OPPOSITION MDC-T vice-president Thokozani Khupe is reportedly backing a host of independent candidates in Bulawayo and parts of Matabeleland as the fight over participation in by-elections continues to rock the party.
BY RICHARD CHIDZA
Sources told NewsDay that a group of former parliamentarians who did not make it into the Eighth Parliament met MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai a few weeks ago and told him that Khupe was clandestinely supporting independents, much against the party the policy to boycott the by-elections set for next month.
The convener of the said meeting, former Chikomba Central legislator Moses Jiri, confirmed the indaba did take place, but refused to divulge details of the discussions.
“From time to time we seek audience with the leadership of the party and I cannot specifically tell which meeting you are referring to.
The discussions that we have are private just as the meetings remain that way,” he said.
Khupe denied the allegations in a telephone interview yesterday.
“There is nothing like that. I do not know about that and have no idea what they are talking about,” Khupe said.
Tsvangirai’s spokesperson Luke Tamborinyoka was not picking up his mobile phone while party spokesperson Obert Gutu could neither deny nor confirm the developments.
“Listen I am not aware of that meeting, but it is possible. I would also not want to comment on issues whose contents I am not privy to,” said Gutu.
However NewsDay is reliably informed that the former parliamentarians told Tsvangirai in no uncertain terms that the cancer of factionalism was still “alive and kicking”.
“Tsvangirai was told that Khupe, after failing to get her way during a national council meeting that discussed whether to take part in the June by-elections or not, turned to funding independent candidates, arguing the move is meant to safeguard the MDC’s gains in the region,” said an insider.
“The president (Tsvangirai) was provided with names (withheld) of people who are taking part in the by-elections under instructions and funding from Khupe. He was shocked because he knows the connection between these people.”
While the MDC-T’s October 2014 congress resolved not to take part in any elections without reforms, the opposition party’s national council had to meet to endorse the decision after it emerged a powerful clique headed by Khupe was agitating for participation.
In the end the national council voted in favour of non-participation in the aftermath of Tsvangirai’s decision to trigger a constitutional clause that outlaws floor-crossing which resulted in the recall of 21 lawmakers who defected to the MDC Renewal outfit formed by senior party leaders fed-up with Tsvangirai after another poll loss in 2013.
Khupe was allegedly heckled by a group of party activists amid growing calls within the party for her removal, but Tsvangirai is reportedly treading carefully fearing a third split.
“This is a sensitive matter and Tsvangirai knows what he is dealing with,” the source said.
“He will not want another break-away, it will not reflect very well on his leadership. He told us he would seek a political and diplomatic solution to that confrontation.”
Khupe has previously warned her detractors to stay away from her, declaring “they will not do a Mujuru on me” in reference to the way the ruling Zanu PF party brutally removed former Vice-President Joice Mujuru from her lofty position in the party and government in the run-up to the party’s congress last year.