Zimbabwe's opposition leader Tendai Biti has reiterated calls for the opposition to unite under a common platform should Zimbabweans want to see President Robert Mugabe voted out of office. In the past few months, the country has been rocked by grassroots protest movements calling for change as the veteran leader and the ruling party struggle to maintain power.
The reportedly divided Zanu-PF will seek to extend its 36-year rule in the 2018 general election, but opposition political parties, which are hoping to force Zanu PF out, remain deeply disorganised despite a number of coalitions already in place.
Former minister Biti, whose People's Democratic Party (PDP) party will hold its first anniversary on Sunday (11 September 2016) in Bulawayo, called on all political parties to form a "broad coalition".
2018 poll: 'We don't have all the time in the world'
"Political partisans in Zimbabwe must converge and find a common platform," he said, highlighting the "different types of coalitions, different types of political arrangements" already in existence. "The point is to bring everyone on board".
In a push to unseat Mugabe, five parties recently came together to create the the Coalition of Democrats – entitled Code – a coalition they hoped would challenge the head of state in the presidential poll, while another grouping, the National Electoral Reform Agenda (NERA) says it "fighting for electoral reforms".
Recently, two political heavyweights, Joice Mujuru and Morgan Tsvangirai, also called for citizens and political parties to join hands in ending Zanu-PF party's alleged misrule in a historic show of unity.
"Let's use our common denominator that we all agreed on. And the thing that we all agreed is (the need) for historic change in Zimbabwe. The thing that we all agreed is that we need to work together. So, surely, at the very minimum, we can form an electoral alliance – in which we agree to field candidates, then support the same candidates the next election," Biti said in an exclusive interview with IBTimes UK on Tuesday (5 September).
"Alternatively, we can have a broad coalition which now speaks to the more organic arrangement ... with common values and principles and so forth."
While Biti, 50, confirmed meetings have been conducted "behind closed doors", the PDP president urged the political parties to rapidly agree on the common platform. "The only thing that [opposition] in Zimbabwe needs to understand is that we don't have all the time in the world. We are less than 24 months away from the next election," he insisted.
'It's very difficult to dislodge the founding liberation movement'
The leader outlined his requirements for a strong coalition capable of winning the 2018 elections. First, he highlighted the need for all political parties to "work together" under "the principle that we all equal, there is no parting".
The arrangement must be based on an agreed program before the election and after the election. "We need to do that, because it's very difficult to dislodge the founding liberation movement [Zanu-PF]."
While he said he could not speak on the behalf of the opposition, Biti rejected the possibility of holding talks with other senior members of Zanu-PF poised to challenge Mugabe - particularly vice-president Emmerson Mnangagwa.
"I can't speak on the behalf of a coalition that is yet to be formed, but there is no way that any ... democrat would ever consider talking to Emmerson [because] Zanu are all the same," he said. "Equally we will never accept Grace Mugabe [also Zanu-PF] as president of this country."
The only dialogue Biti said he would be ready to have with Zanu-PF would solely be with regards to "the conditions of a transitional government".
Former minister Biti formed the PDP in 2015 after he split from the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC-T) led by Tsvangirai – a party for which he was secretary general. The leader served as finance minister in the coalition government with Zanu-PF from 2009 to 2013, before he broke away from the MDC-T in 2014.