MDC hobbled by pre-election infighting
Allegations of violence, vote-buying, tribalism and jostling for top
positions at last weekend’s national congress of Morgan Tsvangirai’s
Movement for Democratic Change have dealt a blow to the party’s improving
The MDC recently scored crucial political victories against Zanu-PF,
retaining the post of Speaker of Parliament and sealing its majority in
Parliament. It has also garnered overwhelming support from the Southern
African Development Community to oppose Zanu-PF-led crackdowns against its
The national congress was intended to further consolidate the MDC against
Zanu-PF ahead of the elections expected this year. Instead, it created deep
divisions in the party and posed a challenge to Tsvangirai’s 12-year
Although Tsvangirai retained the party presidency, the run-up to the
congress was marked by violent clashes among MDC youth members and conflict
between Gorden Moyo and Matson Hlalo for the coveted Bulawayo chairperson
position, denting the party’s pro-democracy image.
Zanu-PF has expertly exploited these internal squabbles to attack Tsvangirai
as “a leader without real power” and accuse the MDC of “ill discipline” and
involvement in violence across the country.
Eager to be seen reining in the chaos in his party, Tsvangirai promised to
set up an independent commission to investigate all acts of violence.
“We know those people causing violence … we don’t tolerate violence and
party leaders sponsoring it face expulsion and will be investigated
thoroughly,” he said.
A senior MDC official told the Mail & Guardian of the extensive vote-buying
that overshadowed the congress, a worrying sign that the party has lost its
pro-poor stance and has been overtaken by elitist practices.
“It’s known that people were paid as much as $3 000 to buy votes for the
provincial posts. This congress wasn’t concerned about ordinary people, but
with the self-serving interests of power-hungry individuals,” said the
While other party heavyweights, including Tendai Biti, Nelson Chamisa,
Lovemore Moyo and Roy Bennett, romped to easy victories at the congress,
veteran leader Elias Mudzuri lost the race for the post of national
organising secretary. Mudzuri has long been viewed as an ambitious schemer
who is seeking to oust Tsvangirai.
In a Cabinet reshuffle last year Tsvangirai dropped Mudzuri as a minister,
strategically paving the way for his removal from top party structures.
The conference also sparked complaints of tribalism in the MDC’s executive
committee; only three of its 13 leaders — Moyo, Thokozani Khuphe and
Abednico Bhebhe are drawn from the Ndebele-speaking regions.
Traditionally, the Matabeleland and Midlands regions have been bastions of
support for the MDC during elections.
The smaller MDC faction, led by Welshman Ncube, has recently stepped up its
criticism of perceived tribal representation in Tsvangirai’s grouping. This
has had a knock-on effect among some of Tsvangirai’s supporters, who have
intensified their calls for a “regional balance” in the leadership.
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