Zimbabwe's opposition
Zimbabwean opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) supporters shout political slogans and hold placards during a protest against the Zimbabwean government on May 28 in BulawayoZINYANGE AUNTONY/AFP/Getty Images

As the bitter battle to succeed Zimbabwe's ageing President Robert Mugabe drags on, five opposition parties have formed a coalition to challenge the the head of state and his ruling Zanu-PF party in the 2018 general elections.

Though the fight to succeed Zimbabwe's 92-year-old president comes decades in the making, its outcome is far from settled. Mugabe has ruled with an iron fist, sidelining his rivals through a combination of shrewd politics and force. The nonagenarian has recently quashed any debate about his succession by stressing his intention to stand for re-election in 2018 when he is 94.

In a push to unseat Mugabe, however, five parties have come together to create the the Coalition of Democrats – dubbed Code.

The parties include, Simba Makoni's Mavambo Kusile Dawn (MKD), the Renewal Democrats of Zimbabwe (RDZ) led by Elton Mangoma, the MDC-led by Welshman Ncube, Farai Mbira's Zimbabweans United for Democracy (ZUNDE) and the Democratic Assembly for Restoration and Empowerment (DARE).

Gilbert Dzikiti, who heads DARE, was named chairman of the coalition.

Doors open to other parties

The leaders of two other opposition parties – Tendai Biti who leads the People's Democratic Party (PDP) and members of the Dumiso Dabengwa-led Zapu party – attended the event, but they said they still need to consult their supporters before joining the coalition.

"A single party cannot achieve democracy in Zimbabwe and we need each other to fight Mugabe and Zanu-PF," the New Zimbabwe quoted Biti, a former finance minister, as saying.

Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe
President Robert Mugabe at the meeting with the War Veterans AssociationJEKESAI NJIKIZANA/AFP/Getty Images

Echoing Biti, RDZ leader Mangoma said the coalition had an open door policy, and that all political parties opposed to the Zanu-PF government were welcome to join.

"All opposition parties were invited to the conversations that took place and some indicated their un-readiness to work with others but, today, we say the doors are still open and, if they choose not to be with us come 2018, they will have chosen to do so on their own will," Mangoma said. "We are saying to them: Let us start afresh."

Joice Mujuru and Morgan Tsvangirai absent

Members of the new coalition claimed former vice president Joice Mujuru's Zimbabwe People First (Zim-PF) is keen to join, but none of the party's representatives attended the signing ceremony. Zim-PF last month claimed it has undisclosed information about how Zanu-PF allegedly "stole" previous elections – notably in 2008 and the last general elections of 2013.

Another political heavyweight in Zimbabwe, Morgan Tsvangirai claimed his MDC-T party was not invited for the signing ceremony. The party's spokesman, Obert Gutu, however, said the MDC-T was eager to work with all pro-democracy parties in a large coalition to challenge Zanu-PF's domination in 2018.

"Politics everywhere is fractious but the degree differs and, today, we are making an effort on how we can work together, taking lessons from our previous mistakes to reshape Zimbabwe," MKD leader Makoni, was reported as saying.

Opposition calls for Mugabe, who has ruled Zimbabwe since independence from British colonial rule in 1980, to step down.