JOSTLING for positions and political gamesmanship ahead of former vice-president Joice Mujuru’s Zimbabwe People First (ZimPF) elective congress has ruined chances of a coalition with the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), insiders have said.
The PDP, led by former Finance minister Tendai Biti, early this year endorsed Mujuru as an opposition candidate to challenge President Robert Mugabe in the watershed 2018 elections.
PDP officials had also become a permanent feature at Mujuru’s nationwide rallies as the parties appeared close to inking a deal on a coalition to contest the polls as a block.
However, in the clearest indication yet that the relationship has broken down, the two parties exchanged harsh words last week after Biti’s deputy Samuel Sipepa-Nkomo crossed the floor to join ZimPF.
PDP described ZimPF as an old people’s home and indications are that the jibe was directed at a faction in Mujuru’s party that was against the coalition. The faction is made of former Zanu PF stalwarts that are said to be plotting against Mugabe’s former lieutenant.
Sources said the camp, allegedly led by Didymus Mutasa and Rugare Gumbo, had locked horns with another faction comprising John Mvundura, Sylvester Nguni and David Butau.
The Mvundura faction is said to have Mujuru’s ear and wants unity with other opposition parties, while the Mutasa camp does not even want a coalition with MDC-T.
“They feel these talks will lead to their exclusion from leadership of the party on the basis of age,” said an insider.
“Due to their influence, ZimPF passed a resolution to slow down talks with PDP and MDC-T.”
Former Energy minister Dzikamai Mavhaire, who is said to be eying the post of deputy party president, has been accused of poaching leaders from other opposition parties to consolidate his position ahead of the ZimPF convention.
Mavhaire is accused of luring Nkomo, who was the PDP chief negotiator in the talks with ZimPF, with the promise that he would be made a co-vice-president.
“At its first congress, ZimPF delegates will elect two vice-presidents,” the source added.
“Mavhaire is eyeing one of the VP positions and since ZimPF currently does not have a strong and well-recognised politician from Matabeleland, Mavhaire and his close associates then decided to approach and ‘poach’ Sipepa-Nkomo from the PDP so that he becomes ZimPF second VP.
“Sipepa-Nkomo couldn’t resist this ‘carrot’, hence his defection.
The two [Mavhaire and Sipepa-Nkomo] are now planning to support each other as they campaign for VP positions within ZimPF.
“Mavhaire promised to lobby Masvingo and Midlands to back his and Sipepa-Nkomo’s candidacy. And Nkomo is expected to rally support of Matabeleland North, Matabeleland South and Bulawayo in return.
“But Mavhaire is in hot soup because of his deal with Sipepa-Nkomo.
“The Mvundura faction is angry at Mavhaire for bringing Sipepa-Nkomo because they prefer young leaders [so-called Young Turks] from Matabeleland, this group wanted Gorden Moyo or prominent Bulawayo lawyer Kucaca Phulu to join ZimPF and contest for the VP position.
“But they refused to join ZimPF as individuals as they preferred to work through coalitions,” said the source, adding Sipepa-Nkomo was misled to dump PDP.
Sources said the ZimPF old guard feared they would be outshone by PDP leaders such as Biti, Moyo, Lucia Matibenga, Jacob Mafume, Kucaca Phulu, Philani Moyo and Solomon Madzore, among others.
“What has further worsened disintegration in ZimPF has been that the party seems to derive political pleasure and satisfaction from attracting members of different opposition parties that include MDC-T, PDP, MDC and Zapu,” another source said.
“They do not seem to be attracting many people from Zanu PF and this is worrying because it means Zanu PF structures remain intact. “Clearly, ZimPF is not recruiting from Zanu PF but from the opposition.
“They are only interested in succeeding and destabilising the opposition while leaving Zanu PF intact.” The sources said last week’s developments could erode other parties’ trust in ZimPF amid lingering fears that it is a Zanu PF project.
“So this tells us that probably opposition parties such as PDP, MDC-T, Zapu should have taken more time to study and fully understand ZimPF strategies and objectives before embracing them as reformed former Zanu PF members who are now democrats. Perhaps all those who urged caution saying ZimPF can’t be trusted were right,” the source said.
However, ZimPF spokesperson Jealousy Mawarire defended the party’s recruitment drive. He also spoke against ZimPF leaders that were opposed to coalitions with other parties.
“Those who think Zimbabwe can only be rebuilt by people who came from Zanu PF are themselves not relevant to the Zimbabwe we envisage and want to build,” Mawarire said.
“We want a Zimbabwe that is all inclusive and [in which] people tolerate each other despite previous political affiliations.
“Those who want to block others from joining ZimPF are patently wrong,” he added.
“If there are people who think ZimPF should be dominated by people from Zanu PF then they are wrong.”
Mawarire said parties that were losing members to ZimPF must self-introspect instead of blaming others for their predicament. “We are not fishing, neither are we poaching for members,” he said.
“Our brand is attracting people to us and it is not our duty to stop people from leaving their political parties that they were previously involved in.
“We have had funny accusations that we are building an old people’s home, but we wonder whether these political parties are in their own right some form of an old people’s home.
“Each party has an obligation to recruit its members.”
Mawarire also defended Mavhaire over his alleged ambitions to be the deputy president, saying he was eligible for the post. Mujuru has spoken strongly on the need for opposition parties to unite ahead of the polls. standard