ZAPU leader and former Home Affairs minister Dumiso Dabengwa Friday gave MDC Alliance presidential candidate Nelson Chamisa a huge lift when he announced a deal to join the country’s biggest opposition grouping.
This came hardly a day after Chamisa suffered a huge blow in his last ditch attempts to persuade rival leaders to join him who instead filed their own papers at the Nomination Court, confirming their participation in the presidential election to be held next month.
Dabengwa revealed yesterday that he had pulled out of contesting in the presidential election at the last minute to give Chamisa and the MDC Alliance a chance.
“At the last minute, Zapu drew back from fielding its president as a candidate in the 2018 elections. Prior to this decision, we had facilitated protracted discussions and consultations with what we regarded as significant actors in Zimbabwe’s national politics with a view to forging a grand coalition.
“Needless to say, the will to take this difficult but necessary path did not prevail, hence the number of opposition presidential candidates standing on their party tickets by the end of nominations yesterday (Thursday),” Dabengwa told journalists during a press briefing.
On Thursday, former vice president Joice Mujuru, as well as the leader of the splinter MDC faction Thokozani Khupe and the little-known Violet Mariyacha, filed their papers to contest in the presidential poll.
Mujuru, who is the leader of the National People’s Party and the Rainbow Alliance, had been expected to join the MDC Alliance at the last minute together with Khupe — whose running feud with Chamisa had appeared to have ended until the revelations that he was in talks with the National Patriotic Front (NPF), a party backed by former president Robert Mugabe and his much-disliked wife Grace.
Many Zimbabweans, including political analysts, civic society leaders and student movement heads, had consistently said the country’s opposition stood a better chance of finally ending Zanu PF’s dominance of local politics by fielding a single candidate against President Emmerson Mnangagwa in next month’s crucial polls.
Dabengwa said it was regrettable that his long-drawn wish to have a grand coalition to face president Mnangagwa and Zanu PF had collapsed.
“A united front of opposition parties has failed mainly because of competition for the top spot of presidential candidate, yet it is essential to enhance the capacity of one of the opposition leaders to take over the country’s presidency,” he said.
Turning to his deal with the MDC Alliance, Dabengwa said the parties will remain autonomous with Zapu set to continue campaigning for its candidates.
“However, the two entities will make sure that they do not compete against each other in some parliamentary seats. In addition, the MDC Alliance will reserve some agreed slots for Zapu among those to be chosen on the basis of proportional representation (PR).
“For my part, I will actively support the candidacy of Nelson Chamisa and be at hand to support if he wins the presidential contest, as I earnestly hope.
“Our candidates too will include in their campaigns the party’s commitment to the co-operation agreement and the presidency of Nelson Chamisa,” Dabengwa said.
Next month’s national elections have generated a lot of interest among both ordinary Zimbabweans and ambitious politicians alike, with many people anticipating a close contest between Zanu PF and the MDC Alliance, as well as between Mnangagwa and Chamisa.
A record 23 presidential candidates are participating in next month’s election which sees for the first time, women vying for the country’s top political job.
The polls themselves will be the first in the past two decades not to feature former president Robert Mugabe and the late MDC founding leader Morgan Tsvangirai who lost his valiant battle with cancer of the colon in February.