There are growing worries within the MDC that the party is close to completely scuttling its electoral prospects in this year's crunch national elections – amid revelations that the camp loyal to under-fire vice president Thokozani Khupe may be planning to boot out of the party newly-installed leader, Nelson Chamisa.
This comes as Chamisa told the Daily News on Sunday yesterday that Khupe — who stands accused of playing truant, and is on notice in the party — had been given an extra three days to repent or face automatic expulsion from the country’s main opposition.
“We are distressed that this unnecessary infighting is continuing unabated, mainly involving a few people who feel that Khupe has been hard done.
“The real worry, apart from the threat of another split in the party, is that the elections are now so close and here we are fighting among ourselves for nothing really. We really miss (the late Morgan) Tsvangirai,” a senior party official said.
The party’s leadership squabble is deepening despite the popular Chamisa having been unanimously endorsed as presidential candidate in this year’s make-or-break elections by the MDC Alliance.
Apart from Chamisa’s MDC, the Alliance includes Tendai Biti’s Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Welshman Ncube’s MDC, Jacob Ngarivhume’s Transform Zimbabwe, Zanu Ndonga headed by Denford Masiyarira, and the Multi-Racial Christian Democrats which is led by Mathias Guchutu.
Biti and Ncube are former secretaries-general of the original and united MDC which was led by Tsvangirai — whose recent passing away ignited a damaging three-way leadership tussle within the MDC involving Chamisa, Khupe and Elias Mudzuri.
In the meantime, the MDC’s national council — which is the party’s highest decision-making body outside congress — has also endorsed Chamisa as the party’s acting president, although the gathering that made that decision is being contested by Khupe in the main, as well as Mudzuri.
Khupe, backed by party national chairperson Lovemore Moyo, organising secretary Abednigo Bhebhe and apparently also by suspended national spokesperson Obert Gutu, is steadfastly refusing to accept that Chamisa is the bona fide successor to Tsvangirai.
Yesterday, the faction that is loyal to her pooh-poohed the seven-day ultimatum that she was given by the party’s national council to make peace with Chamisa, instead saying it was him who was now facing the boot.
Contacted for a comment, Khupe flatly refused to do so — but Gutu, who is contesting his suspension as the party’s spokesperson, said emphatically that she was going nowhere.
“I am not aware of any moves to expel vice president Thokozani Khupe from the party. However, in the event that there are some people who are harbouring such evil intentions, then they will very soon be receiving a very rude shock of their lives.
“There are constitutional provisions that have to be rigorously followed … It’s not as easy as congregating in a bar and planning to expel certain cadres from the party. No!
“Khupe is a founder member of the MDC. She will not be easily pushed out of the party simply to satisfy the evil and self-destructing machinations of a few power-hungry and misguided political charlatans. It is those people who should be expelled from the party,” Gutu said, in apparent reference to Chamisa.
The seven-day ultimatum that was issued to Khupe by the national council lapsed on Friday, with the MDC vice president using Twitter to communicate her defiant position on the matter.
“I wrote a letter to the party’s Guardians 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 tweeted.
But Chamisa confirmed to the Daily News on Sunday yesterday that Khupe had been given an extra three days to repent or face automatic expulsion.
“She is being given the last chance and we are in Matabeleland for three days and we will use these three days to persuade her. If she fails (to repent), then she will have expelled herself,” Chamisa said.
Meanwhile, Khupe — who claims that she is the only person among the MDC’s three vice presidents who is recognised by the party’s constitution to lead the party — has set tough conditions for Chamisa, including him relinquishing his claim to the leadership of the party.
Last week, thugs unleashed an orgy violence at the party’s Bulawayo provincial offices where Khupe and other senior officials had converged for a supposed “private” meeting.
Both the Chamisa and the Khupe camps have denied any involvement in the violence which led to the arrest of 15 people, who have already appeared in court facing charges of public violence.
But Chamisa appears to have won the right to lead the divided party, with political analysts saying Khupe should take a cue from Mudzuri who appears to have accepted that the youthful former MDC organising secretary is now in an unassailable position.
Indeed, Mudzuri has not publicly contested Chamisa since the meeting of the national council and the subsequent consultative meeting of the party which was held in Harare — and which also endorsed Chamisa as Tsvangirai’s successor and the party’s presidential candidate in this year’s ballot.
Last month, Chamisa received a ringing endorsement from the MDC Alliance which emphatically said he would be its sole presidential candidate, and would thus square off against President Emmerson Mnangagwa in this year’s presidential elections which are due in less than five months time.
The watershed polls will be the first in the past two decades not to feature 94-year-old former president Robert Mugabe and the late Tsvangirai.
“Anyone who fails to see that we are done with the succession issue needs to see a witch doctor. Tsvangirai gave us Chamisa and that automatically means that he becomes the presidential candidate who will face Mnangagwa and his junta. It’s done.
“We are already on the campaign trail having been to Epworth, Mutare and Chitungwiza … and now we are heading to Chinhoyi. We are not going back. We are going for Mnangagwa … we will kick out the junta this time around.“We have a dynamic leader in Chamisa and we are brave and ready as a team,” Biti said then.