HARARE – The opposition MDC is heading for an implosion that could seriously expose the party amid intense jostling for power as well as growing opposition to the MDC Alliance.
With MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai’s health failing him, party insiders told the Daily News that MDC vice president Thokozani Khupe and her allies are convinced that he wants to hand over power to one of his deputies Nelson Chamisa.
This was after Tsvangirai controversially appointed Chamisa and Elias Mudzuri as his other deputies in a move that Khupe who is a product of congress views as meant to spite her.
MDC spokesperson Obert Gutu confirmed that all was not well in the party saying “of course, as a massive political party, there are bound to be differences here and there but this doesn’t mean that the partyis imploding”.
While Gutu sought to downplay the differences emanating also from the party’s decision to form the MDC Alliance saying the MDC had “developed the art of resolving whatever differences that we might have amicably and in a comradely manner” Khupe and her allies, the sources say, are fervently pushing for an extra ordinary congress to block Tsvangirai from cherry-picking Chamisa as his successor.
“Khupe and her team are convinced that Tsvangirai wants to hand over power to Chamisa owing to his failing health so they want to put him under pressure to declare that he is no longer fit to lead the organisation, hence there is need for an extra-ordinary congress,” a standing committee member who requested anonymity said.
“They are also not happy with the MDC Alliance so they have been frustrating it in Matabeleland provinces by refusing them use of MDC offices.
“They feel that Chamisa is using the MDC Alliance platform where he has been representing Tsvangirai since he was airlifted to South Africa. Chamisa is presenting himself to the party structures as the ‘chosen one’.”
With Khupe’s faction allegedly boasting of a number of top MDC officials including MDC secretary general Douglas Mwonzora, national chairperson Lovemore Moyo, organising secretary Abednico Bhebhe and Gutu, sources say they are now targeting Chamisa’s sympathisers in the party structures for purging.
“It looks like they are panicking because Tsvangirai seems to be backing Chamisa and this became clear to them when he vetoed Khupe’s decision to suspend Matabeleland South provincial chairperson Solani Moyo on allegations of disrespecting her.
Last week Tsvangirai and Khupe clashed for the second time in three months over allegations that the latter had unconstitutionally suspended Moyo who is a Chamisa ally.
In August Khupe fell out with Tsvangirai after she accused the former prime minister of being “unapproachable and unilaterally” signing the MDC Alliance deal, which allegedly gave him excessive powers.
In a bid to avoid another acrimonious MDC split reminiscent of the 2005 and 2014 fallout which severely weakened the party, Tsvangirai immediately reached out to his disaffected deputy to resolve differences related to key strategies ahead of the eagerly-anticipated 2018 national elections.
However, barely three months after the two smoked the peace pipe a political time bomb is ticking once again in the MDC with Khupe at the centre of it once more after she suspended Moyo on allegations that he “menacingly” charged at her with intention of assaulting her at a recent voter registration outreach programme.
The suspension raised the ire of Tsvangirai who immediately wrote to Khupe advising her that she was out of order and that he was “disturbed” by her conduct.
In a December 7, 2017 letter to Khupe, Tsvangirai said he was concerned that Khupe had made half-hearted attempts to engage him on the matter through a letter requesting permission to suspend Moyo but went on to act without getting his views.
“I am disturbed that before I even considered your request and the issues surrounding the same you have gone ahead to suspend the party’s chairperson in a matter in which you are a complainant and gone public about the same,” reads part of the letter.
“It is not my intention at this stage to go into the merits of the case or the constitutionality of the actions taken to date without a proper investigation by a competent authority.
“However for the sake of the good of the party and the respect for principles of natural justice, I am now referring the matter to the Arbiter General of the party for a full investigation in which he shall advise me the correct and constitutional process to follow and in the meantime, Moyo shall continue to perform his duties as our chairperson,” Tsvangirai directed.
Tsvangirai also revealed that Moyo had also sought his intervention after he raised complaints against Khupe’s conduct.
He directed Mwonzora to compile the MDC Arbiter Generals’ terms of reference for the investigation “taking into account your original submissions to me and the submissions made to be by Moyo on the same”.
Tsvangirai said he would immediately commission the investigation as soon as Mwonzora furnishes him with a draft copy of the terms of reference.
The development raised fears that the MDC could be headed for another split owing to the serious differences within its leadership.
This was after Tsvangirai had signed into life the MDC Alliance together with various other opposition parties at the Zimbabwe Grounds in Highfield, Harare, on August 5.
Among the signatories to the pact are the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) led by Tendai Biti, the MDC led by Welshman Ncube, Transform Zimbabwe headed by Jacob Ngarivhume, Zanu Ndonga headed by Denford Masiyarira, and the Multi-Racial Christian Democrats led by Mathias
Both Biti and Ncube are former secretaries-general of the main MDC formation led by Tsvangirai.
Khupe, Bhebe and Moyo boycotted the launch of the MDC Alliance — instead holding their own meeting the following day in Bulawayo, and which gathering was cut short by violence by suspected party thugs.
The Matabeleland leadership, although not opposed to an opposition alliance per se, were not happy about the allocation of seats to other parties in the region — arguing that the MDC had been doing well in their provinces in previous elections without an alliance with other parties.
Matters were further complicated when Khupe and her colleagues in Bulawayo boycotted the second launch of the MDC Alliance which was later held in the second city — heightening fears of another damaging party split.
The MDC initially split in 2005 when Ncube walked out of the party, accusing Tsvangirai of taking unilateral decisions.
In 2014, the party split again, this time with Biti packing his bags after he also accused the popular Tsvangirai of allegedly having dictatorial tendencies.