Movement for Democratic Change leader Nelson Chamisa seems to have already written off his former colleague Thokozani Khupe and seems to be gunning for Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front leader Emmerson Mnangagwa.
But is Chamisa really right to write off Khupe at this stage?
Chamisa’s supporters long wrote off Khupe as a non-entity but are they right?
Khupe, a former trade unionist and founding member of the MDC, was more involved in the formation of the party than Chamisa.
She was the party’s vice-president for more than a decade?
She is not a lawyer but she definitely should know the party constitution?
She may not be as popular as Chamisa but those who back the MDC are more interested in maintaining constitutionalism than populism and it seems Khupe is towing this line.
Her decision to go ahead with an extra-ordinary congress in three weeks and her decision to retain the name MDC-T, regardless of whether the T stands for Tsvangirai or Thokozani, is definitely going to put a spanner in the works for Chamisa.
If the special congress maintains the name, that would mean going to court to settle the issue. Chamisa’s campaign would therefore be derailed.
The courts in Zimbabwe usually take their time and this could be detrimental for Chamisa. Khupe has less to lose than Chamisa so time is on her side.
If she wins the case and party name, what would this mean to the $1.8 million already allocated to Chamisa? Khupe is already demanding a share and says her chances of getting it are promising.
Mnangagwa is watching all this and is not likely to take up any challenges from Chamisa to engage with him.
As Sunday Mail columnist Bishop Lazarus said, Mnangagwa can easily brush off Chamisa’s calls as attention seeking.
With Chamisa’s leadership being contested, there is also no reason for Mnangagwa to meet him as this would be legitimising his leadership.
Khupe is therefore more than a spoiler. The quicker Chamisa resolves issues with her the better.
Chamisa’s supporters must also remember that the party has never been more popular than its founding leader Morgan Tsvangirai.
A study by Brian Raftopoulos after the 2013 elections showed that Tsvangirai has always polled more votes than his Members of Parliament combined even in 2008 when the party won more seats than ZANU-PF.
That is why he survived every split. But the study also showed that the number of people supporting him declined with every elections since 2002.
In 2002, Tsvangirai polled 1 258 401 votes. This declined to 1 195 562 in 2008 and down again to1 172 349 in 2013.