By Blessings Mashaya and Gift Phiri
Morgan Tsvangirai and some of his top officials are headed for a showdown over the terms of an alliance deal inked by the MDC president on Saturday, along with leaders of other fringe opposition parties, in what is likely to present a litmus test for the former trade unionist ahead of next year’s polls.
The MDC’s public relations machinery went into overdrive yesterday as officials papered over cracks emerging within the party’s rank and files days after they had unveiled an alliance to confront Zanu PF at the 2018 polls.
A section of the MDC – backed by Tsvangirai’s deputy for 11 years, Thokozani Khupe, and the party’s chairman, Lovemore Moyo – is unhappy with the alliance, particularly the formulae adopted by its negotiators as the basis for allocating constituencies among the participating partners.
The rift has been further widened by the violence that broke out in the second city yesterday, resulting in Khupe and other senior officials suffering various degrees of injuries.
Khupe, who was conspicuous by her absence at the signing ceremony, has been so shocked by the level of violence meted on her and other senior members by the party’s thugs that yesterday she temporarily went into hiding and cut contact with colleagues and sympathisers moments after being treated for wounds at a Bulawayo hospital.
At the same time, Tsvangirai has questioned why Khupe, Moyo and other senior members, who were attacked by the party’s violent gang, did not attend the launch of an alliance of opposition parties in Harare on Saturday.
Khupe was on Sunday injured during an orgy of violence that caused the cancellation of a provincial meeting, which had been called by Moyo to give feedback to the structures on the alliance.
She received treatment at a Bulawayo medical facility but could not be reached for comment as her bodyguards firstly told the Daily News that she was resting before eventually saying she would not be available for security reasons.
Further attempts to speak to her were fruitless as her mobile phone was going unanswered before it eventually became out of reach.
Sources close to Khupe yesterday told the Daily News that she was shocked by the attacks on her and other senior figures by a group of violent youths who allegedly came from the MDC headquarters in Harare.
They said the Bulawayo meeting was meant to discuss and relay the outcome of the alliance which the MDC Matabeleland grassroots structures were in support of but differed on the implementation of constituency allocation.
“The whole of Matabeleland province is not against a coalition but wants a scientific method of determining which party gets what in the parcelling out of constituencies. The three provinces feel that the MDC has done well in Matabeleland and if there is really need to choose candidates for those constituencies, then primary elections were the best way of dealing with that,” a source said in explaining the attacks on Khupe and other senior officials.
“Matabeleland provinces do not see logic or reason in surrendering their constituencies to a party that has not held or won elections there. So they believe primary elections should decide which candidate and party the people wanted to represent them in next year’s elections”.
Tsvangirai told Daily News in an exclusive interview that he had not sanctioned the meeting in Bulawayo but had spoken with Moyo who said he was not going to attend the alliance launch in Harare.
“Yes, on the day we were supposed to meet, he (Moyo) said that he was not going to come to the launch. I said, why? And of course made excuses and said I understand you are having a meeting tomorrow.
“Remember that you cannot have a meeting which is regional. We are a national party and you know as well as I do that the resolution of the council regarding the coalition was only taken last Friday.
“Ah no we are trying to explain to people, people I said, but tell me something. Is there unhappiness about the strategy or the process? Zvikanzi (and he said) no, no, we are not opposed to the strategy. We are just saying that we were not consulted thoroughly.
“And I said that this thing has been going on for a whole year, right? And we have had so many meetings adopting principles, giving me mandates and assigning this team yema (of) negotiators to go and talk to the other opposition parties right up to the conclusion,” explained Tsvangirai.
He said Khupe did not sent apologies for not attending the alliance meeting in Harare.
“She didn’t pitch up – the three of them. Madam Khupe, (Abednico) Bhebhe and Moyo. But look, even if they had reservations, one of the things you don’t do is you don’t engage in work avoidance. At a place of work if you have a grievance, you work and then you raise your grievance.
“In this case, the party has a grievance procedure. And I think internally no one had closed them off,” said Tsvangirai.
Earlier at a press conference, Tsvangirai had condemned the violence for causing damage to the party’s standing before he suggested that Sunday’s barbaric scenes at the Bulawayo provincial offices could have been sponsored by State security agents.
“The MDC is a social democratic party whose values include equality, solidarity and the respect of human rights. As such, I unreservedly condemn the violence that happened yesterday, the 6th of August 2017, in Bulawayo where a group of thugs violently disrupted a meeting at our Bulawayo Offices.
“As the president of the party, I condemn in the strongest terms this callous act of violence committed by these people.
“Our vice president..Thokozani Khupe, together with other members of the national leadership were manhandled by these thugs resulting in the vice president having to seek medical attention. Her position as the party’s vice president, her dignity and her status as a woman, a mother and a role model to many young women, was immensely undermined in the process,” said Tsvangirai.
“I understand there are a few culprits who were apprehended by the police and as the leader of the party, I regard this incident as a criminal act and these thugs must face the full wrath of the law. I have since activated our own internal investigations and appropriate disciplinary measures will be taken against the perpetrators or anyone behind them.
“I, for one, have been a victim of violence at the hands of the State, bashed in a police station, in many circumstances left for dead while there been many attempts on my life. We are investigating this incident with the intention of taking stern action against any of our members who may have been involved in this dastardly act. At the same time, we are not ruling out the invisible hand of the State as it had a huge motive to douse the successful script of the Alliance on Saturday,” he added.
Political analysts said the violence which came barely 24 hours after the launch of the coalition was a sign that the MDC was deeply divided over the issue.
“Conflict is inevitable but violence is not. Beating up people for differing with you is sick. It shows we have a long way to go. This is the opposition that suffered lots of violence and lost members to Zanu PF violence. People with such predisposition for violence should never be given state power – they will crush anyone with disseminating views,” said political analysts, Maxwell Saungweme.
He said senior posts in the MDC such as that of the vice president were likely to be made irrelevant as leaders of fringe parties would gain seniority by virtue of leading those parties.
“So this causes division as some people will feel their power will be diluted. Some of the issues are real. Some parties in the coalition are so small such as (Transform Zimbabwe president Jacob) Ngarivhume’s.
“So people like Ngarivhume will be senior in the coalition more senior than Khupe for example yet he runs a small party with very few followers,” added Saungweme.
Another political analyst, Shakespeare Hamauswa, said the opposition was likely to have two coalitions, warning that Khupe and other senior figures in the MDC could join former vice president Joice Mujuru.
“What we are seeing is the manifestation of highly complicated political implosion in Zimbabwe. The whole opposition if not all political parties are likely to explode. The recent violence in MDC therefore indicates how the opposition is highly divided.
“So in light of coalition talks, we are going to see at least two big coalitions of opposition parties. Khupe and team might join hands with Simba Makoni, Dumiso Dabengwa, Mujuru and Priscilla Misihairabwi,” Hamauswa told the Daily News.
On Saturday Tsvangirai signed a pact with former Finance minister Tendai Biti of People’s Democratic Party, Welshman Ncube (MDC), Jacob Ngarivhume (Transform Zimbabwe) and Zimbabwe People First’s Agrippa Mutambara, a retired army chief.
As far as the larger sections of the opposition movement are concerned, this is the grand coalition that they have been waiting for and its leadership has been decided.
However, Mujuru and other opposition chiefs who stayed away on Saturday from the launch of an electoral alliance which chose MDC Morgan Tsvangirai as its main man, say the grand coalition is not yet a done deal. Daily News