Johannesburg - The accelerating disintegration of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party is apparently returning Zimbabwe to effective one-party statism.
Even before the latest leadership row rocked the MDC this week, the party had become a shadow of its March 2008 self, when it beat Zanu-PF in the legislative elections and its leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, beat Robert Mugabe in the presidential contest.
Now Tsvangirai is at the nadir of his long political life, during which he has endured much suffering and humiliation, both personal and professional. There seems no way out of the hole in which he and his party find themselves.
Last week, 10 MPs led by MP and secretary-general Tendai Biti claimed to have expelled Tsvangirai and several of his lieutenants from their positions in the party.
Tsvangirai and his faction retaliated this week by passing a resolution to approach the speaker of parliament to demand that he expel Biti and nine other dissident MDC MPs from parliament.
This move to get rid of them in parliament would reduce the MDC’s seats to 39 against 149 Zanu-PF MPs. The MDC strongly disputed Zanu-PF’s massive election victory last year after the pro-Zanu-PF registrar-general Tobaiwa Mudede illegally refused to release the electronic version of the voters roll.
The expulsion of the Biti group of MPs would also open the way for by-elections, when Tsvangirai’s MDC would then have to compete against Biti and his colleagues and the ruling Zanu-PF party, at a time when all MDC factions say they have no money.
Parliament is supposed to provide funds to all political parties represented in the House of Assembly, but so far no party has officially received any government funds, including Zanu-PF.
But it controls state media and resources, and records show it always uses state infrastructure to promote itself during election time.
Luke Tamborinyoka, Tsvangirai’s spokesman, said on Friday the decision to expel the MPs and other senior party members was taken by the national council, which is empowered to do so by the party’s constitution.
He said he did not speak for the party, so he was not sure whether the resolution would be carried out.
“The MDC will not die as a political party. It is unfortunate that some colleagues have chosen to go away, but the party will stay very much alive, and is the only hope for the people of Zimbabwe.”
Party spokesman Douglas Mwonzora was not available for comment, nor were Biti or Elton Mangoma, the former deputy treasurer, who was expelled by the MDC last month.
That precipitated the latest bust-up that could destroy the party.
Mangoma had written to Tsvangirai asking him to call an early congress, as its next one is due only in 2016, to elect a new leader.
His letter, in which he complained about Tsvangirai’s leadership and his personal life, was leaked to the Zimbabwean media.
Ibbo Mandaza, a political analyst and academic, this week said the “implosion” of the MDC was dangerous for Zimbabwe as a whole.
“We hope Tsvangirai and his colleagues will resolve their differences sooner rather than later, for the good of this country.”