Infighting has erupted in the MDC-T led by Thokozani Khupe a few months after the faction found new life following a Supreme Court ruling that reinstated the former deputy prime minister as leader of the party founded by Morgan Tsvangirai.
Khupe’s party is preparing for its July 31 congress where a substantive leader for the party will be elected.
The former Makokoba MP is likely to face acting secretary-general Douglas Mwonzora, acting chairman Morgen Komichi, former Harare mayor Elias Mudzuri and ex-legislator Gift Chimanikire in the contest for the party’s top leadership position.
Three camps have since emerged in the party with two supporting either Mwonzora or Khupe for the presidency while another wants MDC Alliance leader Nelson Chamisa to be roped in.
Khupe and Mwonzora, have however, emerged as the major contenders so far.
The intense jockeying has divided the party and the divisions came to the fore recently when Khupe and Mwonzora clashed over the recall of MDC Alliance senators.
Khupe last week recalled eight MDC Alliance senators for refusing to ditch Chamisa, bringing the number of legislators that have lost their seats due to the infighting to 21.
A few days later Mwonzora wrote to the party’s national council accusing it of providing him with false information that led to the recalling of Matabeleland North senator Phyllis Ndlovu.
He indicated that he would be reversing the recall.
“The national standing committee ordered me to file a notice of recall of various members of Senate,” Mwonzora said in the letter obtained by The Standard.
“I duly submitted the list to the Senate.
“Unfortunately regarding senator Phyllis Ndlovu there was certain information that was not brought to my attention.
“A crucial procedure had been omitted regarding her recall.”
Mwonzora’s backers now accuse Khupe of using the recalls to settle personal scores.
They cited the expulsion of Bulawayo senator Gideon Shoko, who has a child with Khupe, and former proportional representation MP Thabita Khumalo.
Khupe, Shoko and Khumalo are said to have personal differences that started during their time at the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions.
“Khupe is wreaking havoc in Matabeleland and there is no stopping her, the vengeance is a ruthless objective, which has left Mwonzora in a Catch-22 situation,” said a source.
“Either way, he is damned. If he recalls more legislators, his image is soiled; and if he refuses to act on Khupe’s orders, he might face disciplinary action.”
Khupe has also positioned her allies in strategic positions to checkmate Mwonzora, the insiders said.
The former deputy prime minister brought in Khaliphani Phugeni as the party’s deputy spokesperson, while her long-time ally Chief Ndlovu was coopted into the standing committee.
“Khupe is replacing people who remained with the party with those she was with when she formed a new party,” said a senior MDC-T official.
“Her allies have been given top positions in the party.
“It is cruel and careless.”
Mwonzora’s supporters, including one Fungai Chiposi who lost in MDC Alliance primary elections for a Harare council seat, have been openly campaigning for him on social media for the party’s presidency.
The Manicaland senator has declared his interest in the top position.
“It is up to the delegates who are supposed to do a nomination, then after that a normal election,” Mwonzora said.
“If they are to give me honour, I will be able to serve in that office, it is because I have always been fighting for democracy.”
Abedingo Bhebhe, the party’s organising secretary, warned that the recalling of legislators could derail the MDC-T congress.
Bhebhe told the latest MDC-T standing committee meeting that over 2 000 delegates eligible to vote at the congress were backing Chamisa.
He said the ongoing purges could make it difficult for the congress to get a quorum.
It is believed that some of Khupe’s backers now even believe that they are better off working with Chamisa than Mwonzora, whom they accuse of using Machiavellian tactics to position himself ahead of the congress.
The group is said to be pushing for dialogue with the MDC Alliance leader, who has so far refused to take part in the MDC-T processes.
MDC-T claims there are 1 050 delegates aligned to Chamisa who are plotting to disrupt the congress and plans are afoot to block them from attending the event.
Khupe’s backers accuse Mwonzora of recruiting 15 people that are stationed at Harvest House to allegedly manipulate records for delegates that will vote at the congress.
“We have about 15 men in the building and most of them have never gone out since we took over our headquarters,” a senior party official claimed.
“There was an incident recently when one of our senior officials walked into a room where two of the unidentified men panicked and immediately shut down their machines, hiding whatever they were working on.”
The official added: “This has raised suspicions within the party about the real identity of these men.
“The strongest suspicion is that there is someone controlling them.”
Phugeni, however, said he was not aware of the 15 people or their mission at the party headquarters.
“The accusation is grave if it is to be proven,” he said.
“There are a lot of young people doing a lot of security work there, as you know, because of the contestations.
“The court has since resolved that matter, but you have to know that a lot of young people are strategically stationed there.”
Khupe’s group was accused of seizing the party headquarters in Harare with the help of the military last month.
Phungeni also refuted allegations of divisions between Khupe and Mwonzora triggered by the recalling of MDC Alliance legislators.
“The party does the recalls, not individuals, and, therefore, it is unfair and untrue that the acting president is targeting anyone,” he said.
“The other issue of bringing our children into our political discourse is a new low, which I wouldn’t dignify with a comment,” Phugeni added, referring to Shoko and Khupe.
He said there were people that were trying to tarnish Mwonzora’s image by potraying him as a violent and power-hungry politician.
Fadzayi Mahere, the MDC Alliance spokesperson, said her party had nothing to do with the alleged divisions in Khupe’s faction.
“The recalls of MDC Alliance senators, proportional representation legislators, constituency MPs and councillors are unlawful, irregular and criminal,” Mahere said.
“It is a desperate act of showboating by Zanu PF and Mwonzora designed to distract attention from the national crisis and entrench a one-party state.
“It has nothing to do with improving the lives of the people and everything to do with their personal political ambitions.
“The MDC Alliance remains focused on fighting for better livelihoods for Zimbabweans who are suffering at the hands of a looting, corrupt government.”
Chamisa mantains that Khupe and Mwonzora are backed by Zanu PF to destabilise the opposition, an accusation the two have dismissed as untrue.