HARARE – MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai flies into a storm when he heads to Bulawayo tomorrow for the official launch of the MDC Alliance in the country’s second largest city amid widening divisions in the labour-backed party, which have raised fears of another damaging split.
As the long-time President Robert Mugabe rival visits Bulawayo, Matabeleland MDC leadership — including his longest serving deputy Thokozani Khupe — has expressed doubts about attending today’s rally for fear of their safety following an orgy of violence that broke out at their provincial offices early this month after they snubbed a similar rally in Harare on August 5.
Khupe, national party chairperson Lovemore Moyo and organising secretary Abednico Bhebhe have taken Tsvangirai head-on for inking the pact without the full blessings of the movement’s leadership.
The trio’s attendance of tomorrow’s rally is in doubt, with Bhebhe flatly telling the Daily News yesterday that he won’t be attending.
“I am not going, I am at school just end there,” Bhebhe told the Daily News.
Last week, Tsvangirai suspended Bhebhe, pending full investigations into the violence that broke out in Bulawayo recently.
This was viewed as an attempt by Tsvangirai to weaken the growing opposition against his leadership by driving a wedge between Bhebhe and Khupe.
The trio of Khupe, Moyo and Bhebhe had this week written to Tsvangirai asking him to postpone tomorrow’s Bulawayo rally, arguing that they needed to address the contentious issues relating to the pact he signed with the seven other parties.
It was not clear yesterday whether Moyo and Khupe would attend the rally, which Tsvangirai refused to postpone, as their mobile numbers were not reachable.
Early this week, the Bulawayo provincial leadership said it was concerned with its security but national party spokesperson Obert Gutu yesterday told the Daily News that they had put tight measures to avoid violence.
“As a political party, the MDC abhors all forms of violence. Violence of whatever nature will never, ever be tolerated in the MDC.
“All party cadres are welcome to attend the MDC Alliance rally in Bulawayo on Saturday (tomorrow). Adequate security measures have been put in place to ensure that no one will be harmed,” Gutu told the Daily News.
For long, Khupe has been unhappy with being sidelined by Tsvangirai after the MDC leader handpicked Nelson Chamisa and Elias Mudzuri to deputise him, along with her.
With Tsvangirai going into bed with seven other leaders in the MDC Alliance, a bloated coalition with three vice presidents or deputy presidents could be in the offing as he tries to accommodate all the influential figures who are part of the pact.
In the event that the alliance proceeds to form the next government after the 2018 polls, Khupe, Moyo and Bhebhe could be pushed further down the pecking order to accommodate MDC Alliance principals.
Tsvangirai was selected to lead the MDC Alliance at the Zimbabwe Grounds in Highfield on August 5 at an event boycotted by Khupe, Moyo and Bhebhe.
The MDC Alliance includes People’s Democratic Party (PDP), led by Tendai Biti; Welshman Ncube’s MDC; Transform Zimbabwe of Jacob Ngarivhume; Zanu Ndonga headed by Denford Masiyarira and the Multi-Racial Christian Democrats led by Mathias Guchutu.
Both Biti and Ncube are former secretaries-general of a united MDC.
Fears are that the party could split once again, with leaders in the southern part of the country breaking ranks with Tsvangirai over his alleged unilateralism.
The MDC initially split in 2005 when Ncube walked out of the party, accusing Tsvangirai of being a dictator.
In 2014, the party split again, this time with Biti packing his bags as he also accused Tsvangirai of having dictatorial tendencies.
Political analysts yesterday said the Bulawayo rally was crucial for Tsvangirai and warned that if he failed to tread carefully, the party could split.
University of Zimbabwe (UZ) politics expert Eldred Masunungure said Tsvangirai should use the rally to mend bridges.
“Tsvangirai needs to go there and be carefully on what he says so that he will unite the party, if he fails to do that we are going to see another MDC split.
“He needs to reconcile with Khupe for the good of the party,” said Masunungure.
Another political analyst, Maxwell Saungweme, said the Matabeleland provinces were crucial for Tsvangirai and he needed them.
“These are crucial provinces that will determine crucial political turning points for MDC. Bulawayo, depending on how Morgan handles it, the meeting may expedite implosion of the party with Khupe and others breaking away.
“Our fate politically lies in two tired horses, Morgan for the opposition and Mugabe for the ruling party,” said Saungweme referring to the current statuses of both the MDC and Zanu PF leaders.
However, Shakespear Hamauswa told the Daily News that Tsvangirai’s rally was not likely to change the mood in the party.
“For . . . Tsvangirai, it is a matter of showing power and influence of the pro-coalition group against the anti-coalition group.
“But the root causes of divisions will remain unchanged. Visiting Bulawayo might give an opportunity to bring various leaders together to discuss the issues, but more concerted strategy is needed to resolve the impasse,” Hamauswa said.
Relations are currently strained in the MDC following the consummation of the Alliance which has divided the country’s biggest opposition party.
Khupe, who is the most influential MDC official in Matabeleland and her colleagues had in the letter to Tsvangirai this week, demanded that tomorrow’s rally be postponed indefinitely until they have been appraised of the form of the coalition and the distribution of seats, particularly in their region.
“We further suggest that the launch of the Alliance agreement in Bulawayo scheduled for September 2, 2017 be suspended pending, and to allow consultations with the leadership and the structures.
“The launch can be subsequently be made after dialogue, consultations and concurrence of the leadership on the signed agreement,” Khupe and her team had said in a letter which was ignored by Tsvangirai who announced that he was going ahead with tomorrow’s rally in their own backyard. – Daily News