THE pace of Zimbabwean politics is such that the political terrain can change within a matter of weeks and unless political actors understand this fluidity, they are likely to become irrelevant.
It is thus critical for Zimbabwe’s opposition political parties to quickly reassert and reposition themselves lest they become perpetual and eternal opposition parties.
Zanu PF internal politics are also a complex phenomenon largely due to succession issues and protracted wars of attrition between various factions as evidenced in the recent provincial elections.
Nicollo Machiavelli in the diabolical political classic The Prince notes that the Prince must know when to be “a lion and when to be a fox”.
A lion is defenceless in dealing with traps while a fox is defenceless against huge predators, but is able to avoid traps which lions are incapable of escaping them.
What has to be noted, therefore, is that Zanu PF has moved away from the politics or policy of overt violence to the policy of engagement — for fair or foul reasons, it remains to be seen.
This has seen Zanu PF ministers freely attending public forums and meetings with some like Information minister Jonathan Moyo visiting private media houses and even openly calling for the decriminalisation of criminal defamation.
By so doing Zanu PF is trying to occupy the space which was previously occupied by the MDC formations and render them irrelevant.
Zanu PF is desperate to win parliamentary seats in Bulawayo which were swept clean by the MDC–T in an electoral avalanche. In doing this, Zanu PF will try and move away from their politics of denial about the marginalisation of Matabeleland.
They will increasingly talk about the need to reindustrialise Bulawayo and bring development to Matabeleland.
In doing so, they will try and take the rug from the feet of the opposition by possessing their agenda and purporting to be addressing the plight of the region.
They may not, however, have the necessary capital to implement this development agenda, but in terms of rhetoric they will use the same language as the opposition although skilfully evading the question of Gukurahundi.
The MDC-T and MDC in particular, may find themselves without a clear agenda or message for the Matabeleland constituency if they do not wake up to Zanu PF’s new strategy which thrives on diplomacy, deceit and political charm.
This shift in policy thrust by Zanu PF is driven by imperatives of political survival which require a political entity or politician to change tactics according to the terrain and situation on the ground.
Unfortunately, our main opposition parties appear to be too slow to adjust to changing political landscapes and terrain.
Consequently when they where focussing on how Zanu PF was going to use violence in the elections, Zanu PF used smart violence and political fraud to outfox the two MDC formations.
Right now Zanu PF will make an audacious attempt to steal the opposition’s clothes while they are bathing and in doing so, render the opposition irrelevant.
This calls for opposition parties to wake up and smell the coffee and realign themselves to the present political realities instead of focussing on petty personality issues.
There is an opportunity to pin Zanu PF in its own half by using the gains of the new Constitution to push for further reforms to align legislation to the new Constitution.
If Zanu PF fails to do this they (opposition) can then expose the ruling party not only in Parliament, but to the people at grassroots through the media as well as regional and international platforms.
Zanu PF is preoccupied with the issue of legitimacy and re-engaging the West in order to open lines of credit, reduce the domestic and external debt and finance its ambitious economic blueprint Zim Asset.
They clearly do not have the money for all this and have awoken to the reality that sovereignty cannot feed the people.
The government is, therefore, desperate to be seen to be implementing a semblance of political reform .
The country’s opposition parties are obsessed with their own trivial wars of succession and factionalism which are a mirror of the situation in Zanu PF.
They need to quickly deal with their internal power politics and unite around a common change and transformation agenda.
They have largely failed to read the shift in the political terrain and appear to be drifting away from the people.
They need to deal with their internal issues by next year and form a united democratic front which will include the two or more MDC formations, the NCA, Zapu and other democratic forces.
Outside of this, they will fail once again in the 2018 elections.
Dumisani Nkomo is an activist and opinion leader