Any lingering hopes for reconciliation of the opposing factions of Zimbabwe’s Movement for Democratic Change were brushed away this week as Secretary General Welshman Ncube, in South Africa drumming up support for his grouping, told the Financial Times that “it is evident that we have parallel parties now.”
Ncube is considered the leader of a Bulawayo-centered MDC faction that broke with the Harare-based grouping behind the party’s president, Morgan Tsvangirai, over whether to contest the senate elections held in November. Ncube’s “pro-senate” faction gained seven seats in the upper house, but since then the dispute has become personalized with each side launching launching accusations and recriminations.
More recently the wrangling has focused on the allocation of public party finance funding earmarked for the formerly unified opposition party, on conflicting claims to the position of party president (among other executive and administrative positions) and on alleged defamation by the Tsvangirai camp resulting in a Ncube-faction suit.
Both factions are getting ready for separate party congresses in the months to come, pointing to a more formal political divorce. One question still to be answered concerns which faction will ultimately control the MDC name and political brand.
Opposition supporters express disappointment and disillusionment with both factions. The MDC once seemed Zimbabwe's best hope for a democratic transition, but political observers now say MDC officials are so focused on the intra-party struggle that the ruling ZANU-PF party of President Robert Mugabe now faces little challenge.
Reporter Ndimyake Mwakalyele spoke with two seasoned observers of Zimbabwean affairs: International Crisis Group Southern African analyst Sydney Masamvu, and Iden Witherell, project editor for the Zimbabwe Independent and Standard news group, seeking their views on the long-range fallout from the MDC family feud.