FEARS are mounting regarding the future of the MDC, amid warnings from both within and outside the country’s main opposition that Tuesday’s Supreme Court ruling could have far-reaching implications on the party and its performance in the 2023 elections.
Speaking to the Daily News yesterday, both party insiders and political analysts expressed grave concern about the continuing brawling within the party, amid indications that the main protagonists on both sides of the mindless bloodletting are prepared to take the party down with them.
“We may not want to admit it, but we are in a royal, mega mess that goes beyond the Supreme Court’s ruling and Zanu PF’s machinations.
“I’m truly staggered by how we continue to score multiple own goals to our own detriment, as is exemplified by the party’s politically naive decision to appeal last year’s High Court ruling which has worsened our situation.
“Now, we are arguing that we are MDC Alliance and not bothered by the Supreme Court’s ruling. If that is so, why did we bring this misery on ourselves?” an anguished senior party official bemoaned.
“Save (totem for the late MDC founding leader Morgan Tsvangirai) would have never fallen for this bait as we saw in 2005 and 2014 when some comrades foolishly took him on,” the official further told the Daily News.
Another dejected party bigwig said the only way forward for the party was for the various combatants to “realise that their political future was on the line” and that “only mature discussions among us all will resolve this ugliness”.
“I am aware that I am among the minority on this, but we are all going nowhere fast if we continue to put our egos in front as we are doing.
“We must sit down and sort out these differences once and for all, if we are for the people … otherwise Zanu PF will rule unfettered until kingdom come.
“If we fail to do this, not only will we have to deal with another damaging split, we will also witness even more bloody feuds over funds, assets, MPs and everything else that we can kill each other for,” the second official told the Daily News.
Similarly, political analysts also warned that the road ahead would be “very bumpy” as both Nelson Chamisa and Thokozani Khupe dug in in their corners.
University of Zimbabwe political science lecturer, Eldred Masunungure, was among those who said that the MDC was facing significant turmoil.
“The judgment has introduced new dynamics, putting the entire opposition into uncertainty. As a result, the opposition will be very weak in 2023, just as was the case in 2005 and 2013.
“I’m not sure what the legal implications are with regards to the party’s name, but whatever the case may be immense turbulence is inevitable in the MDC.
“There is going to be gnashing of teeth and this problem is not going to be wished away,” Masunungure told the Daily News.
“It was clear for some time that there was terrible factionalism in the MDC, and now the Supreme Court has exposed all this,” he added.
Masunugure also warned that Khupe was likely to hold sway over both the party’s legislators and councillors, who were elected in the 2018 national polls under the MDC Alliance banner.
“Morgan Komichi absolved all those councillors who were suspended. He is already moving to take charge of the party.
“If MPs and councillors … misbehave, they can be recalled by the new MDC leadership. The bottom line is that the legal position appears to favour the Khupe group and anyone who defies them could be recalled.
“The MPs and councillors are in an invidious position … they are all probably searching high and low for the best way forward,” Masunungure said.
He also said it would be wrong to simply blame Zanu PF for all of the MDC’s problems “because they are largely self-inflicted”.
“The problem started in February 2018 with the decision to appoint Chamisa as the president. Some of us pointed this to Chamisa, but we were ridiculed because of the wave of populism around him.
“Everything has consequences and these are the consequences of a rushed decision … this is largely self-inflected.
“Of course, Zanu PF is capable of making Machiavellian moves, but the MDC has itself to blame,” Masunungure further told the Daily News.
“Of course Zanu PF would not be celebrating like they are doing if this decision strengthened the MDC. They are happy because their greatest threat has been seriously affected,” he added.
On his part, Rashweat Mukundu accused Zanu PF of trying to destroy the MDC ahead of the 2023 elections.
“We cannot run away from the fact that Zanu PF has heavily invested in suppressing and destroying the opposition in Zimbabwe from 1980.
“Without any doubt, I believe there is a Zanu PF hand in what is going on in the MDC, but regardless of that the judgment cannot be enforced.
“What we are likely to see is that Douglas Mwonzora, Komichi and a few will have their congress and elect a new leadership and call the party the MDC-T.
“Chamisa will continue with his MDC Alliance. So, there is no way the courts can force political opponents to belong to the same party,”Mukundu said.
“It is an opportunity for Chamisa to renew the party. We have seen him reaching out to many young intellectuals and activists who are joining the party and bringing in new ideas.
“This rupture in the MDC is necessary for the new to be born. What we needed from the time of Morgan Tsvangirai was this kind of a schism so that new people with new ideas join the party,” he added.
All this comes after the Supreme Court upheld last year’s ruling by the High Court this week — which said Chamisa’s ascendancy to the leadership of the MDC violated the opposition party’s constitution and was, therefore, null and void.
In the judgment handed down by Supreme Court judges Paddington Garwe, Bharat Patel and Antoinette Guvava, Chamisa’s elevation to the MDC’s presidency was thus declared unconstitutional.
This paves the way for former number two to Tsvangirai, Khupe, to act as the MDC’s interim leader — while preparing for an extraordinary congress that will choose a new party leader.
The ruling also automatically reinstated former MDC secretary-general, Mwonzora, and ex-chairperson Komichi — who both lost their positions at the party’s chaotic congress in Gweru last May.
Last year’s High Court 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.
Meanwhile, a buoyant Mwonzora says they will not hesitate to kick out those who decline to toe Khupe’s orders.
“The MDC Alliance is not a political party. It is a group of political parties who include several other parties.
“It was constituted in terms of an alliance agreement. In terms of the alliance, the individual political parties retain their identities.
“In terms of the alliance agreement, whoever is the leader of the MDC formerly led by Tsvangirai is automatically the leader of the alliance,” Mwonzora said.
“The Supreme Court has pronounced that Chamisa is not the president of the MDC that was led by Tsvangirai. That automatically affects his status as leader of the alliance.
“I hope my colleagues recover from the disappointment of losing a court case and think soberly.
“This is a judgment of the highest court in the land and it must be followed. If they decide to defy the judgment it is their choice, but the correct leadership will occupy Harvest House,” Mwonzora added.
“We are aware that various MPs and councillors are being intimidated to endorse a leadership that was declared not to be our leadership by the Supreme Court.
“The judgment is real and it came on the basis of Chamisa approaching the Supreme Court. They have to comply with the court order,” he said further.
When Tsvangirai died last year, Chamisa was accused of having allegedly used under-handed methods to torpedo the ambitions of Elias Mudzuri and Khupe.
A titanic leadership battle subsequently ensued, which eventually led to Khupe forming a breakaway faction — which went on to perform dismally in the 2018 elections.