x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

Zimbabwe's 'Dawn' fails to rise

Simba Makoni, a former minister, launched his bid for the country's presidency in February but his party remains invisible.

Simba Makoni had high hopes when he launched his Dawn movement early this year.
Simba Makoni had high hopes when he launched his Dawn movement early this year.

BULAWAYO, ZIMBABWE // Simba Makoni, a former minister and senior official in the ruling party, unveiled his political movement on Feb 5, with the slogan "Dawn". Launching his candidacy for president in elections that were held 53 days later, he picked the emblem of a rising sun and promised to "get Zimbabwe working again". But his sun has set. "From the beginning, I never expected the project to fly," said Eldred Masunungure, a professor at the University of Zimbabwe, "because of the movement's own structural and organisational shortcomings."

The two biggest political parties in Zimbabwe are Robert Mugabe's 45-year-old Zanu-PF and the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), formed in 1998. Dr Makoni, a British-educated chemist, contested the presidential election as an independent candidate. He said during his campaign that the movement would evolve into a fully fledged political party soon after the poll. Ten months later, his Dawn project remains nameless and invisible. A planned convention at which he promised to unveil the party, its name, symbol and senior officials was set for July, then August and now has been indefinitely postponed.

Prof Masunungure said the highlight of the collapse of Dr Makoni's project was the August defection of his highest-profile backer, Dumiso Dabengwa, a former minister and ruling party official. Mr Dabengwa is pursuing his own political ambitions and now accuses Dr Makoni of poor leadership and unfair distribution of the movement's resources. In a letter to Dr Makoni, dated July 28, Ray Ncube, a Dabengwa loyalist, wrote: "We would like to remind you that we are equal human beings and that we were ill treated for a long time under similar circumstances, and cannot live to repeat this. "We have seen the superiority complex displayed by individuals at 'the head office', which is run like a family outfit and are very unhappy to be part of this, and particularly detest the arrogance, lack of foresight and leadership that has so far been displayed." Mr Ncube and the four provinces he represents requested meeting Mr Makoni, threatening to suspend their relationship should he pass on the meeting. "We shall proceed with the development of the party in the direction and pace that we feel shall be beneficial to our supporters." Another sign that all is not well is the outdated website, which Dr Makoni created as part of his campaign. The only update - probably made just after the election - is a scrolling message that shows the results of the poll. Dr Makoni polled a little more than 200,000 votes, or eight per cent of the vote, in that election, far behind Mr Mugabe and MDC's Morgan Tsvangirai. "His Mavambo project will suffer the same fate that has visited countless political parties since independence [in 1980]. It excited some people in February, not now," Prof Masunungure said. Mavambo is the Shona word for Dawn. Dr Makoni was considered a Mugabe heir-apparent for his experience, maturity, intellect and ability to reach across the political divide. Mr Mugabe appointed him, then 30, a deputy minister at independence and a year later he promoted him to a minister. He reached his pinnacle between 1984 and 1993 when he served as executive secretary of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), a regional economic bloc. It is widely believed that his presidential bid was initiated and supported by a powerful Zanu-PF faction led by Solomon Mujuru, a retired army general. After failing to dislodge Mr Mugabe at once in the election, some analysts said, the Dawn project has had a tactical retreat.

George Chanetsa, Dr Makoni's spokesman, insisted the launch is on. "We will do that at the appropriate time and all the questions you are asking about the name and so forth will be answered then," Mr Chanetsa said. Godfrey Chikowore, a political analyst, thinks along the same lines. "That they have not transformed into a political party does not matter," Dr Chikowore said. "The intention is what matters. Circumstances may not permit for them to move in the direction people expect now." During his campaign, Dr Makoni said if he won, he would form a political leadership structure, a thrust that Mr Mugabe and Mr Tsvangirai are pursuing in inclusive-government talks. Recently, the former minister wondered why he was excluded from the dialogue, but said he is looking forward to the 2013 presidential poll. Some analysts say that if Mr Mugabe were to step aside and Dr Makoni got public support of more high profile Zanu-PF members, he could easily win a national poll. * The National