MDC split now imminent


Zimbabwe’s main opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change is heading for a split unless the warring factions back down from their positions and reach a compromise. But even this looks remote.

Party leader Morgan Tsvangirai, who leads one of the factions, is adamant that he will not give in to his juniors while secretary general Welshman Ncube who reportedly leads the other, also says this is the end of the road. He says by giving his juniors seven days from November 5 to withdraw from the forthcoming senate elections Tsvangirai has literally closed the door to negotiations.

Observers say while cracks in the MDC widened following a disagreement over whether to participate in the senate elections scheduled for November 26 or not, divisions have been simmering over a long period. The observers say the split has nothing to do with the senate elections but is more to do with who controls the party’s resources.

This seems to confirm outspoken Job Sikhala’s outburst that the squabbling in the MDC was over money donated to the party. Sikhala, the party’s Member of Parliament for St Mary’s in Chitungwiza, said the party had received US$2.5 million from Taiwan, Nigeria and Ghana.

The three countries denied donating the money.

It is illegal for a party in Zimbabwe to receive foreign funding though both the MDC and the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union- Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) are known to be receiving funds from foreign backers.

Sikhala has since retracted his statement and was suspended from the party but the High Court nullified the suspension.

Observers say the split within the MDC is not healthy as it is giving ZANU-PF, which has been under pressure since 1999 when the party was formed, time to breathe. It has also turned the senate elections into an issue when they are not.

The Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions, the backborne of the MDC, says the most pressing issue is that of increasing poverty. The labour body organised demonstrations on November 8, to press for a review of the minimum wage to the poverty datum line of $9.5 million a month.

The PDL has since shot up to $11.7 million. The average wage is around $1.5 million a month.

The ZCTU said 80 percent of the population is now regarded as poor. Income tax should be reduced to a maximum of 30 percent. Value added tax which was increased to 17.5 percent in September should be reduced. Anti-retroviral drugs should be provided free. They now cost an average of $1 million a month. It also called for the protection of jobs and “no to Zhing Zhong”- a reference to the influx of cheap “Chinese” products.

Trade union leaders and more than 200 other demonstrators were arrested during the demonstration, though the union said they had obtained police clearance for the demo.

Civic organisations also said the senate elections were a waste of taxpayer’s money. They are meant to reward ZANU-PF loyalists most of whom were beaten in the March parliamentary elections.

The elections were also going to push up government expenditure when the country was facing more pressing problems such as the shortage of foreign currency, food and fuel (the 3fs).

The added expenditure would worsen the government’s budget deficit and push up inflation which had declined to 123 percent in March but has since shot up to 411 percent in October.

The split in the MDC, which is being fanned by ZANU-PF through the state-owned media, goes beyond the opposition party. It also borders on the succession of President Robert Mugabe.

Observers say ZANU-PF is all out to crash the MDC because the party had become the strongest south-south political force, which was a stumbling block to the rise to power of Joyce Mujuru who is backed by her husband, former army commander, Solomon Mujuru.

Solomon Mujuru allegedly leads a faction of ZANU-PF that is vying to ensure that power remains with the Zezuru. This group is said to be centred around Chikomba which now controls the defence forces through defence forces chief Constantine Chiwenga and air force chief Perrence Shiri.

The group is reported to have the sympathetic ear of Mugabe because it is giving him the impression that it is protecting him from the hounds that are after his throne when it is in fact fighting to ensure that Joyce Mujuru’s road to succession is unimpeded.

This groups’ biggest foe is allegedly Emmerson Mnangagwa, who nearly won the vice-presidency last year before the plan was scuttled after the infamous Tsholotsho meeting. Mnangagwa undoubtedly now leads the Karanga who feel that as the biggest Shona subgroup it is now their turn to take over having been kicked out of the presidency with the death of Simon Muzenda.

Mnangagwa has kept an unusually quiet profile since losing the vice-president’s post and his subsequent demotion from Speaker to Minister of a Rural Housing, a mediocre portfolio. This seems to have unsettled his opponents as it has kept them guessing about his next move. Unsure about what to do, they are garnering on anyone Karanga, as they believe, he or she could be in league with Mnangagwa.

Tsvangirai is considered Karanga and it is for this reason that those in ZANU-PF are fanning the present squabbles within the MDC to make sure that he is kicked out.

The obsession with the Karanga is also reported to be affecting the country’s economic turnaround programme because Gideon Gono, its chief architect is also considered Karanga. He cannot therefore be seen to be succeeding in turning around the country’s economy as credit would go to the Karanga and ultimately to Mnangagwa.

A split in the MDC would be the end of opposition politics in Zimbabwe and would leave ZANU-PF unchallenged, though of course there is presently more tension within ZANU-PF than in the MDC as people are sizing each other up for succession.

Observers say neither of the factions can survive without the other. Tsvangirai’s faction would lose out Matabeleland and parts of the Midlands if the party splits. It will therefore turn into a provincial party rather than a national one.

Though some people in Matabeleland support Tsvangirai’s call for a boycott, observers say, they will still want to be represented by people of their choice.

While Tsvangirai could recruit some people from Matabeleland for his faction, they will just be ditched like the former ZAPU leaders were ditched when they joined ZANU-PF.

The Welshman Ncube faction would also be reduced to a provincial party with representation only in Matatebeland and parts of the Midlands. Though at the moment they seem to have the support of people like deputy secretary general Gift Chimanikire, a trade unionist, this is not likely to add to anything as the MDC has failed to crack Mashonaland where Chimanikire comes from.

There is talk that perhaps the split could lead to the creation of a third force, but this force can only make it if there is a substantial pull out of MDC members from across the country rather than just from the West. Similarly there would have to be a substantial pullout of ZANU-PF members from across the board and not just from the Southern provinces.

Besides, the issue of the name would also be critical. Those from Matabeleland, for example, cannot team up with Jonathan Moyo’s United People Movement because they both draw from the same pool of supporters.

While there was speculation that Mnangagwa could work with this group, observers say, he will not leave ZANU-PF. He wants to lead a national party and will fight for the leadership of the party rather than form another party.

But anything can happen. The average Zimbabwean is suffering. People are now so desperate that they will go with whoever can rescue them from the present decay because they do not believe Mugabe can turn around the country’s fortunes.

What Zimbabwe needs now is a clean slate with a new leadership not only at political level but at all levels including the civil service, the army, police and even parastatals.


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Charles Rukuni
The Insider is a political and business bulletin about Zimbabwe, edited by Charles Rukuni. Founded in 1990, it was a printed 12-page subscription only newsletter until 2003 when Zimbabwe's hyper-inflation made it impossible to continue printing.


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