THE ongoing battle for power in the embattled opposition CCC does not only sum up the tragedy of opposition parties in Zimbabwe, it also confirms the widely held assertion that theirs is not in any way the ‘struggle for democracy’ they make noises about.
It is about who will be embraced by their Western handlers and funders most.
A furious war of attrition between CCC leader Nelson Chamisa, on the one hand, and US’ blue-eyed boy Tendai Biti, who is ably supported by veteran politician Welshman Ncube, on the other, which this publication accurately exposed a few weeks ago, lays bare the structural and ideological deficiencies that have dogged the opposition since their ill-fated formation on September 11 1999 as the MDC.
It has since fragmented into various splinter groups, namely; MDC-T, MDC-N, MDC-M, MDC-99, MDC-Alliance, PDP and now CCC, which is also about to split.
They do not quite represent anything Zimbabwean except their Rhodesian and British malice which is to reverse the gains of the country’s agonising war of liberation.
When the MDC was ‘formed’ on September 11 1999, it was meant to coincide with the September 13 1890 commemoration of the hoisting of the Union Jack by the British occupying force, the so-called Pioneer Column.
Thus, it did not come as a surprise that the MDC, and indeed its several splinter groups, not only became an extension of the British and Rhodesian colonial order with disturbing images of white farmers handing over signed cheques to the grinning and visibly elated party leader and ‘founder’, Morgan Tsvangirai at the Banket Country Club but would struggle for a solid ideological grounding.
“I’m investing in the MDC,” a burley farmer was recorded saying, with a malicious chuckle.
Initially created to challenge ZANU PF’s stay in power, the ‘battle’ for supremacy between the parties did not last long.
It only took a couple of years for the opposition to prove that they were hopelessly out of their depth.
By October 2005, Tsvangirai had clashed with his vice-president Gibson Sibanda and secretary-general Ncube over the party’s participation in the Senate elections that year, leading to the party’s first split — an embarrassing one at that!
Sibanda and Ncube were in favour of participation, while Tsvangirai, who overturned a majority decision after 33 Councillors voted in favour against 31, accused former South African President Thabo Mbeki and the CIO of masterminding the split.
Ncube would tell The Washington Post, on January 13 2006, that after years of opposing then President Robert Mugabe, Tsvangirai had begun to ‘admire the monster’.
Tsvangirai, however, maintained that Ncube and Sibanda wanted to topple him.
And he was not going to go without a fight.
In July 2006, his gang attacked one of the MDC founders, Trudy Stevenson, Harare organising secretary Linos Mushonga (who suffered two broken fingers) and Harare treasurer Simangele in Mabvuku.
Elsewhere, the comic strip continued unabated, with Ncube’s MDC-N, formed in the aftermath of the ugly split in October 2005, having short lived dalliance with the limelight after he ingenuously invited Robotics Professor Arthur Mutambara to lead what became known as MDC-M.
The duo would embark on their own embarrassing mortal combat after Mutambara became Deputy Prime Minister in the Inclusive Government with clashes abound in their formation.
The clashes centred on who, between the two, was a ‘principal’ in the unity Government.
In May 2010, controversial Job Sikhala would announce the formation of his own party, MDC-99, after several clashes with the Mutambara/Ncube-led faction.
By March 2014, Sikhala had rejoined Tsvangirai’s MDC-T, claiming his decision was influenced by his ‘desire’ to ‘see a new and democratic’ Zimbabwe.
He is now among those who are at loggerhead with Chamisa.
The drubbing, by ZANU PF, of the MDC-T in the July 31 2013 elections would lead to yet another split in the opposition.
In April of that year, a faction led by Biti announced that it had suspended Tsvangirai after he lost his third election to President Mugabe.
The grouping also accused Tsvangirai of using violence to stifle dissent in the beleaguered party.
They also said his sex scandals and failure to adopt the right tactics to win had cost his bid to win power.
“The MDC as we know it has abandoned its original founding values and principles,” said Biti’s faction in a statement.
