HARARE – MDC president Nelson Chamisa’s massively attended Bulawayo rally has divided opinion, with some saying the crowds were bussed.
Last Saturday, Chamisa invaded his rival Thokozani Khupe’s homeground, and apparently demystified the myth that she is the province’s political godmother.
While Chamisa has been addressing huge crowds across the country, his critics expected his bubble would finally burst in Bulawayo.
The 40-year-old came to power in acrimonious circumstances following the death of the party’s founding president Morgan Tsvangirai, who succumbed to cancer in February.
He was locked in a succession battle with Khupe, who disputed his ascendancy resulting in her being fired from her position as deputy party president, along with her allies Abednico Bhebhe, who was the organising secretary, and Obert Gutu, the party’s spokesperson.
Khupe and her allies responded by digging in insisting that they were the legitimate MDC — effectively declaring a split — the third since the MDC’s formation in 1999.
This came amid debate over Khupe’s influence of the party’s Matabeleland structures, with some saying her expulsion would see her moving away with “her people,” dealing Chamisa a huge blow.
Gutu, however, dismissed the numbers at the MDC Alliance rally, saying Chamisa had smuggled supporters into Bulawayo from other provinces.
“$50 000 spent on bussing people to Bulawayo. We pursue real politics not self-delusion and self-deception. Results of the election 2018 will confirm who the fake are and who the real politicians are,” he said.
On his part, however, Norton Independent Member of Parliament Temba Mliswa felt that the huge crowd in Bulawayo and the free-ness of MDC Alliance’s campaign was a sign that President Emmerson Mnangagwa was genuine in his wish to provide free and fair elections.
Chamisa, who is riding on the wave on the theme of Generational Consensus movement, was evidently buoyant, taking to Twitter to show his appreciation.
“Together we will fix it. Wherever we go and are going, be it rural or urban I am so humbled by the overwhelming and unprecedented support we are receiving as the incoming administration. We are winning because #Godisinit,” Chamisa said.
On the other hand, acting MDC spokesperson Thabitha Khumalo felt that the huge turn-out had far reaching effects on the party’s confidence as “we had to prove a point”.
“I may not want to say that we were out to make a statement but the attendance obviously proved a point that as MDC we are a people driven party and in terms of what problems if ever there were any, Bulawayo spoke at the weekend and it spoke loudly and clearly,” Khumalo said buoyantly.
“It is now up to Khupe to make a choice to remain arrogant or swallow pride and accept the reality that Bulawayo has endorsed president Chamisa.
“Parties are voluntary organisations, however, so she has a right to engage or disengage,” she added.
Speaking of the rally, Alex Magaisa, a Kent University law lecturer as well as the late Tsvangirai’s former advisor, said Zanu PF had been shocked and that had already slid back into its default mode.
“Old habits die hard. (Deposed former president Robert) Mugabe may be gone but the system is intact. The system is reluctant to show the strength of the opponent. And they are busy telling the world they will deliver a free and fair election. It’s a facade. Sadly, some in the international community have bought it,” Magaisa reacted on his Twitter account.
He said of the rally attendance; “the spirit of change is truly upon us in #Zimbabwe”, adding that people who turned up for the rallying were a sign that they had suffered for far too long.
Meanwhile, Khumalo revealed that Khupe will soon be replaced as the party was keen on maintaining three deputies to Chamisa “because it was a congress resolution that the party must have three deputies so I don’t see us departing from that but it is the prerogative of the president to appoint whenever he sees fit”.
This comes as MDC insiders say Chamisa wants to either appoint Khumalo as Khupe’s replacement or rope in former secretary-general Welshman Ncube, who leads the smaller MDC, which is a member of the MDC Alliance.
Responding to the claims, Khumalo said “if you remember, at our congress in 2014 it was resolved that we work for a big tent and national convergence to bring us together so it is entirely up to the principals of the MDC Alliance and the executives of their respective parties to come up with such an arrangement”.