Lloyd Gumbo: Senior Reporter
Divisions have once again emerged in the MDC-T over whether party leader, Mr Morgan Tsvangirai should address a joint rally with Zimbabwe People First leader Dr Joice Mujuru in Bikita to garner support for the latter’s candidate for the Bikita West by-election, Mr Kudakwashe Gopo.It is understood that some people within ZimPF want Mr Tsvangirai to address the rally to lure his supporters to vote for Mr Gopo, a development that coalition advocates think will give impetus to the “mooted coalition” of opposition political parties ahead of next year’s harmonised elections.
However, some people within MDC-T are reluctant to join hands, raising concerns that ZimPF wants to use them.
“We don’t want to repeat the same mistake we made with Norton by-election, where we supported Temba Mliswa (Independent) thinking that he was an independent candidate but he soon dumped us after the election saying he won it on his own,” said an insider.
“The president (Mr Tsvangirai) is unlikely to attend the rally but Elias Mudzuri (MDC-T vice president) because he is one of the people pushing for this coalition.
“Besides, Tsvangirai will be away for some time as he is in Ghana and from there he will be going on a diplomatic offensive to some African leaders. So while the invitation hasn’t officially come yet, we are almost certain the president (Mr Tsvangirai) will not attend that rally.”
Another source said MDC-T wanted Dr Mujuru to go it alone so that the outcome of the result could guide the party over whether she had a following.
The source said there were others within the party opposed to the proposed coalition who were clandestinely supporting former MDC-T legislator and now independent candidate for the constituency, Mr Heya Shoko to divide the vote so that ZimPF loses.
“The idea is to make sure ZimPF loses so that they have no bargaining power when it comes to coalition negotiations. If Tsvangirai attends the rally and Gopo wins, that will be misleading because people who vote for her may be MDC-T people, so effectively, she will be bargaining using our existing supporters,” said the source.
President Mugabe’ spokesperson, Mr George Charamba, said the President was not worried about the so-called joint rally saying the revolutionary party would resoundingly win the election.
“The (by-election) result is a foregone conclusion because from the communication from ZimPF, they are already preparing their membership for a landslide defeat,” said Mr Charamba.
“What is important is not so much the outcome as a correct reading of that defeat but the defeat’s portends for 2018. “Firstly, it weakens further the holding hand of Mujuru in her quest for a coalition with Tsvangirai while at the same time strengthening the hand of a wing in the MDC-T that is opposed to the coalition.”
Mr Charamba said given that Zanu-PF would win the by-elections, it was highly unlikely that Mr Tsvangirai would want to dampen his supporters’ spirit after the polls, when Mr Gopo loses.
“If he attends the rally and ZimPF loses, it means the coalition would have been defeated well before it actualises, meaning that 2018 will be a no show for them.
“Looking in the crystal ball, I don’t see Tsvangirai taking that risk unless he is suicidal politically, which he has proved to be in the past,” he said.
Mr Charamba added: “For Zanu-PF, Bikita is important in so far as it demonstrates its capacity to overcome internal contradictions and so far so good.”
Last week, Acting President Emmerson Mnangagwa addressed thousands of Zanu-PF supporters at Gwindingwi High School at Nyika Growth Point where he officially unveiled Cde Beauty Chabaya as the party candidate for the by-elections set for January 21.
It is understood that Vice President Phelekezela Mphoko will also address a star rally in the same constituency to drum up support for Cde Chabaya when he assumes the acting presidency before the polls.
ZimPF spokesperson, Mr Jealousy Mawarire, claimed a number of opposition political parties would attend the rally to be addressed by Dr Mujuru before the by-election.
“We have invited all democratic forces to join us in Bikita. In fact all those leaders of other parties are interested in us winning that election. “The political culture that we are inculcating is non-discriminatory, which is the reason we are going for a coalition. We are going to form a national team,” said Mawarire.
He said they were yet to come up with a date for Dr Mujuru’s rally.
But MDC-T spokesperson, Mr Obert Gutu, said he was unaware of ZimPF’s invite to Mr Tsvangirai adding that the latter was personally handling all matters to do with coalition talks.
“We have absolute confidence and trust in his ability to handle this particular task,” said Mr Gutu. “He is a tried and tested fighter for democratic change in Zimbabwe. At an appropriate time and bearing in mind that he has got an extremely busy schedule, his office will make an appropriate announcement regarding whether or not his tight schedule allows him to travel to Bikita West constituency to hold a joint rally with Dr Joice Mujuru.”
The seat fell vacant after the incarceration of Dr Munyaradzi Kereke who represented the constituency in Parliament.