Zimbabwe: How the opposition MDC-T imploded

Zimbabwe: How the opposition MDC-T imploded
  • PublishedJune 25, 2014

It would seem that losing the July 2013 general elections did much harm to the once- formidable opposition MDC-T in Zimbabwe, now split between secretary general Tendai Biti and its leader Morgan Tsvangirai. From Harare, Tichaona Zindoga examines the disintegration of President Robert Mugabe’s foes.

Since its formation in 1999, capped with a close victory in the 2008 elections, Morgan Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change (MDC-T) has given President Robert Mugabe’s ruling  Zanu-PF party  some torrid times, despite the fact that the opposition was walloped in last year’s elections, managing 49 out of 210 elected seats compared to Zanu-PF’s 160, and the fact that Tsvangirai won 31% of the vote compared to incumbent President Robert Mugabe’s 61%. 

The results opened a season of discontent for Tsvangirai with senior members of the party calling for the party leader to step down. It started in September when Treasurer General Roy Bennett, a vital cog to the donor community in and out of Zimbabwe, questioned Tsvangirai’s continuing stay at the helm of the party after successive losses.

Bennett wrote on his social media site: “Mr Tsvangirai has served two terms and is nearly completing a third. Deep introspection needs to be undertaken by our national collective leadership, not for purposes of looking for scapegoats, but for our party to reinvigorate its leadership with a leadership which reflects the will of our people.”

The statement sent tongues wagging within the party but it was followed by another damning assessment by Ian Kay, another cog in the party.

“This is like a soccer team. If the coach continues losing, there is need for the technical board to sit down and deal with the issue,” Kay was quoted as saying in an interview with a daily.

He added: “There is need to plan ahead before the ship sinks, and if there is need to change the coach, then let it be. Or should I say it is like a rusty bolt? There is need for it to be removed and replaced with a new one rather than leave it like that.”

That was becoming too much and the handiest scapegoat was to point at the said men’s colour of skin.

Respected member and former Harare Mayor Elias Mudzuri outlined in a newspaper in November what needed to be done to the ailing party.

He presented five scenarios. Scenario Four was the most poignant. He wrote: “Morgan Tsvangirai is the godfather of the party. He steps down ceremoniously and a new leader is elected. He becomes a ‘Mandela’ of the party. Structures are re-engineered including the party constitution which will limit the future party president to two terms only.”

But the plot began to thicken. It was Deputy Treasurer General Elton Mangoma’s letter to Tsvangirai calling for “leadership renewal” in January that set off the real fight – literally and figuratively – in the MDC.

Mangoma wrote: “Leadership renewal is an inexorable truth that the party will have to confront lest it is plagued by the same succession conundrum affecting Zanu-PF. Since the outcome of the election, calls for leadership renewal have been made in different quotas and at different platforms.

“It is my unbending resolve that leadership renewal, at this juncture, could be the only avenue to restoring the credibility of the party lest it risk being confined to history. At a time when confidence is plummeting, there is need for the MDC to freshen up, create fresh impetus and rally its troops to remain united and focused.”

Tsvangirai’s supporters bashed Mangoma and also assaulted and denounced all those who were perceived to be in the so-called MDC-Renewal Team.

There followed suspensions and expulsions as Tsvangirai purged those opposed to him, including those in party structures across the country.

Written By
New African

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