Recent speculation that the two main formations of the Movement for Democratic Change might present a united front in elections expected to be held in 2012 may have been dashed by reported statements from Welshman Ncube, leader of the smaller MDC formation, personally attacking Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai.
The independent daily Newsday reported that Ncube told supporters at a rally Saturday in Kwekwe, Midlands, that Mr. Tsvangirai is "uneducated" and lacks the intellectual capacity to lead Zimbabwe. Ncube said his own party’s leaders have the vision required to rebuild the country, calling Mr. Tsvangirai a “teaboy” who is out of his depth.
Ncube issued a statement Monday denying he had denigrated Mr. Tsvangirai, saying he had merely quoted business contacts on the subject of management capacity.
Spokesman Nhlanhla Dube of the Ncube MDC told VOA Studio 7 reporter Violet Gonda that his party leader was speaking about the dangers of appointing leaders on the basis of who had been beaten by Rhodesian Prime Minister Ian Smith, in the case of President Robert Mugabe, and who was victimized by Mr. Mugabe, in Mr. Tsvangirai's case.
“The net effect of his speech is that our measurement of leaders must not be on the basis of what they have met in terms of victimization but in terms of the quality of their ability as leaders to think through issues and to deliver," lawyer Ncube said.
Dube added that comments from his party leader merely echoed what senior officials of Mr. Tsvangirai’s formation told US officials in comments that later became public through the release of US cables by Wikileaks. In conversations related in such cables, officials of Mr. Tsvangirai's MDC described him as a weak and indecisive political leader.
Tsvangirai spokesman Luke Tamborinyoka called Ncube’s comments "ridiculous" and "unnecessary." He said Ncube has nurtured his resentment of Mr. Tsvangirai instead of building the membership of his "small" breakaway MDC formation.
Lawyer and National Constitutional Assembly chairman Lovemore Madhuku commented that voters must be informed of a leader's traits so the can make informed decisions.
Meanwhile, Mr. Tsvangirai, in the US, warned that another disputed Zimbabwean ballot could trigger political instability not only in Zimbabwe but in the region as well.
Addressing American civil society leaders in Chicago this weekend, Mr. Tsvangirai said that mechanisms supporting democratic reform must be put in place to make sure the next Zimbabwean election is conducted in a free and fair environment.
He cautioned that a repeat of 2008, when President Mugabe lost the first-round of the presidential election then resorted to violence ahead of a run-off that the MDC refused to join, could threaten, “all bordering nations and ... their own political dispensations.”
Mr. Mugabe has insisted that elections must be held no later than March 2012 with or without the electoral and other reforms sought by the two MDC formations.
Mr. Tsvangirai warned that Zimbabwe risked experiencing the violence that gripped Ivory Coast when now-ousted President Laurent Gbagbo refused to heed ballot results.
During the same meeting, US civil rights activist Reverend Jesse Jackson demanded a violence-free election, saying “we say no to violence and yes to a peaceful Zimbabwe.”
Tsvangirai’s spokesman said the prime minister wants the international community to intervene in time to ensure Zimbabwe has a free and fair.
But ZANU-PF Parliamentary Whip Joram Gumbo called Mr. Tsvangirai’s statements reckless and without foundation.