THE acquittal of MDC deputy chairperson Job Sikhala of treason charges last week has exposed the rift between radicals and soft-liners within the country’s biggest opposition party, political analysts have said.
Sikhala was arrested in July last year after he told an MDC rally in Bikita that Mnangagwa would be overthrown before the 2023 elections.
After his arrest on treason charges — the MDC issued a statement distancing itself from Sikhala.
The militant MDC deputy chairperson leans more towards the hawks in the opposition party who also include the restive youth wing and some former student union leaders who, unlike the party president Nelson Chamisa, want a radical confrontation with the President Emmerson Mnangagwa administration.
“Now that Sikhala has been acquitted, the people who condemned him are now making the loudest noises. They betrayed him during his hour of need, describing him as an irresponsible leader but they now want to pretend that they were always by his side when his personal friends are the only ones who raised concern over the trumped up charges,” said a party official who asked not to be named for fear of expulsion.
Yesterday, MDC deputy spokesperson Luke Tamborinyoka, who issued the statement condemning Sikhala, said the opposition party itself has been acquitted because its leader has been found not guilty.
“Sikhala is the leader of the party and we are all acquitted if he has been acquitted,” was all Tamborinyoka could say.
Political analysts canvassed by the Daily News said the MDC just like Zanu PF has a tendency to turn against its own when confronted with complex problems.
Political analyst Maxwell Saungweme told the Daily News yesterday that the MDC has lost its vision.
“That opposition party like the ruling party is just a gang of actors with limited principles and no position on pertinent issues. They go with wind and vacillate on key issues; they just go with what is popular that day and time. This is typical of people with no vision, nor strategy,” said Saungweme.
In a statement last year — the MDC — through Tamborinyoka threw Sikhala under the bus.
“The MDC notes with deep worry and concern that … Sikhala’s statements made during a rally in Bikita East over the weekend have caused uproar and the party wishes to clarify its position regarding the same. It is the party’s view that … Sikhala’s views as expressed at the rally and widely quoted in the press were his own personal opinions, which we believe have been misconstrued and misinterpreted.
“For the record, the MDC believes in Constitutional, peaceful, democratic, non-violent and legal means of resolving the national crisis. We have never been perpetrators of illegality and violence. If anything, we have always been the victims,” read the statement in part.
With such statements coming from the MDC, another political analyst Admire Mare opined that Sikhala’s views were representative of a certain faction in the opposition that is spoiling for a violent showdown with Zanu PF.
“It shows that the leadership cannot stand with its rank and file when push comes to shove. It makes people question their principles because Sikhala was generally expressing what MDC members were already agitating for in their constituencies.
“However, on the other hand, one can argue that at that time Sikhala pronounced his view on issues that had not been agreed by the standing committee of the party hence the distancing that followed,” said Mare.
Mare’s sentiments were backed by respected University of Zimbabwe political science lecturer Eldred Masunungure who said there could be divisions in the MDC.
“Who is Sikhala? Who is he associated with in the MDC? He is part of the radical faction. It is a question of polarisation of the MDC; the MDC condemned Sikhala but now they are rallying behind him. I think going forward, the judgment is teaching the party not to rush into judgment when one of their own goes astray, they betrayed him at his hour of need,” said Masunungure.