Thokozani Khupe yesterday convened the first national council meeting of a faction of the mainstream MDC where top officials clashed on a number of issues, including plans to recall more Nelson Chamisa loyalists from Parliament.
Opposition politics was thrown into turmoil last week when Khupe’s ally Douglas Mwonzora initiated the recall of four MDC Alliance legislators from Parliament.
Following a Supreme Court judgement handed down in April, where Khupe was declared the interim leader of the MDC ahead of Chamisa, who has been leading the party since the death of its founding leader Morgan Tsvangirai in 2018, a fight for control of the party has been raging.
Mwonzora, Morgen Komichi and Elias Mudzuri are some of the senior officials who immediately shifted base to Khupe’s camp and yesterday’s virtual meeting was meant to strategise after a tumultuous week.
Leaked audio recordings of the meeting and interviews with some of the officials, however, revealed that it was a stormy affair with Khupe and Mwonzora allegedly trying to outwit each other.
Khupe opened the meeting that had 65 members by 2:30pm by urging unity in the party and advised fence-sitters to join her camp following the Supreme Court ruling.
“Let us remain solid like a rock until we arrive at our destination,” Khupe says in the recording obtained by The Standard.
“Our destination right now is peace, unity and prosperity.
“Unity is the greatest weapon towards stability; we want political stability in the party and in the country so that Zimbabwe once more becomes the breadbasket of the region.”
There was no unity in the meeting, however, after one of Khupe’s allies Abedinico Bhebhe pulled out after hardliners in the faction allegedly pushed for the recall of more MDC Alliance legislators.
Bhebhe, the national organising secretary from MDC 2014 structures, is said to favour reconciliation between Khupe and Chamisa.
At yesterday’s meeting conducted through the WhatsApp platform, the former Nkayi South MP queried why Chamisa and other MDC Alliance members were not invited as they were part of the 2014 structures that were legitimised by the Supreme Court ruling.
Mwonzora’s backers said in terms of the party’s constitution, the MDC Alliance members were no longer part of the organisation as they had violated its rules.
Bhebhe exited the meeting after his contribution was rejected. He refused to comment on the incident.
“I am not ready to give a comment on the matter at the moment,” Bhebhe said. “I will grant a full interview when I am ready to talk.”
Three-quarters of the provinces that participated in the meeting were in favour of the recall of more legislators.
At the time the meeting ended, only a handful of people were left.
Prior to the meeting, Khupe and Mwonzora are said to have clashed over the recalling of legislators after the secretary-general used last week’s process to recall his foes in the party Chalton Hwende and Prosper Mutseyami.
Mwonzora is now said to be reluctant to support Khupe’s bid to recall 30 proportional representation legislators to create space for her own allies in the legislature.
“Khupe will possibly go it alone and recall the MPs herself next week,” said an insider who was part of yesterday’s meeting.
The source said Khupe wants to be sworn as an MP as soon as possible so that she assumes the position of leader of the opposition in the National Assembly.
“Mwonzora does not want to recall the MPs because he wants to use them in his bid to win the presidency,” said the source.
“He has no supporters in the MDC-T and hopes to use the carrot-and-stick approach on those MPs fearing recall on his way to the presidency.
“Khupe is watching him closely. She realised that and wanted to use (yesterday’s) council meeting to force for resolution to recall them so that the cunning Mwonzora will not go to court over the issue.”
There is growing suspicion in the MDC Alliance that the Khupe-Mwonzora clique will connive with Zanu PF to suspend the holding of by-elections so that the faction handpicks its supporters to replace recalled MPs.
Mwonzora and Khupe are said to be now at loggerheads because they both want to take over as leaders of the party.
Komichi and Mudzuri are also said to be interested in the position.
Meanwhile, Khupe has been ditched by her long-time aide Witness Dube, who has thrown his weight behind Mwonzora.
“Dube is supporting Mwonzora because he believes he is the better candidate, has better leadership skills and stands a better chance against Zanu PF, but he has received a backlash and is now facing threats of violence from those in Bulawayo, who feel he is betraying his former boss and the Matabeleland region,” said the source.
Dube has been involved in heated exchanges on social media platforms with one of Khupe’s backers Chief Ndlovu over his decision to support Mwonzora ahead of his former boss.
Ndlovu is said to be a wealthy businessman based in South Africa.
Dube admitted that he was backing Mwonzora and that his decision had angered Khupe’s camp.
“I think from the people that are throwing their hats into the ring Mwonzora has a better skills set, he is more tolerant and shrewd,” Dube said.
“I can’t be called a se_xist and a sellout for my choice.
“I served Khupe for 10 years and I think this sense of entitlement should just not be part of our politics.
“We need a leadership that can unite the party and allow us to move on.”
Mwonzora says he does not harbour presidential ambitions, but insiders in his faction say he has been canvassing for support across the provinces.
Former MDC-T vice-president Obert Gutu yesterday said there was need for Khupe and Chamisa to find each other.
“I think there is need to have a boardroom meeting and agreement on the way forward because if that does not happen, I don’t see anyone who loses at the congress taking it well,” Gutu said.
“Some political careers might end, we are watching from the terraces.”
Gutu said he does not see Khupe winning the presidency outside an agreement to hand over the post to her.
“I don’t see them compromising and coming to the table for talks, but if that does not happen, the MDC, as we know it, will cease to exist as a major political party,” he said.
“But if (Zimbabwe’s first army commander) Solomon Mujuru and (former Rhodesian army commander) General Peter Walls could sit down and talk and share a cup of tea with the animosity that existed between them, we can’t say never.”
President Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa has been accused by the MDC Alliance of using Khupe and Mwonzora to destroy the country’s main opposition party.
— The Standard