The Makoni factor and the numbers game


On paper the coalition of Mavambo-Kusile-Dawn leader Simba Makoni and Movement for Democratic Change-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai is a sure winner.

Adding Tsvangirai’s 47.9 percent to Makoni’s 8.3 percent poll in the first round of the 2008 presidential elections gives the coalition an unassailable 56.2 percent. No contest. No challenge.

Makoni, Tsvangirai and Reketai Sengwayo of ZANU-Ndonga announced yesterday that they had formed a coalition and would field a single candidate for president- Morgan Tsvangirai.

Talk about a grand coalition of the three parties plus Welshman Ncube’s MDC and Dumiso Dabengwa’s Zimbabwe African People’s Union has been going on since Thursday when the Constitutional Court refused to move the election date from 31 July.

The coalition was originally supposed to be announced last Friday but instead Ncube and Dabengwa announced their own coalition. Some reports said this was the first step, the coalition of the five would be announced this week. It might still be.

But what do the figures say under the present set up?

Makoni polled 207 470 votes in 2008 but more than half of them, 108 003 or 52 percent, were from the three provinces of Matebeleland- Bulawayo, Matebeleland North and Matebeleland South.

Mugabe got a lower figure 100 099 and Tsvangirai garnered 155 153 votes. But at the time Makoni was backed by Dabengwa. This time the ZAPU leader is contesting on his own, or at least until he and his colleague Ncube decide who should stand as both registered as candidates. In other words four candidates, including Mugabe, are vying for the vote.

Mugabe has always had a difficult time in Matebeleland which had more than 350 000 votes in the 2008 elections because the people of Matebeleland will vote for anyone, or anything, but Mugabe, but the fielding of three candidates campaigning for their votes could give Mugabe an edge.

Though he lost in Bulawayo and Matabeleland North, Mugabe had the highest number of votes in Matebeleland South, beating both Tsvangirai and Makoni there.

The electorate might also start asking questions. In 2008, Makoni cost Mugabe votes and gave Tsvangirai a boost because he was largely regarded as a decoy for Mugabe.

In fact, most people argue that if Makoni had not entered the scene, Mugabe would have won. When the electorate felt that Makoni had been deployed by Mugabe- as a former politburo member- to get votes from Tsvangirai, they went all out for Tsvangirai.

Makoni had the best-financed campaign in 2008, but his problem was that he announced his candidacy too late- seven weeks before the elections. This time he has outdone himself. He announced the coalition three weeks before the polls.

Even though there is still talk about another coalition to leave the race between Mugabe and Tsvangirai- as everyone seems to have written off the fifth presidential candidate Kisinoti Mukwazhe of the Zimbabwe Development Party- the electorate could be asking why they left it so late?

Are they so afraid that Mugabe can win when he was clobbered by Tsvangirai alone in 2008? If so, why did they field three candidates only a week before? Could it be true that this is a coalition being forced by outsiders? Why?

Makoni said the coming together of the parties would bring about a genuine government of national unity but no coalition government –except the just ended forced marriage which survived four years- has worked before.

Mugabe formed a genuine government of national unity in 1980 when despite winning 71 percent of the vote he invited Joshua Nkomo and Ian Smith to form a government with him.

The coalition did not last a year. Mugabe and Nkomo were already at each other’s throats.


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Charles Rukuni
The Insider is a political and business bulletin about Zimbabwe, edited by Charles Rukuni. Founded in 1990, it was a printed 12-page subscription only newsletter until 2003 when Zimbabwe's hyper-inflation made it impossible to continue printing.


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