SHARP divisions have emerged in the opposition MDC over how to confront the ruling Zanu PF over the deteriorating economy and achieve meaningful political reforms before the 2023 elections.
Insiders say the party is smarting from the ruthless response by security agents crushing its planned protests against the government of President Emmerson Mnangagwa on August 16, which it accuses of political repression and mismanaging the economy.
While anger has mounted among Zimbabweans over triple-digit inflation, rolling power cuts, cash, fuel and medicines challenges, among others, the police banned the opposition protests, fired tear gas and used truncheons to disperse crowds.
The police action has left the opposition party searching for a palatable response.
“There is desire to get a new direction for the party because the leadership is obviously worried about the abductions, torture and assaults,” a well-placed source revealed.
“There is a need to balance between getting results and appearing (not) to be the same as the regime that we are fighting. However, others want an all-out confrontation.”
MDC-T vice-president Obert Gutu told Alpha Media Holdings radio and TV station HStv that senior members of Chamisa’s party were beginning to question the party’s leadership and strategy, and were now nudging him towards talks with Zanu PF and Mnangagwa.
Gutu backed his claims by producing private communication between himself and a senior official in the MDC, who also sits in the opposition party’s national executive.
“Senior party members in the MDC are beginning to question the strategy being employed in the party. Some want him (party leader Nelson Chamisa) to join POLAD [Political Actors Dialogue] because dialogue is the only way. They want him off the streets, but he (Chamisa) is power hungry,” he said.
The message, from the senior MDC official sent to Gutu, celebrated the crushing of the demonstrations, with the national executive member saying he has been advocating for talks, but was labelled a sell-out, and crowed that the recent failures of the demonstrations vindicated him.
“Slowly, we will win. The people in the party will realise the real issues,” part of the message read.
The late founding MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai used protests against former President Robert Mugabe, but failed to unseat him.
Party spokesperson Daniel Molokele denied that the party had fissures or Chamisa’s leadership was being questioned, describing the allegations as nonsense.
“Those are useless lies,” he said.
Gutu’s source, a national executive member (named) who was appointed by Chamisa, appears to be mobilising from within to push the MDC towards dialogue or oust the youthful leader.
Chamisa has refused to join Mnangagwa’s dialogue unless it was led by a neutral convener.
The MDC has, however, said the demonstrations were not a failure, but had unmasked the new dispensation as nothing more than a repressive regime with no respect for the rule of law.
A number of MDC activists and demonstrators were arrested during and after the Harare demonstrations, including the organising secretary Amos Chibaya.
Over six of its party members were allegedly abducted and tortured from the time the demonstrations were announced, courting international condemnation of government’s excesses.
Insiders said the MDC is particularly worried that it was not getting the ear of Sadc and Africa as it confronts Mnangagwa.
The region has stood solidly behind Mnangagwa and refused to entertain the legitimacy card being bandied forth by the MDC.