FEAR and trepidation has gripped officials in former Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s MDC party following Jabulani Sibanda’s “come let us reason together speech” at a prayer meeting for missing Itai Dzamara a week ago.
The irony could not have been greater. Here was the man accused of pre-election terror, quoting the scriptures to inspire a crowd that would have torn him to pieces a few years ago. The reference to the Bible mellowed the crowd and the former war veterans leader had the crowd, including Tsvangirai, eating out of his palm.
“I never thought I would share the same podium with Jabulani. We should thank Dzamara. He is a hero,” Tsvangirai said.
With calls for fresh faces to the “democratic” struggle in Zimbabwe to curtail Tsvangirai’s continued failure to depose President Robert Mugabe’s Zanu PF regime, Sibanda’s first public appearance alongside opposition forces in the aftermath of his expulsion from the ruling party brought with it a new dynamic so delicate it could suffer a stillbirth.
Hawks in the MDC-T watched, some with frowns as Sibanda was mobbed by excited crowds at the end of the rally. They are said to have “began campaigning against any move to adopt any expelled Zanu PF members”.
“That was powerful and Jabu [Sibanda]’s speech was electrifying. The guy is a super politician, but my God, it was also frightening because it seems Tsvangirai is already sold and could actually decide to take our party with him to join the People First project.
“If Sibanda could do that, just imagine if it were Mujuru [Joice]. It is clear after this meeting that even though people still love Tsvangirai, their confidence in him delivering change has waned and they want a fresh face. They want new hands at the wheel,” said an MDC-T national executive member.
In fact, some said they had been shocked that their supporters had whistled at and ululated for Sibanda as he took a dig at the MDC-T.
“You have people but you have neither ideology nor direction,” said Sibanda to rapturous applause.
But in an interview after the prayer meeting, Sibanda seemed to downplay the “prayer meeting” events.
“It is not about who talks to who but finding a solution to the problems, facing our country. I do not want to lead but would be happy to do the dirty work and let our young people take the positions. They will not forget us,” said Sibanda.
Asked if there had been conduct or talks with Tsvangirai before or after the rally, he said: “I do not need to talk to Tsvangirai directly. I shook his hand as well as that of his wife at the prayer meeting but we need more than just a coalition. Maybe a fresh revolution,” he said.
MDC-T spokesperson Obert Gutu promised “exciting times ahead”.
“The MDC is always willing to collaborate and compare notes with all Zimbabweans who share the same patriotic and social democratic vision and ethos that we so deeply cherish. As long as Jabulani Sibanda and indeed anyone else for that matter, fits into this template, we have absolutely no qualms in working with them. This is work in progress and the MDC would like to tell the toiling masses of Zimbabwe that they should brace for very exciting times on the political front. That’s for sure!” Gutu said emphatically.
After the prayer meeting which, as expected, ultimately turned into a political rally, Sibanda was driven off by Job Sikhala whose abrasive style also seems to resonate with the masses and The Standard understands the two went to the opposition party’s Harvest House offices in central Harare.
“It was unbelievable, Jabulani Sibanda walking into Harvest House! It seemed like a dream but that is politics for you and now the fear is that if these people who were kicked out of Zanu PF were to be absorbed into the party (MDC- T), most of them are so good that the only positions they would deserve are at the very top which would push some of our people out. That is the source of fear, hence the fight has already begun,” a senior member of the MDC-T told The Standard.
The situation is no different on the women’s side within the MDC-T where the highest ranked Thokozani Khupe and Theresa Makone watched in awe as Zapu deputy leader Emilia Mukaratirwa ploughed into “a predominantly MDC-T crowd” with so much ease one would have been forgiven for thinking she has been part of the rank and file of the party.
To make matters worse, Mukaratirwa seemed to have “set the cat among the pigeons” when she announced she is planning a women’s demonstration to show “mothers’ anger” over Dzamara’s disappearance.
“All mothers, we want you to get ready because something is cooking. We carry children for nine months in our bellies and Itai’s mother did the same. We are aware of the pain of childbirth and we must do something,” Mukaratirwa said to deafening applause.