Ncube, Khupe stake political careers on Makokoba
Welshman Ncube, the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC)’s first secretary general who led a break-away from founding leader Morgan Tsvangirai in 2005, is challenging Tsvangirai’s deputy, Thokozani Khupe, in Bulawayo’s Makokoba constituency.
Also in Bulawayo, Tsvangirai’s former deputy, Gibson Sibanda, who now occupies the same position in the rival MDC faction led by Arthur Mutambara, faces the challenge of Thamsanqa Mahlangu in Nkulumane. Mahlangu is the youth leader of Tsvangirai’s MDC.
Makokoba is Bulawayo’s oldest township and also the poorest. It has given Zimbabwe great footballing talent like Peter Ndlovu, but it is also home to some of Bulawayo’s most vicious criminal gangs and drug dealers perpetually battling poverty.
Yet this suburb, with all its contradictions, will host the most anticipated battle for a parliamentary seat, and possibly increased regional political influence, between two significant foes who were fighting on the same side only two years ago.
Ncube is a university constitutional law lecturer and a fierce boardroom player respected and reviled by his political foes in equal measure, while Khupe is a former railway worker and trade unionist who has qualities to connect with ordinary voters.
Ncube, as MP for Bulawayo East -- a plush area of town -- was comfortable in that seat and could have chosen to seek re-election there. But he decided to go across town and set up a confrontation with Khupe, who clearly has not been forgiven for refusing to join the rebellion against Tsvangirai, for which she was so handsomely rewarded.
“Whoever loses this battle between Khupe and Ncube is finished politically. Of course there is the increased chance they may both lose to a Zanu PF candidate if their votes are evenly shared, and traditional Zanu PF supporters come out and vote for their candidate,” observed Brezhnev Malaba, editor of the local Chronicle newspaper.
Splitting the vote and handing Zanu PF victory is a shared fear that drove both factions close to a unity deal early this month. That fear becomes even more magnified if one considers the Zanu PF candidate they are up against – Rtd Colonel Tshinga Dube, the wealthy chief executive of the Zimbabwe Defence Industries.
Gorden Moyo, the executive director of Bulawayo Agenda, a local pressure group, says Ncube picked Khupe’s constituency carefully because winning it would establish him as “the bonafide opposition leader in the region”.
Moyo observed: “It’s a battle of the titans; whoever wins shall become a bonafide opposition leader in the region. They both have equal chances, but the battle is about selfish interests and not about the suffering people of Makokoba.”
Moyo agrees with Malaba that Tshinga Dube could spring a surprise, and leave both Ncube and Khupe empty handed – an unmitigated political disaster for both.
He added: “You can bet Zanu PF will invest heavily on this contest. Tshinga Dube has the state machinery, press coverage and cash. If that doesn’t help him win, then he could still benefit from the division of the MDC vote.”
Under Moyo’s construct, Tshinga Dube would need to boost the Zanu PF vote from the 2005 parliamentary elections by at least 2,500 votes to be in with a shout. Zanu PF’s Sihle Thebe polled 3,438 votes to Khuphe’s 12,138. If Khupe’s vote is shared equally with Ncube’s, that could see Dube ghost in and claiming a win.
Across town in Nkulumane, another abrasive battle is looming between Sibanda and the youth leader of Tsvangirai’s group, Thamsanqa Mahlangu. A defeat for Sibanda here could spell disaster for his political career, although Moyo believes this is unlikely.
“The Tsvangirai effect of previous years is no longer there in this part of the world. The Chronicle newspaper has led a very successful anti-Tsvangirai crusade and the Mutambara faction has been picking on his mistakes. So I think the ‘sitting MP effect’ and Tsvangirai’s falling stock will both combine to give Sibanda a fairly comfortable victory,” he said.
Mutambara himself is standing for MP in Zengeza West in the town of Chitungwiza.
Tafadzwa Musekiwa won the seat for a united MDC in the 2000 elections before fleeing to the United Kingdom for his personal safety.
He told New Zimbabwe.com
this week: “If Mutambara campaigns vigorously and makes sure his
ideology identifies with the constituents, he can win. I believe he
needs to identify with people's needs in that constituency to win it.”
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