Zimbabwe’s Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai is hesitant to rebuke Movement for Democratic Change (MDC-T) officials who tore into pieces his leadership credentials in secret meetings with United States diplomats based in Harare for fear of creating damaging fissures within the 12-year-old movement.
WikiLeaks, an international non-profit organisation that publishes submissions of private, secret, and classified media from anonymous news sources, news leaks and whistleblowers, made startling revelations recently that several high-ranking officials of the MDC-T mocked the premier in separate interactions with American diplomats.
They include the party’s influential secretary-general, Tendai Biti; treasurer, Roy Bennett; Nelson Chamisa, the party’s national organising secretary and Obert Gutu, the party’s spokesperson for Harare province.
The leaks ploughed into Tsvangirai’s personality, presenting him as a “weak” and “indecisive leader” who requires massive hand holding.
While the diplomatic cables confirmed what Tsvangirai’s rivals have maintained all along, it is the stabbing in the back by his top lieutenants that the MDC-T leader finds a bitter pill to swallow.
Since the startling disclosures, Prime Minister Tsvan-girai has been under pressure from those who have so far emerged untainted by the leaks to cull those implicated by the cables.
Members of Tsvangirai’s so-called kitchen cabinet, who have remained the MDC-T leader’s eyes and ears despite losing in party elections, have drawn out daggers against the perceived sell-outs.
In fact, the kitchen cabinet, which consists of Tsvangirai’s close friends and confidantes, is hoping to emerge stronger in the event that the former trade unionist weeds out those found to have denigrated his leadership.
Grassroots supporters within the party also want the MDC-T leader to crack the whip.
Hhowever, we can reveal that the premier is dithering over the course of action to take against those who cast aspersions about his leadership, as it emerged that his advisors are urging him to let sleeping dogs lie in order to keep the party united ahead of crucial polls.
Tsvangirai’s advisors, according to insiders, have told the MDC-T leader to remain focussed on the next elections to be held next year or in 2013 and not to be distracted by the WikiLeaks cables.
But it is the fear of disintegrating the party that emerged from a violent elective congress in April this year, which insiders claim has seen Tsvangirai being dissuaded from taking drastic action against the back-stabbers in his midst.
Bennett, now domiciled in South Africa after self-imposed exile, told the Americans that Tsvangirai was a weak political operator who “does what the last person tells him to do”, and lacked strategic direction for the MDC-T, according to the cable leaks.
Another cable, dated June 30 2009, quotes Biti as having said the MDC-T leader lacked “a strategic plan for the MDC in government” and that he owed some of his brilliant presentations or posturing to prior preparations by party officials.
Chamisa is alleged to have told the Americans that Tsvangirai preferred advice from foreigners while ignoring the counsel of elected MDC-T officials.
Gutu, the Deputy Minister of Justice and Legal Affairs, is quoted questioning Tsvangirai’s leadership credentials during a meeting he held with US ambassador to Zimbabwe, Charles Ray, in January last year.
WikiLeaks has only released a fraction of what it has on Zimbabwe. More disclosures on the goings-on within Tsvangirai’s party could be in the offing.
Douglas Mwonzora, the MDC-T spokesperson, confirmed that the party was not contemplating any action against anyone following the WikiLeaks disclosures.
“We have treated the information coming from the media, especially the State media, as suspect and the usual lies and propaganda meant to tarnish the MDC,” said Mwonzora.
“The position of the MDC is that the MDC is not doing anything as it is not relying on this information from WikiLeaks. The ministers quoted in these articles have since issued statements denying the alleged statements. Also our president (Tsvangirai) is not blindly retributive and vindictive,” he added.
Analysts said the disclosures showed all was not well within the MDC-T top brass.
Charles Mangongera, a political analyst, said Tsvangirai was probably asking himself who his true political friends were within the top leadership of the party after the damning revelations.
“But I think he would not countenance any immediate purge of those that have been exposed as he knows how disastrous such a move would be in the face of the coming elections. Undoubtedly, in the medium to long-term, there will be reprisals and unfortunately, some political careers will be cut short,” said Mangongera.
Fiery ZANU-PF critic, John Makumbe, said the leaks have awakened the MDC-T that it was not all smooth sailing within their rank and file.
“It has suddenly dawned on them that there are enemies within and enemies without. Tsvangirai should be very careful on how he handles some of the leaders in his party because not everyone has goodwill for him,” said Makumbe.
Makumbe predicted that Tsvangirai might, in the long-run, be forced to purge some of his subordinates as it would appear that some of them hold negative views about him.
“There is nothing wrong with being ambitious, but there is everything wrong with an ambitious party official insulting his leader as has been the case in the MDC. But another lesson for the MDC-T officials is that while it is okay to have those lunches, next time they should not say things that they will not be able to defend, especially after a glass or two of wine or beer,” said Makumbe