Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai has described the acrimonious split of the MDC in 2005 as the “saddest part of his political life” and offered apologies for badmouthing the late Gibson Sibanda, his former trade union colleague of 25 years.
Tsvangirai was speaking at a memorial service held for Sibanda ahead of his burial in Bulawayo on Sunday.
Sibanda, who was the vice president of the MDC-M faction, succumbed to cancer aged 66 last Monday night.
“The political developments in this country will never be the same again after the formation of the MDC but the saddest thing in my life is the split of the MDC.
“It represents the saddest part of my relationship with Sibanda,” Tsvangirai said.
The prime minister said Sibanda had provided “stability and guidance” in his personal and political life and offered apologies for speaking ill of his colleague in the wake of the MDC’s 2005 split.
“What we said after the split, I regret it. I am sorry Gibson for what we said at that moment, it was a moment of weakness and it was not worth it,” said an emotional Tsvangirai.
The two worked together in the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) where Sibanda was president and Tsvangirai the secretary general.
Sibanda agreed to step aside and allow Tsvangirai to become president of the MDC even though he had been interim leader of the party prior to its inaugural congress.
Welshman Ncube, the MDC-M secretary general says Sibanda took the request to step aside for Tsvangirai without any disappointment.
“Without any touch of disappointment and with wholesome respect for all those of us who had urged him to let Tsvangirai be president, Gibson closed the discussion and thanked us for our honest appraisal of the nature of Zimbabwe’s politics which dictated that even though he was the better candidate for president of the party we perceived that he could not lead us to victory in the elections,” Ncube wrote in his tribute to Sibanda.
But Sibanda was to lead the breakaway from the MDC following a bitter dispute over participation in the senatorial elections in 2005.
The party’s national executive had voted to participate in the elections but was overruled by Tsvangirai leading to the acrimonious fall-out.
Sibanda was buried in Bulawayo on Sunday after President Robert Mugabe refused a request to accord him national hero status.
He was only offered a state assisted funeral.