HARARE - Analysts have described the divisions in the MDC which saw rebels “suspending” party leader Morgan Tsvangirai and other members of the top hierarchy on Saturday as a game where there were no winners or losers.
Political analysts had earlier predicted the inevitable split of the 15-year-old movement which has so far presented President Robert Mugabe and Zanu PF with the stiffest challenge since independence in 1980 — following the dissent among party members after it failed to win the July 31 harmonised elections last year.
The MDC, formed in 1999 by labour and civic groups to end Zanu PF rule, has been rocked by serious divisions for a while but infighting escalated when expelled deputy treasurer-general Elton Mangoma penned a strongly worded letter asking Tsvangirai to step down as party president.
In his letter, the former energy minister cited the MDC leader’s failure to bring about change after three elections. He also said Tsvangirai’s personal life and conduct had soiled the image of the party.
Mangoma later claimed to have been physically attacked at the party’s offices at Harvest House. He then accused Tsvangirai of setting thugs on him and the case is now before the courts.
Biti, who has always been rumoured to be spearheading a campaign to oust the former trade union boss also told delegates at a meeting convened by Sapes Trust recently that the MDC lost the election because Zanu PF had a superior message.
The party eventually suspended and expelled Mangoma for what they termed throwing the party into disrepute by speaking to the media over contents of his letter.
University of Zimbabwe political science lecturer Eldred Masunungure told the Daily News that the reversal of expulsions by the rebels was likely to be replicated by Tsvangirai who would in turn suspend those who attended the Saturday meeting.
“What we are seeing now are two structures that are co-existing but not happily,” Masunungure said adding that a split was inevitable.
He, however, said there was uncertainty on which faction would triumph.
“There are quantitative differences in this instance the Tsvangirai faction is stronger in this regard but weaker in strategic skills. Biti is a strategist but does not have the numbers,” Masunungure said.
He added: “In a party, you need both quality and quantity. Biti needs to mobilise the grassroots to make that faction a viable entity.”
Maxwell Saungweme said the current development marked the beginning of a long battle for leadership of the party and that there was likely to be more violence as they tried to push each other out.
He said there would be protracted legal battles as both sides question procedures and the legality around the suspensions and expulsions of their supporters.
“It’s a party in chaos. Both sides will accuse each other of being allies with Zanu PF as both claim to hold legitimate interests of the party. The real issue here is that the party is split. But due to issues to do with party’s resources and the party’s MPs in the rival sides, both will selfishly claim to be the bona fide group.
“Where do the people, come in all this? Both sides are not differing on material issues of proffering alterative policies to the failing Zanu PF government. They are differing for the sake of power.”
“No-one is really thinking of the many people who died for the MDC — their lives were lost in vain. A disorganised and chaotic MDC like this is a big blessing for Zanu PF,” said Saungweme.
Political science lecturer at Mulungisi University, Zambia, Shakespeare Hamauswa concurred with Saungweme, adding that the battle lines had been drawn from a complex legal perspective and Machiavellian political tactics.
Hamauswa said the biggest winner in the split would be Zanu PF which no doubt would use it to its own advantage.
“The de facto faction will take the lead but will need the backing of the courts. Zimbabwean courts I guess will uphold Tsvangirai’s suspension for the very obvious reasons. But Harvest House will likely be infested with anti-rebels,” he said.
But Masunungure said it was too early to determine which side had a competitive advantage over the other. He however, noted that Biti enjoyed the advantage of attracting funding which he said mattered in the next election.