OPPOSITION leader Simba Makoni has withdrawn from the presidential race, throwing his weight behind a grand coalition seeking to end President Robert Mugabe’s 33-year rule.
The coalition will be led by Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai.
The former Finance minister, who now leads Mavambo/Kusile/Dawn (MKD), told a news conference yesterday that he was withdrawing from the presidential race to mount a united front against Mugabe and Zanu PF.
He said he was prepared to serve the nation in any capacity in the post-Government of National Unity (GNU) era.
“I am happy to advise the nation that the National Management Committee (NMC) of MKD resolved on Tuesday June 25, 2013 not to field a presidential candidate, in the forthcoming elections,” he said adding “we took this decision in order to pave the way for agreement on a single presidential candidate for all those yearning for change in national leadership at the highest level.”
Tsvangirai, who in 2008 nearly ended Mugabe’s hegemony had it not been for a fractured opposition, is widely regarded as the front runner to lead the coalition, not only because of the legislative strength of his party but also because of his popularity.
Clad in a green jersey and apparently in buoyant mood, the ex-Zanu PF politburo member said he is prepared to work under a coalition government led by Tsvangirai, adding he would not have withdrawn his presidential bid if he was not prepared to work with other leaders.
“I am fully-committed to back the one candidate who is chosen by the grand coalition,” Makoni told reporters.
“If I was not prepared to back that person, I wouldn’t have made this statement.”
Asked if there was buy-in from other parties to the idea of a coalition and if they will agree on the candidate in time for the Nomination Court, Makoni retorted: “Chances are 10 out of 10. We are constantly in meetings, we are having one right now.”
The Nomination Court closes today at 4pm.
While Makoni has openly rallied behind the coalition, other parties such as Zanu Ndonga have already indicated they would back Tsvangirai in the pending crucial elections, with yet another erstwhile Zanu PF stalwart Dumiso Dabengwa, who now leads a revived Zapu, saying grand coalition talks are ongoing and at an advanced stage.
“If it is decided to have a coalition it should be inclusive, we would like to see all parties involved, awarded top posts,” Dabengwa told reporters on Wednesday.
Using the MDC maxim “real change”, Makoni talked up putting national interest before egos.
“In preparing ourselves for the likelihood of elections this year, we reaffirm our commitment to put the national interest above our party of individual members’ interest,” Makoni said.
“We also agreed to apply our separate and collective energies to the cause of cooperation.”
After Mugabe unilaterally declared that elections would be held on July 31, five parties that included the governing MDC formations, MKD, Zapu and Zanu Ndonga collectively took a stance vowing not to be frogmarched into an election without the full implementation of agreed reforms.
In turn, the Sadc extraordinary meeting that was held in Maputo, Mozambique, on June 15, used the letter as the basis for rejecting Mugabe’s bid to railroad the country into an early poll without implementing security sector and media reforms.
The strengthening coalition that is gathering momentum on the eve of watershed elections is likely to rattle Mugabe’s Zanu PF which held chaotic primary elections for three days as infighting took centre stage, with several disenchanted candidates threatening to stand as independent candidates.