OPPOSITION MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai’s chief political strategist and chairman of the party’s United States branch, Maxwell Zeb Shumba, has jumped ship and formed his own political outfit — Zimbabwe First (ZimFirst).
BY JAIROS SAUNYAMA/MOSES MATENGA
This becomes the fifth opposition party to break away from Tsvangirai’s MDC-T since its formation in 1999.
Tsvangirai appointed Shumba as his strategist in May last year after his former adviser Alex Magaisa had returned to his United Kingdom base. Shumba (52) was among nine other technocrats appointed to advise Tsvangirai to reorganise the party after his crushing third defeat by Zanu PF’s President Robert Mugabe in the 2013 harmonised elections.
ZimFirst was officially launched on Saturday at a colourful ceremony at Shumba’s rural home at Zihundi village, under Chief Mangwende in Murehwa West, Mashonaland East Province.
Addressing scores of party supporters at the launch ceremony, Shumba claimed he had dumped the MDC-T because its leadership was driven by “greed” and “dishonesty”.
“As one of the founder members of the MDC and one of Tsvangirai’s chief strategists, I felt that the movement had lost the vision through greediness,” said Shumba, a founding member of the National Constitutional Assembly and environmental scientist.
“Everyone in MDC is engaged in dishonesty. For example, while in the US I would secure air tickets for $1 800 for them to travel there, but some of the members would demand first class tickets that cost $11 000, some would even refuse to fly, and what does that portray for a movement that purports to represent the poor people?” Shumba asked.
He said he was ready to usher in a new leadership model premised on servanthood, but remained mum of whether he would consider merging with other opposition parties to challenge Zanu PF in the 2018 elections.
But Tsvangirai through his spokesperson Luke Tamborinyoka yesterday said he was unmoved by Shumba’s departure.
“Shumba was based in America and like any Zimbabwean in the Diaspora, he supported the MDC and was promoting our work through our external structure in the US. Like any other Zimbabwean, he reserves his right to form or join a political party of his choice,” Tsvangirai said.
“If he thinks forming yet another party and leading it 10 000 miles away from the national problems is the solution, he is perfectly entitled to it. It is his democratic right to maintain his beliefs that this country should have more political parties than its citizens.”
MDC-T spokesperson Obert Gutu also dismissed Shumba as a “nonentity” and described as “hogwash” claims that the party leadership was greedy.
“All I know is at one time he was chairman of MDC-T US. He left the party and we can’t comment on somebody doing whatever he is doing outside the party. I won’t dignify that kind of nonsense. Let him do what he wants, I won’t come to his level. Those allegations are hogwash and should be dismissed. The party train does not stop just because a dog has barked,” Gutu said.
In his speech during the ZimFirst launch, Shumba said Zimbabweans had been wandering in the wilderness for a long time and now was the time for a new leadership to redirect it to economic prosperity and political stability.
“The final voice is here, no more bags of fertiliser during election campaign time. We are building this nation brick by brick. The final voice is saying no more to a government that feeds on its people. We are not tolerating a government that lies to people, a dishonest system,” Shumba said.
He said his interim leadership comprises of disgruntled former MDC members, mainly those in the Diaspora.
Other parties that have emerged from the MDC-T include the Welshman Ncube-led MDC, Tendai Biti-led People’s Democratic Party, Job Sikhala’s MDC99 although he later disbanded it and rejoined MDC-T, and the collapsed MDC fronted by former Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara.
Meanwhile, MDC-T Harare provincial chairman Eric Murai over the weekend conceded that the party was still to recover from the October 2014 congress factional fights as some people within the party were still holding onto personal grudges.
Murai was addressing mourners at the burial of Harare deputy mayor Thomas Muzuva in Hwedza.
Murai said the party needed to be united to brush off the Zanu PF challenge, singling out President Robert Mugabe as the only impediment.
Party youths in distinct camps had tried to outshine each other at the funeral by taking over the proceedings before he called them to order.
“This is not time to show who is who and who is better than who. This is the time to bury our hero. There are people who hold grudges, let’s not keep grudges. Others are still at the City Sports Centre [venue of the MDC-T congress]. Let’s move on,” he said.
Muzuva’s burial was attended by Tsvangirai, his wife Elizabeth, senior party members and council officials.