HARARE – MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai electrified the crowd at the National People’s Party (NPP)’s inaugural convention held in the capital yesterday, where he belaboured his commitment towards working with former vice president Joice Mujuru in order to unseat President Robert Mugabe.
The 65-year-old politician, who had been invited to the convention to give a solidarity message, received a standing ovation when he promised NPP supporters that a coalition with Mujuru would be formed no matter what if the country’s deeply-divided opposition parties are to end Mugabe’s 37-year rule.
Tsvangirai, who is now shaving his head bald after losing his hair to colon cancer, kept his audience captivated by harping on his favourite talking-points that he has used around the country in recent days.
He emphasised that there were no differences, politically, or in terms of policy between Mujuru’s party, and the MDC.
“Democracy is a very difficult proposition in Africa but this path you have taken to seek the mandate and legitimacy from the people is the right one. On this day, you have overcome the doubts of many,” he said.
“I was listening to the proposals you make and I see that there is no conflict with our ideals and values, so where is the problem? We can’t be divided on the basis of personalities,” Tsvangirai said to uproarious applause.
He added amid the cheer: “If we are agreed on the direction that we need to take, why don’t we put our differences aside and be united? We launched the MDC alliance last week and we said we believe in the big tent and that 2018 is the only opportunity that we have as the opposition movement to defeat Mugabe.”
Tsvangirai addressing the crowd. Pics: Annie Mpalume
He spoke amid indications that Mujuru, who was fired from Zanu PF and government in 2014 on allegations of plotting a bloodless palace coup against Mugabe, could lead another coalition comprising opposition parties that are offshoots of the ruling Zanu PF party, ahead of polls in 2018.
Mujuru’s party was among opposition movements that were left out of the pact signed between Tsvangirai and seven other fringe political parties that included the People’s Democratic Party led by Tendai Biti and the smaller MDC formation led by Welshman Ncube.
Both Ncube and Biti are former secretaries-general of a united MDC under the leadership of Tsvangirai.
Mujuru, who had a tiff with Tsvangirai over the leadership of the coalition, was conspicuous by her absence at the MDC Alliance weekend rally, which nominated the former trade unionist to lead the group.
At the NPP’s convention yesterday, it was quite clear that Mujuru’s supporters have no qualms with their leaders forging an alliance.
Delivering his solidarity speech after Mujuru before a diverse crowd that packed the Harare Sports Centre, Tsvangirai did not further stoke his ongoing feud with Mujuru over the leadership of the alliance.
Part of the crowd at the NPP convention.
The crowd, drawn from the country’s 10 provinces, painted the venue blue, as supporters danced to the party jingles, while controversial musician Hosea Chipanga was at hand to entertain the gathering.
The veteran opposition leader, who delivered a stump speech sharpened for his audience, said: “NPP is not our enemy and let me say atungamira haatori nzira, (Being the first to take a certain route won’t block others from following the same path).”
There have been growing calls for Mujuru and Tsvangirai to join hands and form a formidable opposition that could give Zanu PF a run for its money come next year.
However, the issue of positions, particularly the thorny question of who should lead the proposed grand alliance, is threatening to scuttle the deal.
Analysts opine that parties coalescing around either Tsvangirai or Mujuru stand the best chance to defeat Mugabe.
Mujuru, who was first to speak, promised her supporters that if elected president, she would, among other things, overhaul the controversial Indigenisation Act as well as bring sanity to the land reform programme.
She also promised to end endemic corruption as well as pursue a policy of national healing to bring closure to outstanding cases of human rights abuses.
By comparison to Tsvangirai, Mujuru’s speech was tame.
Mujuru said: “That there is need for a grand coalition is no longer a question, we need to give citizens what they want. You want an opposition that is united. You want to air your views on what leader you want.”
She suggested that the parties should either hold primary elections to vote on an agreeable representative or agree by way of consensus.
Mujuru addressing the crowd.
“We have overstretched your patience, but remember we are from different parties and you need to give us more time so that we can reach out to each other . . . I can assure you that this time we will cross to the Promised Land.
“Let us register to vote and inspect the voters’ roll. We are going to agree because we don’t want to be remembered as the cadres on the way to freedom,” said Mujuru.
Also present at the NPP convention was Zapu leader Dumiso Dabengwa who also received a resounding welcome from a section of the crowds who were chanting his name.
Meanwhile, Mujuru was confirmed as the NPP president while John Shumba Mvundura and Samuel Sipepa Nkomo will be her two deputies.
Former Energy minister Dzikamai Mavhaire was confirmed the national chairperson with Gift Nyandoro being confirmed as the party secretary-general.
War veterans Bernard Manyadza, aka Parker Chipoyera, is the NPP organising secretary while Marian Chombo was confirmed as the leader of the women’s wing.
Chombo will be deputised by Gladys Hadebe while Angel Masiye was elected secretary-general, Nomalanga Khumalo (organising secretary) and Laizer Shindi as treasurer.
Lloyd Masiya was elected national youth chairperson and he will be deputised by Trevor Ngulube.
Simon Machiri was elected leader of the freedom fighters’ wing.
The convention was graced by the diplomatic community with officials from Tanzanian, Swedish and Canadian embassies in attendance.