Time is running out for MDC vice president Thokozani Khupe to build bridges with the party’s new leader, Nelson Chamisa, with whom she is fighting a terminal turf war.
The MDC’s national council gave Khupe – one of the founding members of the labour-backed party – a seven-day ultimatum last week to smoke a peace pipe with Chamisa or ship out.
This was after the party’s highest decision-making organ in between congresses resolved to endorse Chamisa, who turned 40 years last month, as the party’s substantive president mid last week.
Today is the last day before Khupe’s fate is sealed.
So far, there is no sign that Khupe will give in as she insists that she is the only legitimate leader of the MDC, having been elected vice president at the party’s congress in 2006.
Chamisa, along with Elias Mudzuri, were appointed vice presidents by Morgan Tsvangirai (now late) in July 2016 in what became the genesis of the strained relations between the MDC founding president and his second in command.
Although Khupe could not be reached for comment yesterday, her spokesperson Witness Dube told the Daily News that her boss will not comply with the national council’s decision.
“To say we are complying is rather too strong a word. We are trying our best to make the MDC-T work as a unit. That’s all,” he said.
In the aftermath of the ultimatum, Khupe has been on a frenzied tweeting spree, rubbishing Chamisa’s endorsement.
About 24 hours after she was served with the order for compliance with party decisions, she tweeted:
“It is regrettable and very revealing that while the Guardian Council leadership is yet ceased with sensitive matters in the party, some take pleasure in bullish threats, ultimatums and suspensions. For the record, I have always been acting president of MDC-T in the absence of the late president Tsvangirai since 2006, up until the late president left Zimbabwe on what was to be his last trip to South Africa in January 2018, when he left Hon Mudzuri as acting president.”
In terms of the MDC constitution, the Guardian Council acts as the party’s advisory board.
It is chaired by MDC Senator James Makore.
Career politician and veteran trade unionist, Cephas Makuyana, who once served as Senator, is also a member of the Guardian Council.
Its role is to offer advice and wisdom to the national leadership of the party, including the national executive and the national council.
It also performs and/or carry out any such functions which the national council may from time to time delegate to it, which may include investigations, arbitration and reconciliation in disputes within the party structures and/or among members.
On Friday last week, Khupe had another tweet saying: “This means that by all manner of calculations, when he passed away, I had not been away from party business for eight months as widely claimed.”
“I last saw president Tsvangirai alive on the 28th of January 2018. I made an effort to resolve issues in the MDC-T by going in person to meet and share notes with Hon Chamisa at his law chambers on the 13th of February 2018, a day before president Tsvangirai passed on,” she said.
But her twitter followers took her to task, some suggesting the need to engage arbitrators in order to solve the issue.
“How do you address allegations of insubordination, absconding meetings, fanning factionalism. With all due respect @DrThoko_Khupe can you seek some mediation and resolve this through internal party structures, have you tried these,” wrote one Brighton Kunaka.
She responded by saying she had written to the MDC’s Guardians Council, asking for their intervention in the impasse but that effort has so far been frustrated by Chamisa.
“I personally went to Hon Chamisa’s Law Chambers on the 13th of February 2018. I wrote a letter to the party’s Guardian Council for them to intervene in terms of our constitution. They are the internal arbiters and are seized with this matter even as ultimatums are being issued,” she wrote in response.
Not to be outdone, Chamisa wadded into the debate and, re-tweeting Khupe’s posts, he wrote: “That ain’t smart Dr. You refused to meet MRT (Tsvangirai’s full initials) in Harare saying it wasn’t safe for you but there you were, in Chamisa chambers.”
He added: “Khupe is just stubborn; it’s all about positioning herself without the people at heart. Greedy and opportunist she is, I can say!”
Khupe responded angrily and accused Chamisa of employing violence and bullying tactics to win power.
“A comment yet more revealing of the characters that support bullish political tactics. With all due respect Mr, I may be a woman, but I am not easily fazed by such. Very resolute and on principle, very unflinching! CONSTITUTIONALISM & DEMOCRACY are not a respecter of any person,” she responded.
The bad blood between Khupe and Chamisa started in 2016 when Tsvangirai elevated the Kuwadzana West legislator to the position of vice president.
Since then, the crafty legislator, nicknamed The Cobra after the menacing serpent, has worked his way to the leadership of the party, effectively dealing Khupe a body blow.
Their relationship soured even more last month when Khupe had to take refuge in a hut during Tsvangirai’s funeral to escape the wrath of MDC thugs who were baying for her blood before she was rescued by sympathisers.