Mujuru and Tsvangirai are billed to address a joint rally, which many consider to be seminal for the formation of a coalition of opposition parties, but the MDC-T leader is yet to confirm his availability, a move that could sow the seeds of distrust ahead of alliance talks.
ZimPF and MDC-T are seen as the leading lights in the formation of a coalition, but the parties have haggled a lot publicly and the Bikita West by-election could be a litmus test for both entities.
This comes as some players within the MDC-T are reportedly pushing for the party to withhold its support, so that the Mujuru camp is put to test, and if it wins, it could be deemed good enough as a coalition partner ahead of the 2018 elections, while a loss could deem it a lesser party in future negotiations.
ZimPF spokesperson, Jealousy Mawarire said they had invited the MDC-T leader along with other opposition parties for the star rally slated for next week, as the party faces its first test since the formation.
“We have invited every political party be it in Nera (National Electoral Reform Agenda) or Code (Coalition of Democrats) and that includes Morgan Tsvangirai,” he said.
“Everyone is welcome, we are yet to get confirmation, but I can say we have invited everyone who cares.”
But, Tsvangirai’s spokesperson Luke Tamborinyoka said his boss has not yet made a decision on the matter, as he has a busy schedule, which includes international engagements.
“He is coming back from Ghana today (yesterday) and he has a busy schedule this week, so he will only make a decision afterwards,” he said.
MDC-T secretary-general, Douglas Mwonzora, said his party has not yet received a formal invitation for Tsvangirai to address the ZimPF candidate’s campaign rally.
“We have not received any formal request from ZimPF, but our party stands ready to support any political party to fight against the dictatorship of Zanu PF,” he said.
The by-elections are being held to fill in a vacancy created by the incarceration of Zanu PF legislator, Munyaradzi Kereke.
Zanu PF is represented by Beauty Chabaya with Madock Chivasa representing the National Constitutional Assembly, while Progressive Democrats of Zimbabwe has Tanyaradzwa Makumbo.
The crunch by-election, set for January 21, is also being contested by two independent candidates, Heya Shoko and Innocent Muzvimbiri.
Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa was last week in the constituency campaigning for Chabaya, with his counterpart, Phelekezela Mphoko set to descend on the area soon for yet another star rally for their candidate.
Political analyst, Alexander Rusero said the by-election was an acid test for Mujuru, as it would help measure her support base following her expulsion from the ruling party.
“A win for Mujuru will work to her advantage, as she could use it when bargaining in the coalition talks. For long, her support base has been measured based on assumptions and now it will be put to test,” he said.
“Remember, if she wins, she would have proved that she has what it takes to be in that coalition with Tsvangirai.
This coalition is not about personalities, but what those personalities are bringing on the table, numbers count.”
University of Zimbabwe political science lecturer, Eldred Masunungure said Mujuru should brace for a huge fight from Zanu PF, as they would want to ensure prospects of a coalition are thwarted by giving ZimPF a heavy defeat.
“Once beaten twice shy so goes the famous saying and for Zanu PF, this is a statement at the moment. Mujuru must prove herself so that when it comes to coalition talks, she will have some base to talk about,” he said.
Masunungure cautioned that Zanu PF will not let her have it easy.
“But Zanu PF will do all it can to ensure that prospects of a coalition are dealt with and this will be through winning the seat by hook and crook.
“Even using unorthodox means would help. For Mujuru, she has to invest resources, strategies, so that if she was to lose, it would be in a dignified manner.”