Former student leader Job Sikhala, the maverick politician from the Movement for Democratic Change is back in the limelight. And the media has swallowed the bait. He claims to have rejoined the MDC led by Morgan Tsvangirai because he has realised that egos are not getting them anywhere. There is need for people to unite to bring back democracy to Zimbabwe.
Sikhala has always been a trouble-maker from his student days right up to the time the MDC split in 2005. But he has also been a darling of MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai. In fact, according to Trudy Stevenson, one of the founding members of the MDC who later switched to the Welshman Ncube faction and became Zimbabwe’s ambassador to Senegal, Sikhala, Nelson Chamisa, Tafadzwa Musekiwa and Learnmore Jongwe formed a formidable team. Ironically, they were all former student leaders.
In a cable released by Wikileaks, Stevenson told United States embassy officials in Harare just two years after the formation of the MDC that the four stuck to Tsvangirai “like glue” and “expertly play(ed) on the MDC president’s sensitivity about his lack of higher education to maintain their access to him and to prevent others in the party from getting too close”.
Stevenson said older members of the MDC had complained to Tsvangirai that the young men who were referred to as “gatekeepers” had become a problem. She said she did not trust the four because they were “possible ZANU-PF plants”.
The embassy said it had no evidence to substantiate Stevenson’s claims but added “we can say with a fair degree of confidence that her distrust of certain younger members is a result of ZANU-PF’s strategy to sow doubt and discord within the opposition party”.
The question is: Is Sikhala playing to Tsvangirai’s sensitivity? He has come back at the right time when Tsvangirai is under attack from his trusted lieutenants and financiers and needs backers. He comes to join his former colleague Chamisa who some have accused of harbouring presidential ambitions come 2018.
But having left the party to form his own MDC99, does Sikhala not have presidential ambitions of his own? How will this tally with those of Chamisa?
It is obvious that a lot of people within the MDC are lining themselves up for succession in 2016. Tsvangirai will have to step down whether he likes it or not, regardless of how popular he might be. He has put his head on the block by proclaiming to be a democratic who will not stay in office a day longer when his time is up. With Biti and Mangoma in trouble, the race is wide open.
But the problem is that if Stevenson was right that Chamisa and Sikhala are ZANU-PF plants, has Sikhala come to beef up Tsvangirai or finish him off? Insiders within the MDC have always been suspicious of the two, more so of Chamisa since Sikhala had left the party.
Some even accused Chamisa of delivering last year’s elections to ZANU-PF. They argued that he had failed as organising secretary. They were not clear why Tsvangirai had removed Elias Mudzuri, who as organising secretary delivered victory in 2008.
People talk. But as they say, where there is smoke, there is fire. But Tsvangirai could be back to his old self – “.. a flawed figure, not readily open to advice, indecisive and with questionable judgment in selecting those around him”.