MDC-M party on the verge of major split

The MDC-M, with just a day to go until its congress in Harare is on the verge of a major split following growing dissension within its ranks.

It emerged on Friday that Welshman Ncube, the man poised to take over the party leadership from the incumbent President, Arthur Mutambara, is now facing an internal rebellion from members of his own national executive.

Members of the current executive, led by party chairman, Jobert Mudzumwe organised a news conference in the capital on Friday and announced they would be boycotting the congress set to take place in the City Sports centre on Saturday.

Mudzumwe, a loyalist of Mutambara, who was flanked by members of the executive, including the award winning writer Tsitsi Dangarembwa, alleged ‘massive violations and manipulations of the party’s constitution’ by Ncube, its secretary-general.

Mutambara though distanced himself from the group saying it was acting on its own and he was not aware of the issues they raised. However, present at the briefing was Mutambara’s personal aide, Charles Manyozo, making it clear to those gathered that Mutambara was indeed fully aware of the group’s actions.

The party was rocked by divisions on Friday on the eve of a weekend congress that was expected to unseat Mutambara as party president and replace him with Industry Minister Welshman Ncube, currently party secretary general.

Some members of the party’s national council declared the congress is null and void and walked out of a pre-congress meeting.

Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition Director Macdonald Lewanika said the continuing disputes will either strengthen or destroy the party depending on how the leadership deals with such internal dissent, adding that top officials must listen to the rank and file.

Lewanika told VOA Studio 7 reporter Patience Rusere that the likely election of Ncube as party president – all 12 of the party’s provincial organizations nominated him, making his election at the congress a virtual certainty, will have an impact in national politics.

There have been massive defections from the MDC-M in recent months after members claimed their continued membership to the party was an endorsement of practices that were becoming dangerous to the democracy that many people in Zimbabwe were struggling to bring into being. Others felt the party was no longer pursuing the original policies of the MDC-M when they split from the mainstream MDC led by Morgan Tsvangirai in 2005.

Our correspondent Simon Muchemwa told us a split was imminent after the current executive, which was set to be voted out of office on Saturday, accused Ncube’s leadership of ‘excesses.’

One of the major issues raised by the rival faction were ‘inconsistencies’ selecting delegates for the congress. Mudzumwe also accused Ncube of deliberately sidelining all party activists known to have been against him in his pursuit to dislodge Mutambara from power.

‘There was a petition that was presented by the group that outlined a number of issues they felt needed to be tackled first before convening a congress. Mudzumwe and his group wanted an audit of the party accounts as they know the MDC-M has been receiving a lot of money from donors.

‘They also brought up the issue of the selective application of discipline where those deemed to be anti-Ncube were either suspended or expelled from the party. The secretary-general stands accused of wrestling all power from other executive members and running the party as a fiefdom,’ Muchemwa said.

The pro-Mutambara group called on the party to postpone the congress until such time these problems were sorted out. But Edwin Mushoriwa, the party spokesman told us they would hold the congress on schedule under any circumstances. He said holding the congress is the decision of the party’s provincial committees and none of the officials including Ncube has the right to defer it or postpone it.