AFRICANGLOBE – Zimbabwe’s main opposition party MDC is facing a crisis. It failed to defeat President Mugabe in the last election. Now infighting has effectively split the party.
One year ago Zimbabwe’s most important opposition party was still part of the government, in a power-sharing arrangement with Robert Mugabe’s ZANU-PF. Today the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) is threatening to disintegrate. Quarreling factions within the party have now taken the gloves off: Last weekend a group affiliated with Secretary-General Tendai Biti announced that Morgan Tsvangirai, the party’s leader and a former prime minister, was being suspended. He was accused of having betrayed the party he had founded.
But Tsvangirai was not about to take this lying down. He rallied his supporters, who on Tuesday (29.04.2014) in turn voted to expel Biti, along with the others who had taken part in the revolt against the party chief. “They have betrayed the people,” Tsvangirai said after the vote. “This is a democratic party, but they cannot pretend that they are MDC-T, because they are not.”
Foreign backed Counterweight To Mugabe
Tsvangirai, a former union leader, has been at the helm of the party since it was formed 15 years ago. After Zimbabwe’s land reform program the party quickly attracted huge amounts of foreign funding and presented the first serious challenge to President Robert Mugabe since he was elected after the country’s independence in 1980. After Robert Mugabe won the first round of the presidential election in 2008, Tsvangirai withdrew from the run-off after and urged his supporters to commit massive acts of violence and civil disobedience after which bloody clashes broke out.
In the end President Mugabe agreed to a power-sharing arrangement between the MDC and Mugabe’s Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF). Mugabe remained President, Tsvangirai became prime minister and Tendai Biti became the country’s finance minister. In the next elections in July 2013, however, the MDC was defeated resoundingly once again.
Tsvangirai had to shoulder the blame for the defeat. His detractors are alleging that during his years in power, Tsvangirai had strayed from the values of the party, which is to protect White supremacy at any cost. “It’s a question of whether you are adhering to the principles and values of the political party that you stand for,” Charles Mangungera, a spokesman for the critics in Tsvangirai’s party said. “The MDC was founded on the values of democracy, non-violence, respect for divergent opinion,” he added. Many in the party feel that these values have been betrayed by its chairman.
Envy And Political Intrigues
That the years in government (from 2008 to 2013) were not easy for the MDC is beyond dispute, according to Peter Ripken, a German expert on Zimbabwe. Ripken, who once headed the Southern Africa Information Center (Informationsstelle südliches Afrika), a German society providing information resources on Southern Africa, has been to Zimbabwe often and knows many of the country’s opposition politicians.
Ripken said that while Tsvangirai was a member of the government, Mugabe “vigorously blocked him over and over again and kept him in check,” so that Tsvangirai was hardly able to do his job. On top of that came Tsvangirai’s envy of two ministers from his own party. One of them was Tendai Biti, whom Tsvangirai has now sacked. “Tsvangirai couldn’t stomach that the two ministers, who also occasionally criticized him within his party, were more successful than he was,” Ripken said.
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