THE ugly factional and tribal wars that continue to consume the MDC are giving under pressure opposition leader Nelson Chamisa, pictured, ‘‘many a sleepless night’’, the Daily News reports.
This comes as the country’s second biggest political party is witnessing escalating chaos among its structures nationally — some of which has readily been admitted to by the party itself and ascribed to leadership incompetence.
It also comes as the MDC is still struggling to heal the rifts that were caused by Chamisa’s highly-contested ascendancy to the party’s leadership in 2018 — following the death of its much-loved founding father Morgan Tsvangirai, who succumbed to cancer of the colon on Valentine’s Day that year.
Incidentally, tomorrow marks exactly two years since the death of the revered former labour leader, who history will record as the only man to have defeated the late former president Robert Mugabe hands down in an election.
Speaking in Bulawayo on Tuesday — a day after dissolving the MDC’s Masvingo provincial executive — Chamisa himself bemoaned the tribal wars that are threatening to destroy the party around the country.
“Tribalism is a new phenomenon that is emerging in the party of late … It is a headache for me.
“This is a new phenomenon that we have to confront and that is part of the reason why I am engaging structures to make sure we get to the bottom of this issue,” Chamisa told the media at the Bulawayo Press Club.
The 42-year-old opposition leader addressed journalists a day after he had wielded the axe on the entire Masvingo executive — amid claims of growing factionalism and leadership incompetence.
The development came in the aftermath of an embarrassing electoral loss by the MDC in the province at the weekend, where Zanu PF won the Mwenezi ward 15 council seat at a canter.
Zanu PF’s candidate, Samuel Kwinika, amassed a massive 1 811 votes against a paltry 27 votes by the opposition party’s Shepherd Dzuda.
Chamisa told journalists in the second city that he was determined to end the tribal wars which he said had also affected the Bulawayo City Council (BCC).
“I have seen that in local authorities, and now you hear these undertones of tribalism. It is important to understand that as the MDC this is an issue that we have to confront.
“When we formed the MDC, most of the people … were actually from Matabeleland, but we were not looking at regions.
“We were looking at the content of the character of an individual in terms of nation building. That is how it has always been,” Chamisa said.
In the meantime, there are growing fears within the MDC’s ranks that the party’s escalating infighting could completely destroy Zimbabwe’s main opposition.
“We were hoping that the terrible infighting that ensued after Save (Tsvangirai) passed on would be a thing of the past by now. Unfortunately, this has not happened,” a senior party official told the Daily News yesterday.
Since the death of Tsvangirai, the MDC has indeed been plagued by endless problems, ranging from rampant factionalism to terrible accusations of tribalism.
Chamisa and the MDC have also been accused by some structures of allegedly rigging internal provincial elections in Bulawayo, thereby ending up with executives supposedly packed with people originally from outside the region.
However, the youthful opposition leader defended the Bulawayo provincial structures on Tuesday saying this was a result of “an open and democratic” process.
“The democratic processes are the ones that … give more non-Ndebele-speaking leaders than non-Shona speaking leaders. That is democracy.
“We need to sit down as a party and come up with solutions because if we leave it open ended, it will always produce unintended results and that is the problem we are grappling with here,” Chamisa said.
Meanwhile, so miffed are some MDC structures in Bulawayo that there are fears that this could spread to other regions in Matabeleland.
In September last year, the MDC in Matabeleland North passed a resolution calling for the dissolution of the entire Bulawayo province executive, as part of efforts to ensure that more Ndebele-speaking people held more posts there.
Hwange West legislator, Godfrey Dube, raised the matter which received backing among the gathered executive members.
“We are saying no to regional subjugation … we are calling for a complete overhaul of Bulawayo Province so that its composition has at least 90 percent locals,” Dube said then.
On his part, MDC Matabeleland North deputy chairperson Jabulani Hadebe also said it was unfortunate that outsiders had taken over the Bulawayo province at the expense of locals.
“Since the advent of the MDC in 1999, the Matabele had found a new home to protest the imposition of people from outside the region in public offices.
“The Matabeles did that by occupying all the political spaces available in the MDC.
“That political space which presented an opportunity for the Matabeles to voice their concerns is shrinking and is now being occupied by people from other regions,” Hadebe said then.
When Tsvangirai died, a vicious power struggle erupted in the MDC, which saw Chamisa assuming the reins of the country’s main opposition party ahead of his rivals — albeit, under controversial circumstances.
Chamisa was accused of having allegedly used under-hand methods to torpedo the ambitions of the likes of the MDC’s then vice presidents, Elias Mudzuri and Thokozani Khupe.
A titanic leadership battle subsequently ensued in the party, which eventually led to Khupe forming a breakaway faction — which went on to perform dismally in the 2018 elections.
Chamisa ultimately prevailed over his party competitors after a consultative meeting of the MDC which was held at its Harare headquarters — and which was attended by 639 delegates from 210 party districts — endorsed him as Tsvangirai’s interim successor and the party’s presidential candidate in the 2018 polls.
However, dark clouds are still hanging over his continued leadership of the party, after the High Court later nullified his presidency, in the run-up to last year’s chaotic congress in Gweru.
The ruling followed a court application by MDC member Elias Mashavira, who challenged Chamisa’s ascendancy to the party’s leadership, which he said had happened in violation of its constitution.
In her ruling, Justice Edith Mushore also nullified Chamisa and Mudzuri’s appointments as MDC vice presidents by Tsvangirai.
Chamisa has since appealed the High Court decision, with the Supreme Court yet to give its verdict on the matter.