Rifts in the faction-riddled MDC-T widened this week after its vice president, Ms Thokozani Khupe, snubbed the party’s election boycott campaign launch.
The campaign was launched on Thursday by MDC-T leader Mr Morgan Tsvangirai at a function attended by a handful of supporters in Harare. Mr Tsvangirai told his supporters that his party would not participate in any future elections before his so-called reforms were implemented.
It is understood that Ms Khupe is leading a camp which is advocating for the party’s participation in the June 10 by-elections, contrary to Mr Tsvangirai’s boycott position.
Although no explanation was given relating to Ms Khupe’s absence, sources intimated that her absence was a clear indication that relations had hit a new low between Mr Tsvangirai and his deputy.
“Her (Ms Khupe) absence was very instructive,” said the source. “It confirms the widening rift between her and the president. Under normal circumstances, there is no way a vice president can fail to attend such an important party function without giving a convincing explanation.”
In his address, Mr Tsvangirai said: “We know Zanu-PF and its attitude so we cannot go into an election whose results are predetermined. I know most of you are worried (about) why we will not participate in the by-elections . . . we were not going to win as long as we do not have electoral reforms.”
In a move aimed at pushing for the party’s participation in the by-elections, Ms Khupe allegedly organised protests in Bulawayo recently against Mr Tsvangirai’s decision to boycott the polls.
Bulawayo is considered the party’s stronghold as it is the only one in the country where MDC-T had a clean sweep in both council and parliamentary elections during the 2013 harmonised elections. Party insiders hinted that Ms Khupe was mobilising to push for a vote of no confidence against Mr Tsvangirai.
Last week, sources said, Ms Khupe broke down and cried uncontrollably during the party’s national council meeting after receiving a barrage of insults from protesters, who were not happy with her push for the party to contest in the June 10 parliamentary by-elections.
In an indication of frosty relations between Ms Khupe and her boss, it is understood that Mr Tsvangirai left his deputy at the mercy of ordinary party members who heckled and harangued her in a humiliating manner.
During the meeting, insiders said a group of placard-waving party activists staged a demonstration against Ms Khupe denouncing her for opposing the party’s resolution.
Ms Khupe, the source added, went to the protesters and called them to order but instead, they hurled insults at her and sang derogatory songs questioning her morals.
She was accused of being an MDC Renewal sympathiser and a Zanu-PF spy. The demonstrators told her that unlike in Bulawayo where she does as she pleases, Harare would not tolerate her bossy tendencies. As all this happened, Tsvangirai did not make any effort to defend Ms Khupe or reprimand the demonstrators.