Zimbabwe

MDC in trouble as Zim nears political crossroads

2014-05-07 09:47
Morgan Tsvangirai, the main opposition leader in Zimbabwe. (File: AP)

Morgan Tsvangirai, the main opposition leader in Zimbabwe. (File: AP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Special Report

Harare - Bitter infighting within Zimbabwe's opposition risks fatally weakening President Robert Mugabe's political foes just as the sun has begun to set on his 33-year rule.

A lasting rift within the southern African country's battle-scarred Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) now seems inevitable.

Within a few rough days, a party faction headed by long-time MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai's erstwhile deputy Tendai Biti suspended him, and the veteran trade union leader promptly responded by expelling all involved in the move to cast him aside.

For 62-year-old Tsvangirai - who has led the party through intimidation and innumerable beatings and arrests since its founding 15 years ago - it was an unforgivable act of political fratricide.

He described the attempted party coup - which took place when both he and his deputy Thokozani Khupe were absent - as "illegal, unconstitutional, illegitimate and bogus".

The clash with Biti was a long time in the making, but the timing could hardly be worse.

Since 1999, Tsvangirai has lost three successive elections to Mugabe, whose hand rested firmly on the electoral scales each time.

The elderly leader was returned to power at the polls last year, but he is now 90.

Political disaster

Tsvangirai's supporters largely forgave him for the electoral defeats, but his detractors became foes when he led the MDC into a negotiated unity government with Mugabe, serving as prime minister from 2009 to 2013.

While the forced marriage helped pull Zimbabwe's crumbling economy out of free fall, prevented bloodshed and ushered in a new constitution that limits executive power, it was a political disaster for the MDC.

Mugabe, a consummate strategist, managed to reap the rewards of better government and a healthier economy while making Tsvangirai look marginal and even slightly comic.

After last year's election, Biti, the MDC's secretary general and a leading light of the party, led a group that privately pressed Tsvangirai to step down without success.

Biti and his supporters have long believed that the MDC must take a more robust approach to opposing Mugabe and his powerful Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (Zanu-PF).

They have made the forcible removal of Tsvangirai a matter of the party's survival.

"Tsvangirai has done his best in the past 15 years as opposition leader," Jacob Mafume, spokesperson for the Biti-led faction, told AFP. "He has stayed long in power and can no longer deliver."

But Tsvangirai still "seems to enjoy grassroots support" within the rump MDC, according to political analyst Dumisani Nkomo, predicting a lasting divide in the main opposition.

Succession battle

"It looks like a split is inevitable in the MDC. The various factions will suspend and expel each other and at the end we will have different formations," Nkomo said.

The MDC had already split once before, with violent consequences. In 2005 former secretary general Welshman Ncube led an internal rebellion to push out Tsvangirai.

Ncube's party subsequently drained a few precious votes from the MDC, although it remains a marginal force in Zimbabwean politics.

This time the split could be far more serious, just as the MDC's goal of creating a post-Mugabe Zimbabwe lies within reach now that the president has entered his 90s.

Mugabe has ruled the former Rhodesia first as prime minister than as president since bloodshed and talks brought an end to white minority rule and independence in 1980.

While Mugabe's longevity has infuriated his political foes, a Zimbabwe without him at the helm is coming into sharper focus. A succession battle is raging within his Zanu-PF party.

As things stand, if Mugabe dies in office, or is removed, Vice President Joice Mujuru will serve out the balance of his five-year term, ruling until 2018.

Mujuru takes a less antagonistic stance than Mugabe toward foreign investors, and her stance appears to have come to the fore in the current government, while her supporters won nine of 10 provinces in recent party elections.

Early congress

But she faces fierce competition from hard-line Justice Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa, who leads Zimbabwe's powerful intelligence and security forces.

If either emerges at the head of a still unified Zanu-PF they will be a formidable electoral force in 2018, particularly if the opposition vote is split further.

There could conceivably be three MDCs on the ballot papers, sharing somewhere in the region of 40 percent of the votes.

All the MDC factions will be using the time between now and 2018 elections to garner support.

The MDC faction led by Biti has hinted at forming a coalition with other opposition parties, while Tsvangirai has been instead inviting all opposition groups to join him to fight Zanu-PF.

Tsvangirai has already announced that his faction will hold an early congress this year in October.

Political infighting could yet achieve what Mugabe never fully managed - turning Zimbabwe's bold opposition into an electoral irrelevance.

- AFP

Read more on:    mdc  |  zanu-pf  |  emmerson mnangagwa  |  welshman ncube  |  morgan tsvangirai  |  joice mujuru  |  robert mugabe  |  thokozani khuphe  |  tendai biti  |  zimbabwe  |  southern africa
NEXT ON NEWS24X

SHARE:

Read News24’s Comments Policy

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
0 comments
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining
 

Inside News24

 
/Sport

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Magical Massinga

Spend 5 nights at the gorgeous Massinga Beach Lodge in Mozambique and only pay for 4 from R13 220 per person sharing. Includes return flights, accommodation, transfers and romantic turndown. Book now!

Kalahari.com - shop online today

Deal of the week!

20% off Afrikaans books, music and DVDs. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Save up to R1000 on Hisense smartphones!

View the large range of Hisense smartphones. Buy today and save up to R1000!

Hot gaming titles – available for pre-order!

Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare Day Zero Edition, Far Cry 4, Grand Theft Auto 5 and more. Pre-order now!

Get a free eBook

Buy 3 eBooks and get the cheapest FREE. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Bargain box – 60% off

Reduced prices, very limited stock. While stocks last. Hurry and shop now!

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

Horoscopes
Aquarius
Aquarius

Power and leadership are emphasized today. It is important to strategize and delegate well otherwise you may end up with too much...read more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.








Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.