interviewBy Ray Ndlovu
THE turmoil in the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC-T) led by Morgan Tsvangirai has generated both local and international interest. The Financial Gazette's Assistant Bureau Chief, Ray Ndlovu this week spoke to Zimbabwe's ambassador to Senegal, Trudy Stevenson, who is a member of the MDC formation led by Welshman Ncube, which splintered from the originally united MDC, to share her thoughts on the unfolding developments. Below are excerpts of the interview:
Has the latest twist of events in the MDC-T taken you by surprise?
I am not in the slightest surprised by the latest split in MDC. Don't forget, in 2005 my group also claimed legitimacy and called for the suspension of Morgan Tsvangirai for going against the party constitution, in particular by overturning the National Council vote to participate in the Senate election. At the time of that vote and for a couple of weeks afterwards, Tendai Biti was with us, but on the day we had arranged to hold our press conference to announce Tsvangirai's suspension, Biti suddenly decided to go with Tsvangirai.
In your view is Tsvangirai an able leader?
Tsvangirai is a charismatic leader, with enormous popular appeal. He was a brilliant leader for the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions, working together with his "Siamese twin" Gibson Sibanda. Each strengthened the other and they both, as well as the trade union movement, benefitted from this synergy. It was assumed that this twin arrangement would continue in the new political party, but a political party is a different animal altogether from a trade union movement. Other forces and personalities came onto the scene. The partnership was strained and finally broken, to the great chagrin of both (though Tsvangirai only admitted it at Sibanda's graveside) and to the detriment of both the party and the people. Without Sibanda, Tsvangirai floundered under the competing cross-currents within the party, all the more so when he lost Susan (his wife). The sad events of the last few years bear witness.
What is the likely future of the MDC-T given the events that took place at the weekend?
The MDC we created in 1999 and launched in 2000 is long dead. I do not see any group or party calling itself MDC being able to re-ignite that fire and capture the hearts and minds of the majority of the people. The name has been too badly tarnished, and too abused.
Is there any faith to be placed in Biti's intentions and lead of the so-called MDC Renewal Team?
Tendai Biti is a committed democrat, and a very astute politician. His team's declaration of the reasons they have suspended Tsvangirai and others is spot on, in my view -- but many of those reasons are the very same reasons we went our own way in 2005. I think he has had those same reservations since then, but perhaps hoped he could cure them from within. Or perhaps he just saw more opportunity for himself with the Tsvangirai group, but recently realised he had backed the wrong horse!
What does this mean for the future of opposition politics in Zimbabwe?
Opposition politics in Zimbabwe is in serious disarray. The time has come for new players to come onto the scene, as well as for existing players to swallow their pride and start talking to each other if they genuinely hope to provide a serious challenge to ZANU-PF at the next election. May I also add that Zimbabwe needs more decent citizens (the majority) to get onto the political arena on all sides, so there is less space for clowns and opportunists!
What is the feeling among Zimbabwe's Diaspora community of the events taking place back home?
There are very few Zimbabweans in Senegal, and at the embassy we are apolitical, so I have no idea what my colleagues and fellow citizens here think about this development.