With some opposition parties having signed an alliance deal, MDC-T finds itself in a familiar, but unenviable position, where some party members are openly challenging their leader, Morgan Tsvangirai.
Candour: NQABA MATSHAZI
Tsvangirai’s deputy, Thokozani Khupe, organising secretary, Abednico Bhebhe and chairman, Lovemore Moyo are openly opposed to the MDC Alliance, which Tsvangirai and a host of opposition parties have signed.
There already has been a dose of violence and any sense of déjà vu is pardonable because it feels as if we are back in 2005, when fault lines developed in the original MDC along similar lines.
Khupe, Moyo and Bhebhe will obviously claim they hold the key to MDC-T’s winning in the Matabeleland provinces and are not happy that they have been sidelined in the coalition negotiations.
Bhebhe was said to have been roped into the discussions, but never had sight of the final document and that is driving his fury.
Khupe has been clear that she believes there is no need for a coalition in Matabeleland, but rather in the Mashonaland provinces, where MDC-T has performed badly in the past, although this is a terribly flawed argument.
While it is true that MDC-T has performed well in Matabeleland with Khupe as the de facto regional leader, the sad reality is that the party was on the decline, losing Matabeleland South and half of Matabeleland North seats to Zanu PF in the last election.
There are rumours that their disgruntlement could lead to a fresh division in the party, although whoever leads this split would have been poorly advised and the best is for them to take it on the chin, without overestimating their strength.
As in 2005, the pro-Senate faction had a very valid argument, where they accused Tsvangirai of being a dictator and employing violence to further his strength in the party.
They decided to go their own way, which seemed the logical thing to do, but sadly in Zimbabwe, people vote for personalities rather than issues and the new MDC was to learn this in subsequent polls.
Now Khupe and her group believe they have been run roughshod, but they should be careful how they deal with this, as anything that resembles a tantrum could see them out in the cold.
While Khupe can argue that she brings the Matabeleland constituencies to MDC-T, Tsvangirai could be content that he has MDC leader, Welshman Ncube in his corner, as they go about bringing the “original MDC” together.
Many believe Ncube is more valuable to the coalition than Khupe, making her expendable.
I might be wrong, but Tsvangirai’s contempt for Khupe was quite clear the day he decided to appoint two more vice-presidents, which all but diluted her powers, in spite of her being elected and the others being appointees.
Tsvangirai cannot fire Khupe because she was elected at the party’s congress, but she is clearly being shown that she is non-essential.
On the other hand, Ncube must be rubbing his hands in glee, as he finally gets an opportunity to hit back at Khupe, who is accused of scuttling efforts to reunite MDC-T and MDC in 2007.
Khupe and the late Thamsanqa Mahlangu are reported to have been opposed to the reunification deal, leading to its collapse.
The tables are turned now and, even if they were to dispute this, if Tsvangirai wants to twist the knife further into Khupe, he will find a willing ally in Ncube.
Khupe is playing her cards too soon, leaving herself in a very vulnerable position.
Since she was first elected as MDC-T deputy president, Khupe had either to be extremely loyal to Tsvangirai or build her support base to make herself indispensable. In the end she did neither and for this reason she is staring down the barrel of a gun.
Obviously, the appointments of Elias Mudzuri and Nelson Chamisa as vice-presidents and the signing of the coalition deal angered her, but in a country where charisma and populism are more important than substance, Khupe should have kept quiet and bade her time.
But instead, she sulked and threw back questions at Tsvangirai, a sign of disloyalty in this environment.
On the other hand, Bhebhe won a parliamentary seat on an MDC ticket, but before long he was supping with Tsvangirai, which his colleagues considered sacrilege.
He was soon axed from MDC and as expected, a red carpet was rolled out for him when he joined MDC-T, with his path to senior positions in the party cleared out for him.
This obviously did not go down well with Ncube, who again must be smiling from ear to ear watching Bhebhe on the ropes.
By and large, MDC-T’s headache is of its own making and could have been avoided as way back as 2007, when the first meaningful attempt to reunite the pro-Senate and anti-Senate factions failed.
Probably, either as a romantic, a pragmatist or both, Tsvangirai is bringing the band together for one last performance, which he could be certain is his best opportunity at the Presidency.
A reunification with Ncube and to some extent Tendai Biti hankers to the good old days when they ran Zanu PF close, with a fair mixture of populism and intellect, and anyone standing in the way would have to be removed, as nostalgia takes precedence.
I am convinced Khupe, Moyo and Bhebhe have done nothing wrong, like Ncube in 2005, but expedience means they should either comply with Tsvangirai or be forced out of the party into the political wilderness.
They should not make the mistake of standing up to Tsvangirai at this point, as they will lose dismally, thanks to the politics of cults of personality rather than issues.
And in the court of public opinion, they will be viewed as the people who were opposed to the coalition, which every Jack and Jill believes is the only way to stop Zanu PF—– and in that regard they will find little sympathy.
So now, the most realistic thing to do is to swallow their pride, regroup and strategise for another day.