By Nqaba Matshazi
MDC-T vice-president, Thokozani Khupe, has reportedly fallen out with party leader, Morgan Tsvangirai and is sitting on a political knife edge, as party members in Bulawayo are pushing for her ouster.
Khupe and Tsvangirai are said to have held a crisis meeting on Tuesday, as they tried to mend the rift, amid reports that the deputy prime minister had her back against the wall. The recent defections, mainly from Khupe’s Makokoba constituency, have triggered a mini-crisis within the MDC-T, leading to Tsvangirai’s visit to Bulawayo to try and calm the storm.
But a source close to Khupe claimed the mass defections of the past month were meant to discredit the deputy prime minister and dislodge her from her lofty position, both in the party and in the government.
“The way these people are defecting en masse, suggests this is coordinated and you can tell that this is a smear campaign against her,” the source said. He confirmed that things were not well between Tsvangirai and his deputy, saying a series of meetings had been held to heal the rift, although he would not say what the outcome was.
A party insider, however, said the defections to the rival MDC party were nothing new, blaming the party’s provincial executive for failing to deal with the festering wound. “This issue has been there for a long time, but (Agnes) MaMloyi was able to deal with the issues. this executive is failing and that is leading to the fallout,” the party insider said.
Agnes Mloyi is the previous MDC-T provincial chairperson and was succeeded by Gorden Moyo. The party insider also confirmed the fallout between Tsvangirai and Khupe, saying this was bound to happen, as the party seemed to be disintegrating in Bulawayo, an MDC-T stronghold over the past decade.
“How can they not fall out? With the way things are going this was bound to happen and several meetings have been held between the two,” the source said.
An MDC-T Bulawayo executive member, however, said Khupe could be a victim of the factionalism that gripped the party ahead of its congress last year. Khupe backed Moyo ahead of Matson Hlalo for the party’s provincial chairmanship, but the latter remains very popular in Makokoba constituency, currently being held by the deputy PM.
“She is paying for supporting Gorden (Moyo). Hlalo is very popular and has been the councillor and legislator in Makokoba, so maybe it’s payback time,” the provincial executive member said. Contacted for comment, Hlalo said he preferred not to speak on the issue, as he was not aware what was going on.
Chamisa’s deputy Organising Secretary, Abednico Bhebhe, has also rubbished the defections as stage-managed, vowing elections would not be won by politicking.
“Good luck about their stage management. I hope they are going to stage-manage the elections because elections are not won by this,” he said after the second batch of 50 youths claimed to have defected to Ncube’s MDC.
“Why is Ncube zeroing in on Makokoba? He is trying to stage-manage winning Makokoba constituency, where he lost to Khuphe.”
Khupe could not be reached for comment yesterday as her phone was unavailable. Tsvangirai’s spokesperson, Luke Tamborinyoka also refused to comment, saying the matter was purely a party and not government issue.
Outside Bulawayo, Khupe has remained a very popular figure. She has become a symbol of hope to many women with her public fight against breast cancer. The MDC-T vice-president has also championed the removal of maternity fees for pregnant women. in this way, she has portrayed herself as in touch with the grassroots.
But in Bulawayo, where she represents the MDC-T in Makokoba, she is sometimes regarded as a divisive character.
Khupe has on numerous occasions been accused of fanning political violence, tribalism and hate speech, although none of those allegations have stuck. She is said to be looking for a safe seat in the next elections, as she is reportedly being hounded out of Makokoba.
Suggestions are that she covets either the Bulawayo Central seat or Nkayi. Zimbabwe Standard
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