THE opposition Movement for Democratic Change party has officially split after deputy president Dr Thokozani Khupe announced at the weekend that her group was joining the People’s Rainbow Coalition led by Dr Joice Mujuru. Dr Khupe — who has been embroiled in a nasty power struggle with self-imposed MDC-T leader Advocate Nelson Chamisa — told a rally in Bulawayo on Sunday that her camp was breaking away from the Adv Chamisa-led group but would retain the opposition party’s name.
Her decision is likely to result in her expulsion from the party by the MDC-T national council which is dominated by loyalists of the Chamisa group. Her key lieutenants —MDC-T national organising secretary Mr Abednego Bhebhe, national chairman Mr Lovemore Moyo and party spokesperson Mr Obert Gutu — are also likely to fall by the wayside as Adv Chamisa consolidates his grip on the beleaguered party.
The MDC-T has been riven by intercine fights since the death of its founding leader Mr Morgan Tsvangirai who succumbed to cancer of the colon on February 14 in Johannesburg. Adv Chamisa seized control of the party through a hastily arranged national council meeting which was convened even before Mr Tsvangirai was buried at his rural home in Buhera.
The meeting appointed him to the position of acting president of the party pending congress making him the automatic presidential candidate in the forthcoming harmonised polls.
Dr Khupe and her group are fiercely opposed to the ascension of the youthful Chamisa, arguing that he has no right to lead the party since he was never elected to the position of vice president. Adv Chamisa and Engineer Elias Mudzuri were appointed co-vice presidents of the MDC-T by Mr Tsvangirai against the wishes of Dr Khupe who was elected to her position at the last party congress.
The latest MDC split, which is strikingly similar to that of 2005 when then secretary general Professor Welshman Ncube and others were violently hounded of the party’s Harvest House headquarters, is likely to dent its chances of winning the forthcoming elections. Matabeleland is generally regarded as a stronghold of the MDC-T even though the party has been gradually losing support particularly in Matabeleland North and South provinces where Zanu-PF performed remarkably well during the 2013 harmonised elections.
In Bulawayo, the party has also seen its popularity waning as a result of infighting and factionalism. Zanu-PF now has parliamentary representation in the city and the current MDC-T split is a God-send for the ruling party as it means that Dr Khupe’s group will split the opposition vote. By joining forces with Dr Mujuru who has dismally failed to gain a foothold on the country’s political arena, Dr Khupe might as well be consigning herself to the dustbin of history with chances high that she could fail to land a single seat in the region.
With loyalties within the MDC split between the Khupe and Chamisa camps, Matabeleland might just witness a sea change in political dynamics with Zanu-PF emerging the clear winner. President Emmerson Mnangagwa has laid the ground for a resounding victory for his party by instituting far reaching reforms since he assumed office in November last year.
This has endeared him and his party to the electorate which is keen to see practical action on the ground rather than empty rhetoric. On the other hand, Adv Chamisa and his Alliance Partners have been on a campaign trail where they have promised heaven on earth even when it is clear that some of their fantastic ideas like introducing bullet trains are pie in the sky.
The MDC-T president therefore has a mammoth task on his hands to convince Zimbabweans that he has the maturity and capability to lead the country. So far he has been all sound and fury without substance. In his youthful exuberance, he has demonstrated an uncanny ability to get carried away and make spur of the moment promises that are impossible to fulfil. His followers have also dented his image by using violence to cow their opponents.
On this note, we tend to agree with his nemesis Dr Khupe who told the crowd at her Bulawayo rally that the MDC-T was now an undemocratic and violent party. “We have come a long way with our colleagues. However, they seem to have taken a different path. A path which is against and does not respect the constitution. A path which does not respect democracy, a path which is violent, a path which discriminates on basis of ethnicity and a path which discriminates against women, who by the way are a majority, 54 percent of the voting population,” said Dr Khupe.
“We will not stand with those who have opted to use violence, defy the constitution, discriminate, and go against the core values of the MDC”.