THERE has been a tepid response to the return of former MDC founders to the mainstream opposition party led by Morgan Tsvangirai, with some describing it as an insignificant development as it does not solve the issues of succession and ignores the real issues which lie at the root of the current internal strife.
By Wongai Zhangazha
Analysts who spoke to the Zimbabwe Independent this week said the coming back of MDC-99 leader Job Sikhala to the MDC-T, along with top officials from the MDC formation led by Welshman Ncube, namely Joubert Mudzumwe, Edward Mkhosi and Siyabonga Malandu, was nothing more than “replacement politics”.
MDC-T spokesperson Douglas Mwonzora was quoted as saying 39 MDC leaders from Ncube’s party have expressed interest in rejoining the party.
According to sources, Sikhala is said to have demanded US$30 000 from the “renewal team” led by suspended MDC-T deputy treasurer-general Elton Mangoma, for him not to join the Tsvangirai faction. Mangoma, who belong to the MDC-T faction led by secretary-general Tendai Biti, was suspended for writing a letter to Tsvangirai in January urging him to step down in the interest of leadership renewal, after the party’s drubbing by Zanu PF at last year’s general elections.
However, the “renewal team” is said to have told Sikhala they did not have that kind of money.
Contacted for comment, Sikhala denied demanding money from the Biti camp, describing the allegations as “hogwash”.
“I have received endless messages from these people (renewal team) asking me to join them. My Facebook page is full of those messages. They also called me for talks. I spoke to both parties (Tsvangirai and renewal team), but at the end of the day I put national interest first and joined Tsvangirai.
“I don’t know where this rumour that I demanded US$30 000 is coming from. Tsvangirai made more serious efforts (to persuade me). He was prepared to work with me through public statements and even visited me at my house after the Chitungwiza rally. These people (renewal team) must exclude me from their personal fights. What they are doing are just acts of desperation.”
Other members who have rejoined the MDC-T are said to have been promised influential positions at an early congress that could come in 2015 instead of the scheduled 2016.
Mangoma’s suspension was followed by the passing of a vote of no confidence against Harare provincial chairperson Paul Madzore, secretary Willias Madzimure and provincial organising secretary Tichaona Munyanyi, who are suspected to be advocating leadership renewal in the party as fears heighten the MDC-T is headed for another split.
Observers this week said the return of the former leaders to MDC-T would have been a significant development were it not occurring within the context of raging factionalism and chaos within the party.
“This is replacement politics where, in anticipating the exit of senior members, the MDC president seeks to replace them with those he may be convinced will remain loyal to him. This is on the basis of the fact that he has demonstrated benevolence in allowing them a second lease of life in his party,” said a political analyst.
“However, it does not solve the issues of succession, but keeps them simmering in relation to positions that may become vacant as some are expected to exit the leadership of the party.”
University of Western Cape lecturer Professor Brian Raftopoulos said the return of former MDC members did not make much difference to the problems dogging the party.
Raftopoulos said: “There are huge problems in the MDC that date back to the original split of 2005 (over participation in senate elections that year). Leaders adding more members into the party won’t bring any value. There are bigger problems in the party that the MDC-T needs to look at; that is the structures, coming up with new strategies focusing on the change in the Zimbabwe situation and conditions of work.”
However, political analyst Ernest Mudzengi feels the former MDC-T members would bring value to the party depending on how the MDC-T leadership is prepared to make them useful.
“It depends on how the top leaders in the party are prepared to utilise these guys to bring about democratic change,” Mudzengi said. “If the MDC-T leadership is not open to democratic and diverse opinions, these guys will not be useful at all.”