“The party has been hijacked by a dangerous fascist clique bent on destroying the same and totally working against the people of Zimbabwe.”
This followed the damning statement issued by MDC-T deputy treasurer-general Elton Mangoma, in February 2014, calling for Tsvangirai to step down.
Chamisa was part of the anti-Tsvangirai grouping, attending several meetings at the Zimbabwe-German Friendship Society until his last minute withdrawal, which infuriated Biti.
Again Tsvangirai would unleash his goons on his opponents.
Biti and a youth leader, Solomon Madzore, escaped a thorough beating at the party’s headquarters after receiving a few punches, but Mangoma and another youth assembly secretary-general, Promise Mkwananzi, were not so lucky.
There drama would not just go away.
On September 11 2015, Biti tried to reincarnate the ‘original’ MDC when he formed his own party, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), in Harare.
The party was initially called MDC-Renewal but, like other MDC offshoots, it failed to last the distance.
In September 2017, Biti was fired from his own party after he forged a pact with Tsvangirai in their so-called MDC-Alliance which was formed on August 7 2017.
After the July 30 2018 harmonised general elections, Biti would reunite with other splinter groups of the original MDC to form yet another MDC.
But it is the disaster in the MDC-Alliance, an electoral pact of seven opposition parties led by Tsvangirai, that has led to yet another clash between Biti and Chamisa.
After Tsvangirai’s demise on February 14 2018, there were clashes between Chamisa and vice-president Thokozani Khupe over the MDC-T leadership.
Chamisa was accused of claiming the party’s presidency using unconstitutional means.
And then the routine violence.
Youths aligned to Chamisa would try to burn Khupe, secretary-general Douglas Mwonzora and organising secretary Abednigo Bhebhe in a hut at Tsvangirai’s burial in Buhera.
They were not done yet.
A few weeks later, they took the violence to the party’s Bulawayo offices where they savaged up officials aligned to Khupe, including her personal assistant Witness Dube, while her car was extensively damaged.
It was not long before the Khupe faction was entangled in a split of its own with clashes between her and Mwonzora who then turned his guns against Chamisa after successfully culling Khupe.
Chamisa formed a ‘new’ party in January 2022 but, as has become the norm, it too is now contending with its internal problems.
The Biti-Ncube faction believes Chamisa is sidelining the old guard in favour of neophytes drawn from tertiary institutions and, contrary to their denials, they are firmly behind Sengezo Tshabangu who says he is the party’s secretary-general and has been recalling everyone aligned to Chamisa from Parliament and local authorities.
After relentless attacks by Chamisa’s cohorts, Biti finally broke his silence on Saturday with a statement that laid bare the deep-rooted challenges confronting CCC.
Biti, who was ‘dribbled’ during the party primary elections typically took subtle digs at the beleaguered Chamisa in his statement.
“I do not speak for Prof Ncube, an honest and decent comrade who buried his dear mother on Friday, but as someone who has been in this struggle for as long as I have, one who has endured ZANU PF’s jails and physical attacks by the same, it is heartbreaking, if not tragic, that many Cdes that have been with us on this journey are now given false labels and badges, ZANU PF wish they had coined first,” said Biti.
“Given what I and my family have given to this struggle, it saddens me that I have to state publicly that I will never be part of a project to weaken the democratic struggle in Zimbabwe.
I have been imprisoned and tortured for the change we all seek, and I have stood firm.
I have never worked for ZANU PF, and I will die before I lend my hand to the illegitimate ZANU PF regime.
I had hoped to be a Member of Parliament.
I have my reservations about the process that prevented this happening.
I have my challenges and reservations about our identity, structural, strategic and procedural polity.
I have a daily job at my law practice and that’s where I have retreated to fight for Zimbabweans in that sphere of my influence.
Additionally, I have progressive international engagements that require my full attention.”
As the infighting in CCC continues unabated, it is imperative for progressive Zimbabweans to keep their eye on the ball.