TEMPERS flared at the Second All-Stakeholders' Conference a fortnight ago, with MDC leader Welshman Ncube boycotting the opening ceremony in protest at the speaking arrangements that seemed to favour his nemesis, Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara.
This was the latest twist to the almost two-year-old wrangle between the two professors over the control of the MDC.
The incident has raised questions on why President Robert Mugabe seemed to be taking sides with Mutambara while shutting out Ncube.
Despite Sadc recommending that the MDC leader be allowed to attend meetings of the principals, Ncube has found himself out in the cold several times.
Mugabe has always preferred to meet Mutambara and MDC-T leader, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai.
"He (Mugabe) is disdainful of us," Ncube said when asked recently.
"He is tied at the hip with Mutambara. It is clear that he (Mugabe) has a strong personal attitude against me and the party I lead."
Several theories have been bandied about on why Mugabe was reluctant to include Ncube in his meetings, chief among them being that the MDC leader is perceived as being too close to South African President Jacob Zuma, who leads the mediation process.
Zuma and Ncube are in-laws.
"It is a matter of trust," University of Zimbabwe lecturer Eldred Masunungure said.
"Mugabe never warmed up to the Zuma mediation. Ncube being a close relative, Mugabe may be suspicious of him attending principals' meetings."
Ncube, Zuma relationship trivial: Hikwa
National University of Science and Technology lecturer Lawton Hikwa said the relationship between Zuma and Ncube was inconsequential.
"I would not buy that myself. Ncube's relationship with Zuma cannot be an issue," he said.
"That is just speculation."
This is a view that Ncube himself seems to hold, claiming that Mugabe and Tsvangirai could actually have a direct and easier route to the South African President. "That is not relevant contextually. I have no greater access to Zuma than Mugabe. they are Presidents and can call each other any time," the MDC leader said.
"Both Mugabe and Tsvangirai, as a matter of fact, access Zuma directly."
Hikwa added that Mugabe's hands were tied since the power tussle between Ncube and Mutambara was pending before the courts.
He said while it was clear Ncube was a political principal: "Mugabe had no choice but to recognise Mutambara as a principal in the government".
'Essar deal worsened mugabe-ncube relations'
Another theory for the frosty relationship between Mugabe and Ncube is the MDC leader received a kickback from Essar to facilitate the deal between Zisco and the Indian company.
Already some parliamentarians have questioned the deal, but Cabinet finally authorised it after a very long delay.
As if to back that, those that are pushing the theory claim Ncube was donating bicycles made in India to his party supporters. But the MDC leader shot back, describing that claim as "absolute nonsense".
"The bicycles were bought from a factory in Norton. Let us not be judged by their standards," Ncube said insinuating that those who were saying that, had become accustomed to corruption and could not fathom that some people could work professionally, without being bribed.
'Boycotts won't help'
While relations between Mugabe and Ncube were reportedly cold, political analyst Ibbo Mandaza said the MDC leader's boycott last Monday was ill-advised.
Despite Mutambara's presence, Ncube should not have left, he said. "Ncube does not have to be offended," he said. "He (Ncube) is supposed to be in there and he should be. let them throw him out if they have to."
This was a view shared by UZ lecturer Charity Manyeruke who said boycotts have never produced any results in Zimbabwe. "The President is not closing out Ncube, but he chose to boycott," she said.
"The reality is that Mutambara is also a principal, as a GPA signatory, and Mugabe cannot afford to avoid him."