I recall vividly the year 2000, when the Movement for Democratic Change broke onto the political scene scaring the hell out of a complacent Zanu PF. It had never happened in the annals of Zimbabwean history that an opposition party wrests half of the parliamentary seats from the ruling party, as the newly formed party would go on to do.
By Learnmore Zuze
It had always been a case of one or two regional seats taken away from Zanu PF, but here was something new. Here was something that the country had never witnessed before and it caught Zanu PF offguard, triggering a spate of political violence against the opposition. Former heavyweights in Zanu PF fell headlong to virtual political nonentities; people who had no political clout and were unknown before.
I was in Bulawayo at the time. In some small high-density known as Nguboyenja was a parliamentary seat that a light complexioned young woman sought to fill in the 2000 elections. Her name was Thokozani Khupe who, at the time, was understood to be a National Railways of Zimbabwe employee. She would mobilise support for her small gatherings in an old soccer field close by. In the run-up to the watershed 2000 parliamentary elections, she would be seen addressing a small gathering near Makokoba; she could be seen near Nguboyenja articulating her vision for the constituency.
Many who passed-by to see this seemingly pitiful gathering never thought they were seeing the future legislator of the constituency. It was only after the election results were announced that reality dawned upon many that what seemed like child-play had turned out to become serious business. Khupe was now a lawmaker. She was to rise significantly within party ranks to become the very second-in-command to Morgan Tsvangirai. It was all like a fairy tale.
A lot was to happen along the way, politically. Hundreds of then MDC supporters died in politically-motivated violence across the country. She witnessed all this. She was also not spared from the repressive laws that barred largely the opposition from holding gatherings. Khupe endured a lot. She also saw how the party leadership was brutalised and jailed at one time. Her commitment to the cause remained resolute, leading to her becoming the party’s vice-president. But fast forward to today and Khupe is now out of MDC- T, a party which she gave a lot for. A solution should have been found.
Events leading to her being expelled are many, but it boils down to one thing: her obstinacy in refusing to accept that Nelson Chamisa is the new party leader. I would have expected madam Khupe to co-operate with the inevitable and move forward. She was never going to win it against Chamisa. In politics, what counts is the grassroots support not the mantra of having been elected at congress. This, however, is not to undermine democracy, but it should have been obvious to Khupe how the winds were blowing, whoever was advising her.
MDC-T party president, Chamisa, though vilified by some in the party, went out of his way to ensure Khupe comes back into the fold. The major objective, as Chamisa rightly pointed out, was to win the elections and present a united opposition, an idea which Khupe spurned even when Tsvangirai was alive. Khupe apparently never warmed up to the idea of an MDC Alliance. On the contrary, Tsvangirai wanted this unity with the ultimate goal of transforming Zimbabwe.
It is against this background that indeed developments in the MDC-T are quite sad. Sad because this was not how we all expected the script to unfold. Even the late MDC-T founder Tsvangirai would have hoped for a united front that would be formidable with potential to carry the democratic struggle forward. Most people had hoped for a situation where the MDC-T leadership would come to an amicable solution and start to hit the ground running with a few months left for the general elections.
Nonetheless, like they say, some things in life simply can’t be rectified despite all efforts, Khupe, a founding member of the united MDC, alongside Obert Gutu,now former party spokesperson and others have decided to leave the party in standing for what they call party constitutionalism.
Khupe and others like her in thought should have seen the bigger picture of the struggle. I will repeat, politics here is not theoretical or bookish, it is practical. Khupe should have been reasonable enough. She should have known better. She saw the demise of many party heavy weights who took the same route, only to come back into the fold at a later and inconvenient stage.
It’s unfortunate that Khupe decided to remain headstrong and became an outcast. She left the party with no option and indeed, her departure was unfortunate but necessary. The MDC-T under Chamisa must forge ahead with the task at hand and fulfil its vision for the country.
Learnmore Zuze is a law officer and writes in his own capacity. E-mail email@example.com