MDC Alliance councillors yesterday snubbed MDC-T interim leader Thokozani Khupe, with 14 out of 71 councillors from Greater Harare attending her party meeting at Morgan Richard Tsvangirai House.
Khupe’s team tried to inflate the attendance figures, with two officials, however, giving different figures.
Acting party spokesperson Khalipani Phugeni said 15 councillors attended the meeting, but Epworth Local Board chairperson Batanai Masunda claimed 20 were in attendance, while sources insisted only 14 councillors turned up.
“It was a meeting called by the acting president to deal with several issues as you have read in the media of cases of corruption within local authorities, among other issues. She was reading the riot act and warning those involved in corruption,” Phugeni said.
An attendance register seen by NewsDay Weekender showed that 10 out of 45 Harare councillors attended while Chitungwiza only had two out of 21, while Epworth also had two out of a possible five city fathers.
The opposition was thrown into turmoil after a controversial Supreme Court “moot” ruling of March 30 declared Khupe the interim leader of the MDC-T, saying Nelson Chamisa’s appointment as party vice-president was done unprocedurally.
Since then, Khupe has gone on a warpath recalling MDC Alliance legislators from Parliament and taking over party offices claiming she was the bona fide party leader. This is despite the fact that her MDC-T party and Chamisa’s MDC Alliance contested the 2018 presidential elections as separate entities.
Khupe was rejected by Zimbabweans in 2018 elections. She performed dismally in the presidential election in which she polled 45 000 votes only. Her party, MDC-T, failed to win even a single local government seat.
Commenting on the snub, MDC Alliance secretary for presidential affairs Jameson Timba said the move confirmed that the rival camp had no basis to its claim of legitimacy without numbers.
“Khupe and Douglas Mwonzora (MDC-T interim secretary-general) are learning very fast that political power and legitimacy are people rather than court-driven,” Timba said.
“Courts do not bestow political legitimacy. They thought that by commandeering the whole State machinery with threats of recall against the MDC Alliance deployees they would also commandeer people’s hearts.”
MDC Alliance deputy secretary for local government, Jacob Mafume, said party councillors who have defected to Khupe’s camp would be penalised.
Khupe allegedly received funding from Zanu PF to destabilise the MDC Alliance and oil her party activities including the legal battles towards the 2018 general elections.
Former party spokesperson Linda Masarira, said during the time she was at the helm of the party, she got to discover that Zanu PF was funding activities of the MDC-T through Khupe, who had failed to win the leadership battle in the MDC.
“We were receiving money from Zanu PF. I don’t know who was the direct contact person who was bringing the money, but we got funding for the party from Zanu PF,” she alleged.
“We were not a real opposition, this is why I took a picture of myself wearing Zanu PF regalia in Zambia and posted it on social media because I wanted to tell a story.”
Masarira was fired by the party for wearing regalia of the ruling Zanu PF party ahead of that of her own party at a time Khupe was leading other opposition entities at the Political Actors Dialogue (Polad).
“I just wanted to show people that we are being forced to fight over nothing. Zanu PF was funding the MDC-T and I asked questions. They did not want the questions I asked. But you can see from the events (Polad) that are happening now, that they were just a project,” Masarira said.
Insiders confirmed that Khupe received money from Zanu PF for campaign material, fuel and legal fees for court cases against Nelson Chamisa’s MDC in a grand scheme to give the ruling party an upperhand in the elections.
Meanwhile, a United States public relations firm hired by Mnangagwa’s government to repair its image in Washington engaged in intense lobbying to project MDC-T president Thokozani Khupe as the legitimate leader of Zimbabwe’s opposition, documents seen by ZimLive reveal.
The campaign began last September, shortly after New York-based Mercury Public Affairs LLC began working for Zimbabwe’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Trade as a subcontractor to Mercury International UK.
Mercury was planning a trip by Khupe, who was due to lead a delegation of the Political Actors Dialogue (POLAD) to the United States from March 25 to March 27 this year, but the trip was cancelled following the outbreak of the coronavirus.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa set up POLAD to placate his rivals after claiming a disputed election win in July 2018, but the outfit has been boycotted by his main rival Nelson Chamisa of the MDC Alliance, who says the Zanu PF leader is illegitimate. In response, Mnangagwa has been accused of using the judiciary and security services to undermine Chamisa, and also weaken the MDC Alliance by diverting state funding due to it and giving it to the 56-year-old Khupe.