IN what could signal the clearest hint that the much-vaunted plan to forge an opposition coalition ahead of the 2018 general elections could fail, the Morgan Tsvangirai-led MDC-T has reportedly turned its back on the Zimbabwe People First (ZimPF) Bikita West parliamentary candidate, Kudakwashe Gopo.
By Tatenda Chitagu
Gopo is contesting the January 21 by-election on a ZimPF ticket in what has been described as Joice Mujuru’s first attempt at testing the electoral waters and was banking on possible support from the MDC-T, which is boycotting the poll.
MDC-T Masvingo provincial chairperson, James Gumbi, told NewsDay yesterday that his party was now backing independent candidate, Innocent Muzvimbiri.
“We are not backing anyone, but we are sympathising with Muzvimbiri,” he said, dashing hopes that Tsvangirai would join Mujuru on the campaign trail.
Asked why they were not campaigning for Gopo, Gumbi retorted: “The ZimPF candidate, Gopo, belongs to a distinct political party, which our party is in talks with for a coalition. If we support or sympathise with him, we would be jumping the gun.”
ZimPF spokesperson, Jealousy Mawarire, said his party was still expecting Tsvangirai at Mujuru’s rally next week.
“Our people on the ground have not given us that report,” he said.
“As far as we know, all democratic forces that are not participating in the election are supporting us. We are looking forward to having them all, including their leaders, on January 19 when we have our star rally.”
Tsvangirai told a South African television station this week that by-elections are not part of the coalition talks that are currently underway.
Mujuru is due in the constituency next week and indications had been that she was trying hard to get Tsvangirai to be part of her entourage as a building block towards an envisaged coalition.
Zaka Senator, Misheck Marava reportedly introduced Muzvimbiri to the electorate at a rally on Wednesday at Bikita office, where an MDC-T vehicle was also seen ferrying people to the rally.
Sources in the MDC-T said the decision to throw Mujuru under the bus in the by-election was informed by Gopo’s allegedly tainted history of political violence in the 2001 by-election, where an MDC-T supporter died.
The MDC-T’s decision, the sources added, was also inspired by “lessons from the Norton by-election”, where Temba Mliswa turned against the opposition party soon after being elected, as well as the need to gauge ZimPF’s support so as to have bargaining power in the coalition.
“Firstly, I think you know what happened in Norton, where the party was taken for a ride by Mliswa despite supporting and campaigning for him,” a source said.
“Secondly, Gopo is a sidekick of Claudius Makova, now a senior official in ZimPF, who is accused of a reign of terror in Bikita West in the 2001 by-election.”
Muzvimbiri confirmed he was working with the MDC-T.