HARARE, Sept 6 (Reuters) – Zimbabwe’s opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) said on Wednesday it had no plans to join factions of the ruling ZANU-PF party to form a national unity coalition after the eventual death of 93-year-old President Robert Mugabe.
A Reuters investigation this week revealed that Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa, favourite to succeed Mugabe, has been looking to build a broad coalition that would kickstart the economy by reintegrating thousands of white farmers booted off their land in the early 2000s.
The report was based on leaks from inside Zimbabwe’s Central Intelligence Organisation and interviews with top political players, including MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai.
The 63-year-old, who has been Mugabe’s main political rival for the last two decades, told Reuters at the time he had not met Mnangagwa for several years but that he had received overtures about a meeting that were turned down.
In a statement, the MDC said it would never consider joining an administration that was not the product of an election. Zimbabwe’s next vote is next year and Mugabe is running as ZANU-PF’s presidential candidate.
“While stability is important, President Tsvangirai and the MDC have always placed a far higher premium on legitimacy and democracy,” the statement said.
The Reuters story also revealed that senior members of Zimbabwe’s military were starting to swallow their disdain for Tsvangirai, who has never enjoyed their respect because of his background as a union leader rather than a liberation fighter.
The intelligence reports suggested top generals had given Mnangagwa their backing.
Tsvangirai did not deny any contact with military leaders or British ambassador Catriona Laing, who the intelligence reports said favoured a Mnangagwa-led succession, but said post-Mugabe deal-making was not on the agenda.
“President Tsvangirai has not had any meeting with either the British or the military involving this purported deal,” the MDC statement said.
“Any purported deal outside elections and involving diplomats, the military and other such characters will not be legitimate and will not rescue Zimbabweans from their current predicament.”
Mugabe has been Zimbabwe’s only leader since independence from Britain in 1980. Its once promising economy collapsed in the early 2000s after the violent seizure of thousands of white-owned commercial farms by pro-Mugabe gangs. (Reporting by Ed Cropley and Joe Brock; Editing by Mark Trevelyan)