News Analysis: Zimbabwe's main opposition faces looming split   2014-03-11 07:42:43            

By Tichaona Chifamba

HARARE, March 10 (Xinhua) -- Zimbabwe's main opposition MDC-T party led by former prime minister Morgan Tsvangirai has been in a serious crisis that analysts fear a looming split.

"I really wish I was never party to this circus. My heart bleeds as the greatest con game rumbles on. I choose to be different and I owe no one!"

The above words, posted on Facebook by MDC-T Manicaland provincial chief Julius Magarangoma, aptly capture the growing level of frustration within the party.

Magarangoma is not the only senior cadre to speak against the infighting in his party, with several others and supporters also venting their anger and frustration through the social network.

Elton Mangoma, the party's suspended deputy treasurer-general, openly called for Tsvangirai to quit party top post in February. After making the claim, Mangoma was assaulted by unidentified supporters of Tsvangirai. He was later suspended of party post over alleged misconduct.

Tsvangirai has been holding on to the helm of MDC-T since 1999.

Tsvangirai said over the weekend that those opposed to his continued leadership were free to leave. He also blamed the party's secretary-general Tendai Biti for heavy loss to Zimbabwe's longtime President Robert Mugabe and his Zanu-PF party in last year's elections.

Tsvangirai, 62, was considered the most competent challenger to Mugabe since Zimbabwe's independence in 1980. Initially a trade union leader, Tsvangirai formed the Movement for Democratic Change party in 1999 and came close to end Mugabe's rule in 2002 and 2008 presidential elections.

But at last year's polls, Tsvangirai garnered only 33 percent of the vote, against 61 percent won by Mugabe.

While the party insists the election was stolen, Biti has charged that Zanu-PF party campaigned on a solid foundation of tangible promises.

Last Friday, Tsvangirai's announcement to suspend Mangoma was immediately followed by a press conference convened by Biti. He said the action was null and void and fell outside the party's constitution, thereby drawing lines for a bruising battle with his erstwhile party colleagues.

Obert Gutu, a senior MDC-T member, said Biti's action of convening a press conference to support Mangoma smacked of indiscipline.

Biti and Mangoma were the party's chief negotiators during talks that led to the formation of an inclusive government in 2009 and now find themselves in the same corner again, but this time fighting some of the people they represented during the negotiations.

Many others are said to be supporting the move to replace Tsvangirai but have not yet come out in the open for fear of victimization.

Tsvangirai appears to be enjoying the backing of the majority in the party, especially among the grassroots, and analysts say he is now pushing for the expulsion of those opposed to his continued leadership before they gain more sympathy among his supporters.

While Tsvangirai has asked those opposed to his continued leadership to leave the party, it appears no one is keen on doing that but to continue fighting from within to achieve their cause.

"New party for what? We are going to learn to co-exist in our diversity. No one is going to claim ownership of a public entity!" said Magarangoma in another post, without indicating whether he is for or against Tsvangirai.

So far, the "dissidents" have expressed their displeasure at Tsvangirai's continued stay in office by boycotting his rallies.

In an earlier interview, political analyst Tichaona Muchapera said the situation was a manifestation of long held rumblings or undercurrents within the party, which could be traced to its formation.

"What is clear even to the uninitiated is lack of grounded ideology by the labor-backed party," Muchapera said. "The convergence of labor, capital, student activists, civic society and reformed nationalists made strange bedfellows but with prize being change, they made compromises, but like all beds of roses they have thorns in them."

Another political analyst and University of Zimbabwe lecturer Charity Manyeruke said the MDC-T was on the verge of collapse.

Manyeruke said the MDC-T was exhibiting characteristics of a weak party that lacked a solid foundation and national agenda.

For the time being, Tsvangirai remains in charge of the party, but definitely not in control, analysts said.

Editor: An
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