The leaders of Zimbabwe’s two main opposition political parties have forged an alliance to take on President Robert Mugabe and his Zanu-PF party in the southern African country’s general elections next year.
Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) leader Morgan Tsvangirai and former vice-president Joice Mujuru’s National People’s Front signed a pact in Harare that paves the way for a full coalition of opposition parties to contest the 2018 poll.
The move is seen as a significant step towards uniting a variety of anti-Mugabe opposition groups in the country, which over the past decade have often splintered because of infighting over strategies and leadership positions.
The MDC has split four times since the party was formed in 1999 to challenge the now 93-year-old Mr Mugabe, who has been in power since the end of white minority rule in the country in 1980.
Ms Mujuru’s party has also fractured since it was formed in 2016, which prompted her to change its name this year from Zimbabwe People First to its current title.
At the signing ceremony on Wednesday, Mr Tsvangirai said the memorandum of understanding was the beginning of “building blocks towards establishing a broad alliance to confront” Zanu-PF, which is also undermined by factionalism.
Ms Mujuru said that despite taking a long time to negotiate, the pact brought hope to the electorate and general population. Zimbabweans are struggling under a crippling economic crisis that shows no sign of abating under the current presidency.
“This is something that we have been discussing since last year,” she said. “We have taken more than six months to consult, discuss, and make ourselves understand what expectations our people have, or should be given, from the two of us.”
In a further sign that divisions between the opposition groups will be put aside to better challenge Zanu-PF, Welshman Ncube, the leader of a splinter MDC faction, yesterday also signed the pact.
It has yet to be decided which of the opposition leaders will challenge Mr Mugabe in the presidential election. But Ms Mujuru said she will lead the political committee and Mr Tsvangirai the diplomatic committee, while People’s Democratic Party leader Tendai Biti will head the legal committee.
Former MDC member and education minister David Coltart welcomed the news, tweeting on Wednesday it is “an excellent move – and there is more to come. Watch this space!”
Having Ms Mujuru on board will give the opposition parties significant insight into how the ruling party has rigged elections in the past, and more importantly, how it can be stopped from happening next year.
She was a member of Zanu-PF for 34 years and was Mr Mugabe’s deputy president for 10 years, but in early 2015 was expelled from the movement for allegedly trying to instigate regime change.
The pro-Mugabe state-run Herald newspaper displayed the ruling party’s dislike for its former comrade on Thursday, saying Ms Mujuru had become a “political concubine” of the MDC by signing the deal.
Mr Mugabe’s government has not yet officially responded to the news of the pact.