TWO significant events in the country’s body politic are likely to have a profound impact on opposition politics in the country.
The formation of the United Movement for Democratic Change (UMDC) and the unprecedented confusion within Zanu PF are events which are likely to contribute to the emergence of a strong opposition in the country.
This has been accentuated by the dire economic conditions with Zanu PF clueless on how to solve the country’s economic quagmire.
Strong opposition parties tend to strive when economies are struggling and when dominant ruling parties, especially nationalist parties, implode as was the case in Kenya when Daniel Arap Moi’s Kanu gave way to the Rainbow Alliance which consisted of a number of former ruling party stalwarts.
Will this be the case in Zimbabwe? Will the UMDC have the desired impact or will it just be a union of “elites “as suggested by some?
Will the purging of Joice Mujuru result in her and her allies dumping Zanu PF and forming a powerful alliance with the opposition? All this depends on a number of factors both intrinsic and extrinsic.
The formation of the UMDC is in itself a great step in building a strong political movement capable of challenging Zanu PF for power in 2018 and 2023.
They appear to embody a well thought out social democratic philosophy dovetailed with modern Pan-Africanism.
The reunification of Welshman Ncube’s MDC with the faction of the MDC-T led by Tendai Biti is also positive in that in brings together some of the country’s greatest political, legal, social and economic brains.
Surely the combination of Biti, Ncube, David Coltart, Samuel Sipepa Nkomo, Lucia Matibenga, Elton Mangoma, Gorden Moyo and others will result in a fairly strong party blessed with sufficient intellectual and political ammunition to mount a serious and credible challenge to Zanu PF.
If the likes of Moses Mzila Ndlovu and Paul Themba Nyathi become part of the equation this will give this new outfit a competitive edge.
However, the new party will face innumerable challenges including its possible lack of appeal to the grassroots who may perceive it as elitist and divorced from the day to day struggles of ordinary people.
If the UMDC is able to change this perception of itself as an elitist party it will be a force to reckon with.
It will have strong appeal to the middle class but then the middle class has been decimated by the ruining party (I mean the ruling party).
While during the liberation struggle and the early 2000 era the middle class played a key role in political revolutions the same cannot be said now.
The middle class is poor and unable to influence other stratas of society unlike in the past when teachers, nurses and other professionals played a large role in enlightening relatives in rural areas.
The middle class appeal of the UMDC will thus erode the potential of the party because of the new demographic realities in Zimbabwe which include urban to rural migration, informalisation of the economy and the formation of new socioeconomic groups in mining and resettlement communities.
Currently Zanu PF has a strong grip on these socioeconomic groups but continuous failure to deliver promises by the ruling party will result in these communities looking for new economic and political saviours.
Depending on the outcome of the congress and how Mujuru is managed by Robert Mugabe she could play a major role in changing the face of opposition politics.
If she is pushed out of her vice president’s post and her allies are all thrown out as well this would be an opportune moment for opposition politics.
Imagine a new opposition party which includes the likes of the UMDC, Mujuru, Jabulani Sibanda, Dabengwa’s Zapu and numerous disgruntled Zanu PF stalwarts. A pact with Morgan Tsvangirai is also not an impossibility.
This would mark the end of Zanu PF, but this all depends on how the crafty Mugabe manages succession dynamics as he may decide to accommodate Mujuru and her allies in whatever form to prevent a split.
Failure to do so and the inevitable departure of Mugabe from the political scene due to nature, biology and the divine will result in a an unstoppable opposition.
Dumisani Nkomo is an activist, social entrepreneur and chief executive officer of Habakkuk Trust. He writes in his personal capacity.