By Jeffrey Muvundusi
BULAWAYO – MDC vice president Thokozani Khupe and her allies boycotted party leader Morgan Tsvangirai’s rally on Saturday, in yet another move fuelling speculation that the country’s largest opposition party could be headed for another split.
Tsvangirai was headlining an MDC Alliance rally where the union of seven opposition parties was being officially launched to supporters in the second largest city since August 5, when the coalition was consummated.
Khupe, along with MDC national chair Lovemore Moyo and the now suspended national organising secretary, Abednico Bhebhe, are fiercely opposed to the alliance and had earlier indicated that they will not attend the rally, especially following their attack by alleged MDC youths while holding a meeting in Bulawayo recently.
They recently wrote to Tsvangirai requesting him to postpone the rally to pave way for dialogue over sticky alliance issues within the party’s top executive, a call which was ignored by the MDC leader, who stuck to his guns.
The turn-out at Saturday’s rally was poor, compared to Tsvangirai’s previous rallies in Bulawayo, amid reports that the disgruntled Khupe faction had gone around the city’s constituencies advising party supporters not to attend, a move observers say she wanted to prove her political clout in the province.
Previous MDC rallies have always filled the 15 000-seater White City stadium.
Bulawayo has consistently voted for Tsvangirai’s party since its formation in 1999, and only broke the trend when the MDC leadership took the decision to boycott all elections preceding the 2013 ballot to press for the levelling of the electoral playing field.
Since then, Zanu PF has been winning all the by-elections in Bulawayo and elsewhere.
But an unrelenting Tsvangirai chose the rally to challenge Khupe — his longest serving deputy — saying she should set aside personal differences and embrace the alliance.
He argued that the MDC Alliance was part of a broader agenda to remove his long-time rival President Robert Mugabe and his Zanu PF party from power.
“We want the alliance to help us move away from the political culture of Zanu PF,” Tsvangirai told the gathering.
“In our individual parties, we may have disputes and disagreements but there is nothing that beats sitting down and talking. That’s a leadership challenge. Even if you disagree with me, the first basis you must understand is that there is nothing that beats dialogue,” he said in a thinly veiled attack at Khupe and colleagues who share the same sentiment with her.
“As we move to a new Zimbabwe, you will see that there will be disputes here and there and mostly some of these will be informed by individual personal interests. We have reached a point where we have to put our personal interests aside and think about the suffering masses,” Tsvangirai said.
As if that was not enough, the former prime minister in an inclusive government with 93-year-old Mugabe went on to touch on the risk of the disgruntled elements dividing Zimbabweans based on ethnic affiliation, a development he described as “dangerous”.
“…when we formed opposition parties we never talked about ethnicity…..I am very concerned that we are now divided according to our ethnicity.
“This is a very dangerous development. This country should not be divided on the basis of where you come from. If you want to build a country that is proud of its identity and integrity then we should destroy the culture of ethnicity.
“The reason why we had Gukurahundi is because you promoted ethnicity at the expense of defending your Zimbabweans. Those who are promoting ethnicity and ethnic affiliations are dangerous for this country.”
Khupe is believed to have the influence to sway the Matabeleland constituency.
Leaders from other opposition parties in the alliance, including Tendai Biti, Welshman Ncube, Jacob Ngarivhume and Agrippa Mutambara also got a chance to address the gathering.
While Tsvangirai is having challenges with his deputy, things also appeared not good for Biti whose secretary-general Gorden Moyo also boycotted the event over alleged alliance disagreements.
Tsvangirai also used the platform to warn the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) against rigging elections in favour of Zanu PF, saying Kenya has set a precedent in African politics.
“I want to congratulate my friend in Kenya, I think there were three lessons learnt. The first lesson is that this is the unprecedented decision in the whole of Africa and I think it’s a good step towards democracy,” he said.
“Secondly it has exposed those that had endorsed that election, the interiority of those who said the elections were free and fair were severely exposed. Thirdly, if it happened in Kenya it can as well happen in Zimbabwe.
“The lesson to the Zec is try to do what Kenya did, there are clear reforms that should be in place so that when we go to the next election there is no dispute,” Tsvangirai said. Daily News