Former ZANU-PF Bulawayo City councillors who switched sides after being frustrated in the party and jumped onto the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) bandwagon, are reportedly fuelling divisions in the MDC amid fears that Executive Mayor Japhet Ndabeni-Ncube’s tenure could be in jeopardy. Ndabeni-Ncube has however, so far weathered the storm.
One of the councillors, Matson Hlalo, has already been expelled from the party while the axe is hanging over another councillor, Alderman Charles Mpofu. Warning bells are also ringing for Stars Mathe, one of the few women councillors in the all-MDC council.
The councillors have been flagrantly violating the party’s constitution and disciplinary code with impunity. The councillors, who joined the party when it was desperate to boost their numbers, are being accused of fanning discord within the party through their utterances in the state media.
The MDC’s publicity and information secretary for Bulawayo, Victor Moyo, said the councillors were knowingly violating the party’s code of conduct because they were quite aware that the only people who should talk to the media and on behalf of the party are those from the information department.
“Members of Parliament can talk to the media if they are discussing issues relating to their constituency. The same applies to councillors when they are talking about their wards, or shadow ministers when they are talking about their portfolios. But we don’t expect a councillor to talk about politics, especially to the state media. No one, in fact, should talk to the state media unless authorised by the secretary-general of the party,” Moyo said.
Moyo’s comments followed an outburst by Alderman Mpofu, Bulawayo’s former deputy mayor who lost his post recently. Mpofu described fellow councillors as “dull and timid puppets”.
He said the councillors lacked leadership qualities and were afraid of the mayor who, he said, lacked knowledge on council issues. Ndabeni-Ncube is a former deputy director of housing in the Bulawayo City Council.
Sources said Mpofu was likely to face disciplinary action for his sentiments as he already had other charges pending against him.
According to the party’s disciplinary code of conduct, anyone who brings the name of the party into disrepute or ridicule; or unduly interferes with the operational capacity or efficiency of the party; obstructs members or employees of the party from performing lawful functions and duties will have violated the code.
Other offences include impeding the work or activities of the party; creating or promoting division within the ranks of the party; collaborating with another political organisation in a manner which is contrary to the achievements of the aims and objectives of the MDC; or collaborating with any intelligence organisation or security service against the interests or members of the party.
It is also an offence to participate in organised factional activity which threatens the unity of the party, or lobbying based on factionalism and which goes beyond the recognised norms of canvassing or free debate.
The same applies to provoking serious divisions or a breakdown of unity within the party; undermining respect for or impeding the functioning of the structures of the party at any level and promoting or practising racism, sexism, tribalism, religious or political intolerance or discrimination, or regionalism.
Mpofu said he was not aware that he was not allowed to talk to the state media. “I am a politician in my own right,” he said. “I don’t want people to be oppressive just because they want to protect one person, who happens to be the mayor, who is messing things up. They want to create monsters within the MDC just like ZANU-PF has created monsters. We don’t want to create demigods.”
He went on: “In politics, you are not employed. And I have refused to be a puppet to anybody. I will not be anyone’s boy. When we are in council we are governed by the Urban Councils Act and not by the party constitution. So I will not shut up because people who are narrow-minded and have nothing to offer say so. Over my dead body.”
Mpofu was elected to the council in 1991 on a ZANU PF ticket but left the party in the run-up to the 2000 parliamentary elections when the party barred him from contesting against Deputy Minister of Mines Zenzo Nsimbi. He left the party and contested the council elections as an independent, won the elections and joined the MDC after the 2000 parliamentary elections.
Hlalo, who left ZANU-PF at the same time with Mpofu and followed the same process of becoming an independent before joining the MDC, is not as lucky as Mpofu. He has been expelled from the party for allegedly organising a demonstration against Makokoba Member of Parliament Thoko Khupe. Hlalo denies organising the demonstration, insisting that it was the people of Mzilikazi that did so.
“What people forget is the type of people who live in Mzilikazi. They are very enlightened. I have been a councillor for that area for 10 years so whatever happens there is linked to me. Unfortunately a lot of it is on the negative side on my part.”
Hlalo has eyed the Makokoba seat for some time and had running battles with ZANU PF’s Sithembiso Nyoni when she was MP for the area. He contested the seat as an independent in the 2000 elections but lost. He polled 1 773 votes against Khupe’s 12 901, and was even beaten by Nyoni who polled 2 196 votes.
Asked whether he was a political opportunist who had joined the MDC to contest the Makokoba seat at the next elections, Hlalo said: “That is not fair. Maybe I have a different perspective of politics. When you go into politics you accept to be led and you can also lead if you are elected. My view is that in any political dispensation, what people want is what they should get,” he said.
A former ZANU-PF chairman, however, insisted that though Mpofu, Hlalo and Mike Parira Mpofu, who was expelled from the party at the same time as the other two, were now MDC, deep down they were ZANU-PF. They were just frustrated out of the party by people who were flouting the party constitution to protect their own positions.