HARARE – Former MDC Alliance vice-chairman, Job Sikhala was recently demoted for his involvement in the founding of a party that was destined to split the MDC Alliance vote, it has emerged.
Opposition leader Nelson Chamisa quickly relegated Sikhala to an ordinary card-carrying member in a reorganization that was widely viewed as a ploy to shore up his grip on power amidst growing factional feuding within the party.
Revealing details on the condition of anonymity, a party official close to Chamisa said Sikhala was the brains behind the formation of Patriotic Zimbabweans which is fronted by Charles Mutama, a US-based former MDC Alliance activist.
“Mutama is very close to Job and he supported him during his trials. They were tortured by the security agents together. President vakabata ndere ndere yekuti Sikhala ndiye muridzi wechinhu cha Mutama (Patriotic Zimbabweans party).
He added that “Job wanted Mutama to set up structures and then invite him to lead the structured party. He also wanted Mutama to test the acceptability of the new party on the ground. Unfortunately, it did not get much traction needed to split the party votes and this is the reason why Job remained in the cocoon. Such a person can never be trusted. He is actually in the departure lounge,” said the source.
The source said that efforts by Chamisa’s lieutenants to stop the demotion of Sikhala as it was in violation of the party constitution, hit a brick wall. The source argued that Sikhala was a product of congress hence only congress was supposed to dethrone him. The lieutenants feared that the breach of party constitution would soil the image of the party which is smarting from a similar case where the Court nullified Chamisa’s leadership of the MDC Alliance citing that his appointment as vice leader by the late Morgan Tsvangirai was in violation of the party constitution.
The source said Chamisa also blamed Sikhala for being inactive.
“The president accuses Job of incompetence. He says the national chairperson (Tabitha Khumalo) has not been feeling well for some time, and ordinarily, Job is supposed to fill the gap but he is not. The president says it was a good move to retire the tired Sikhala,” said the source.
A source from the other camp said there was a counter-plan by the rival camp to take Chamisa to court over the violation of the party constitution. The source said the co-vice leader, Tendai Biti was initiating the legal battle that might lead to a major split.
“TB (Biti) wants to influence a proxy to take Chamisa to court by, imitating the circumstances that brought Douglas Mwonzora to the helm of the MDC T. Plan B for Biti camp is to resign en masse citing a breach of the party constitution,” said the source.
Biti faction believes Chamisa is getting a big head from the #Ngaapinde hake mukomana slogan. Biti loyalists hold the view that the slogan promotes a cult of personality and was geared to ban it.
The MDC Alliance has been embroiled in factional fighting ahead of the 2023 harmonised elections. A larger chunk of the veteran officials believes that Chamisa will be a liability in the make-or-break 2023 elections. The demotion of the outspoken Sikhala is expected to trigger a Sarajevo moment in the now shaky alliance.