MDC-T faction leader Tendai Biti and his renewal team’s chances of drawing support from a dream alliance with the country’s civic society now look remote after some of the groups refused Thursday to be lured into the opposition’s internal wars.
In an exclusive interview with NewZimbabwe.com, the Zimbabwe Council of Churches (ZCC); the National Association of Non-Governmental Organisations (NANGO) and the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition leaders said they would not rally their membership behind partisan politics.
Addressing a media briefing Wednesday, Samuel Sipepa Nkomo, who is Interim chairman of the renewal team said moves towards a “grand coalition” to unseat President Robert Mugabe and his Zanu PF party were taking shape.
The Lobengula MP said they were engaging churches, political parties, civic society and other “democrats” to reinforce the initiative.
Nkomo said the ambitious plan would come at the exclusion of MDC-T leader-turned-nemesis Morgan Tsvangirai who has allegedly turned undemocratic.
But a follow up with the country’s mainstream civil society groups by NewZimbabwe.com has revealed that the renewal team needs to work even harder to convince this apparently disinterested lot.
Solomon Zwana, secretary general of the 26-member ZCC said his organisation was not partisan and its leaders would not rally any support behind the ambitious political initiative.
Zwana said they have not yet been approached by the Biti group but said their response would depend on what the group wants from them.
“If they are just introducing themselves to us then that will elicit a different reaction but if they are approaching us to seek support, then it is difficult for us as churches to then come up in support of a particular political party,” he said.
Zwana accused “certain political individuals” of harboring “selfish interests”.
“Most of these power struggles are by individuals who then go to the people to seek legitimacy after their boardroom squabbles,” he said without elaborating.
“The tragedy is that there has been a tendency to take the people for granted.”
Nango director, Cephas Zinhumwe said although they would not fault Biti and his group for seeking support from civic society, the over 1,200 member umbrella group would not take sides.
“We are very clear around our position. Nango, through and through, we have been non-partisan,” Zinhumwe said.
“Political parties should fight their wars on their own. We really want to have a good opposition in the country but we will never find ourselves as Nango tichipinda muZanu PF, tichipinda mu MDC-T/N or whatever.
“It’s their right to invite everyone but it’s also the right of those being invited to accept or to refuse.”
Similarly, Dehwa Mavhinga, who chairs Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition said the governance and rights based NGO grouping would not be politicised.
“The fundamental guiding principle for civil society which Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition strictly adheres to is non-partisanship which includes independence and autonomy,” Mavhinga said from his South African base.
“Civil society is there to be aligned only to values and principles of democracy, good governance, non-violence and human rights respects, and, to that extent, those political formations or parties that share in common these values are welcome to fellowship with civil society but only to the extent that we hold certain principles and values in common.
“Within the pro-democracy movement are different and diverse actors including civil society, therefore, it is important to make it clear that civil society is not an appendage of any political party. I am sure this position will be respected by political leaders, the media and the public at large.”
Mavhinga slammed the squabbling MDC-T factions which he said were preoccupied with their own political ambitions while failing to look at the “bigger picture”.
He said it was “mind boggling that the MDC-T factions who found cause to coalesce with bitter rival Zanu PF in the erstwhile unity government would fail to tolerate each other to a point of going separate ways”.
The MDC-T has all but split into two bitter factions – the second such division since 2005 – after a group of party dissenters led by party secretary general, Biti challenged founding leader Morgan Tsvangirai to step down accusing the embattled ex-Premier of barren leadership and soiling the party brand with his tainted love life.