ZIMBABWE – MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai yesterday cut a lone figure as he was flanked by representatives of small parties at the signing of a national electoral reforms agenda after some of the leading opposition leaders failed to turn up.
The poor response to the MDC-T-led lobby will dim chances of a formidable coalition against President Robert Mugabe and Zanu PF in the 2018 elections. Some notable opposition figures that did not turn up for the much-hyped event were former Vice-President Joice Mujuru of the People First project and People’s Democratic Party leader, Tendai Biti.
Other absentees were Welshman Ncube (MDC), Elton Mangoma (Renewal Democrats of Zimbabwe), Dumiso Dabengwa (Zapu) and Simba Makoni
The signing ceremony, held at the Anglican Cathedral in Harare, was only attended by the MDC-T and nearly a dozen smaller and little known opposition parties.
Among the the parties that turned up were Marcellina Chikasha’s African Democratic Party, Transform Zimbabwe, Free Zimbabwe Congress, Democratic Assembly for Restoration and Empowerment, Zimbabwe United for Democracy, Zanu Ndonga, Freedom Front Party and Progressive Democrats of Zimbabwe.
Organisers of the event claimed other key players could have stayed away because of mistrust in the opposition camp.
Convener of the meeting, Ancelmo Magaya of Zimbabwe Divine Destiny, said he would ensure all parties were represented at the national convergence conference planned for next week.
“I think, by nature, political parties being political parties, don’t trust each other,” he said. “We will make sure an independent person, who is not a leader of any political party, is tasked with ensuring all leaders are here.
“It is very tough because we have postponed (the signing) once or twice. I will make sure this is addressed.”
People First spokesperson, Rugare Gumbo professed ignorance over yesterday’s ceremony, although he said his party was fully behind the call for electoral reforms.
“I thought they had postponed it to a later date. I didn’t know there was something. I will find out tomorrow (today),” he said. “Generally, we are in need of electoral reforms and we want to have a level playing field and we want our people to be involved in electoral processes wherever they will be.”
While one official claimed to have been representing Ncube’s MDC at the top table, the party’s spokesperson Kurauone Chihwayi said his party was not invited to the function and, therefore, could not gatecrash.
“The MDC was not invited to the MDC-T’s private function and does not have a habit of gatecrashing events that are private. We are a democratic party that takes instructions from the people,” he said.
People’s Democratic Party spokesperson, Jacob Mafume said they were not invited.
“We were not part of it,” he said. “We were not invited and we were not aware.”
MDC-T spokesperson Obert Gutu downplayed the poor attendance, saying the lobby was still being worked out.
“This is work in progress,” he said. “All opposition political parties in Zimbabwe are being approached regarding the issue of having a common position on the electoral reforms that have to be carried out in the country.
“This has been an extremely good beginning and we are very confident that in the fullness of time, all opposition parties will be coming on board.
“I can confirm that the majority of the opposition political parties were consulted in the drafting of the document.”
Magaya said they should fight for everyone to freely exercise the right to vote freely. He said the fight was to see to it that all eligible citizens exercised their right to vote without the interference of traditional leaders, the army or intelligence officials in the process.