African Development Community,
ZANU-PF chairman John
Nkomo summed up the reasons for backing the octogenarian leader
for re-election in the joint presidential and parliamentary ballot
and first secretary, we salute him for the role he has contributed
in shaping the lives of the oppressed in Africa and the world, for
tenaciously defending our independence and sovereignty, for his
courage to make decisions going it alone if need be, compassion
to listen to others," he declared.
"He is a nationalist,
non-regionalist, pan-African par excellence and solid internationalist."
Analysts in Harare said
this view suggests the party is more concerned with past glory than
it is with taking the nation forward. This, they said, presents
a golden opportunity for the MDC to grasp power - if only it can
mend its differences and put the interest of the nation ahead of
endorsement as the ruling party's presidential candidate next
year is more a statement of [the party's] contempt for the
opposition than it is to do with having confidence in Mugabe,"
suggested one political analyst.
"It is a daring
decision which the MDC should see as a challenge to its capacity
to fight ZANU-PF."
Mugabe has ruled Zimbabwe
since it won independence from Britain in 1980, and has used his
inflated role in the 1970s liberation war to suppress any challenge
to his increasingly autocratic rule, both from within his own party
and from outside.
Things began to come
unstuck for the president when his government embarked on an unplanned
land reform programme in 2000, seizing productive white-owned commercial
farms for distribution largely to his cronies.
estimate that the economy has contracted by 45 per cent in the past
eight years to 1953 levels. Inflation is soaring at an estimated
8,000 per cent while unemployment is close to 85 per cent.
It is estimated that
between three and four million Zimbabweans have left the country
in recent years.
at deteriorating conditions in the country has been channelled through
the MDC since its formation in 1999.
In the greatest threat
Mugabe has faced during his rule so far, the party narrowly lost
parliamentary elections the following year, winning 57 seats against
However, internal rivalries
have since rocked the opposition, and in 2005, the MDC split into
two factions - the larger part led by Morgan Tsvangirai, former
secretary-general of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions, and
a breakaway faction headed by former academic Arthur Mutambara.
Tsvangirai has lost much
support over a number of questionable decisions and many believe
that he has shown that he is unable to hold the party together.
Observers say with a
litany of disastrous policies by ZANU-PF, a better opposition leader
could propel the MDC to victory in the March elections.
"There is nothing
to stand in the way of a united opposition. They are currently their
own worst enemy and should they lose next year, the MDC should consider
an alternative leader," said the political analyst.
According to him, when
Mugabe first hinted that he wanted to run for re-election most people
assumed he was bluffing. He said he believed the current president
would spring a surprise on his party by announcing a possible successor
at last week's extraordinary congress.
"As things stand,
ZANU-PF has demonstrated over the years that it is incapable of
turning around the spiralling economy," said the analyst.
Divisions in the ruling
party also emerged last week between a group led by retired army
commander General Solomon Mujuru, who wanted to challenge Mugabe,
a group led by Rural Amenities Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa, Women's
League chair Oppah Muchinguri and war veterans, who wanted him to
economy has long been Mugabe's biggest nemesis and all the
MDC needs to do is to unite and mobilise the people to vote next
year," said another independent political observer.
He pointed out that everything
remains in short supply in the country.
"Even as we approach
Christmas, there are no basic commodities in the shops as promised
by Reserve Bank Governor Gideon Gono in September. Health services
have collapsed and there is no transport as people prepare to break
for the holiday," he said.
"The current crippling
cash crisis is the latest insult in a long catalogue of Mugabe's
destructive policies," said the political observer. "What
does he want to do at 84 that he couldn't do when he was younger
and the economy was still robust?"
However, he points out
that splintered state of the opposition is damaging its chances
of capitalising on the situation. "The MDC now stands between
itself and victory because of internal squabbles," he said.
* Mike Nyoni is the pseudonym
of an IWPR journalist in Zimbabwe.
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