Turmoil in Mutambara's MDC now a threat to GNU – Analysts

The party’s disciplinary committee on Monday expelled Abedniko Bhebhe, who represents the Nkayi South constituency, Njabuliso Mguni, representing Lupane East and Norman Mpofu of Bulilima East for alleged indiscipline and subordination. All of the constituencies concerned are in the western region of Matabeleland, a stronghold for the MDC formation.

Party spokesman Renson Gasela told our reporter that officials tried to reason with the expelled lawmakers before expelling them.

The newly revived Zimbabwe African Patriotic Union, or ZAPU party meanwhile said it is eyeing with great interest the three seats which seem likely to be vacated, and is ready to contest by-elections, said ZAPU Communications and Marketing Director Methuseli Moyo.

Meanwhile analysts concluded that the turmoil in the Mutambara MDC formation poses a major challenge to the stability of the national unity government – the deputy prime minister is one of the three signatories to the September 2008 Global Political Agreement which formed the basis for the national unity government assembled in February.

Political sources said that shortly before the expthere areulsions, party Secretary General Welshman Ncube and Vice President Gibson Sibanda apologized to party faithfuls in Bulawayo for naming Mutambara president of the formation. They said ethnic Ndebeles have for too long held secondary positions and promised to address this in the next elections.

Political analyst John Makumbe of the University of Zimbabwe described those statements as unfortunate, unbecoming of national leaders and contrary to the unity government spirit.

A source in the party revealed to our reporter that plans where at an advanced stage to oust Mutambara one such meeting is scheduled for Bulawayo this weekend with Welshman Ncube and Gibson Sibanda attending.

It is also believed that Welshman Ncube’s presence is cause for concern due to his close links to Robert Mugabe’s spy agency, the Central Intelligency Organisation and this causing fear amongst the organisers.

Yesterday, Maxwell Dube, one of the expelled Members of Parliament made a dramatic drive into a Bulawayo Police station fleeing men stalking him, and some of the expelled MPs have since gone into hiding.

Sources said Robert Mugabe has put up a special CIO unit at the request of Welshman Ncube to monitor the movements of the rebel MPs and Job Sikhala, the former St Marys MP. 

Makumbe said chaos in the Mutambara MDC reflected poor management within the party and could cost the two MDC formations – the dominant grouping is led by Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai – its parliamentary majority of about 10 seats.

Three legislators from Tsvangirai’s MDC risk losing their seats due to convictions on charges which the party says were trumped up by officials in the judiciary loyal to ZANU-PF.

Commenting in his personal capacity, Fambai Ngirande, a spokesman for the National Association of Non-Governmental Organizations, said the expulsions show there is trouble not only in the MDC formation but in the broader national unity government.

Reached for comment, Mutambara told our reporter that he only wanted to discuss the future of Zimbabwe, not internal party issues.

Bhebhe, together with the MP for Lupane East Njabuliso Mguni, and the MP for Bulilima East Norman Mpofu, were being accused of ‘undermining’ the party’s authority.

But in an indication that he intends to fight any attempt to expel him from the party, Bhebhe told us he would defend himself strongly against ‘wild allegations.’ He said he was still an MP elected by the people, the same people who can vote him out of parliament and not a disciplinary committee that has a ‘hidden agenda.’

‘To begin with the case against us was unprocedural from the start. This is a classic case of certain individuals wanting to get rid of MPs and not the party. We should be held to account by the party and not individuals who don’t know how to vent their problems,’ Bhebhe said.

Analysts believe Bhebhe is paying the price for leading a group of eight MPs from his party, to vote for Lovemore Moyo as speaker of Parliament, and not Paul Themba Nyathi, the party’s choice for the post.

‘We are already seeking legal advice and we are not going to roll over and let this happen (expulsion). We’ve made it quite clear that a piece of paper from an illegal disciplinary hearing is not going to take away a lifetime of commitment and my beliefs. I’ve done nothing wrong and we’re seeking legal advice and will be in touch with the party soon,’ Bhebhe added.

The ‘dissident’ group of MPs have made it known they are not happy that party officials who lost in the general elections, have ended up as ministers and deputy Prime Minister.

Only one MP out of the ten that won the elections is in government, apart from Welshman Ncube, Priscillah Misihairambwi-Mushonga and Gibson Sibanda, who all lost in their constituencies last year. Moses Mzila Ndlovu is only a deputy minister of Foreign Affairs while the other three are full cabinet ministers.

But that elevation to ministerial posts, despite losing in elections, sparked a bitter ‘cold war’ that has been destabilising the party since. Latest reports suggest the MDC-M legislators are now campaigning openly to rejoin the MDC formation led by Morgan Tsvangirai. They also took turns to lambast the leadership at a rally in Bulilima over the weekend.

The Bulawayo based Sunday News reported that Mpofu told the rally that if they ever fired him he would meet them in the dock come election time where he will beat them as an independent if the ‘worst comes to the worst.’

According to the Global Political Agreement the main MDC and ZANU PF parties will not field a candidate in any by-elections, but other parties and independents are free to contest the elections.

The paper also quotes Mguni blasting the Mutambara leadership saying they tried to tell them that people on the ground want a united MDC, but they refused to listen.

‘We want the original MDC. Mutambara and his two or so MPs cannot defeat the common enemy we have, ZANU PF, and Welshman’s two degrees will not be able to beat ZANU PF. Only MDC, a united MDC, can,’ Mguni said.

There are also reports that allege that Vice President Gibson Sibanda and Secretary General Welshman Ncube are planning to oust Mutambara as the party leader. The state controlled Sunday News, reported that the leaders told supporters over the weekend in Ntabazinduna in Matabeleland that they were tired of playing second fiddle in party politics.

But as Zimbabweans well know, you can’t believe everything you read in a state controlled newspaper, particularly when it refers to the MDC.