The die has been cast in the MDC ahead of its elective congress as the party’s ambitious secretary-general Douglas Mwonzora has expressed his desire to challenge party leader Nelson Chamisa in a contest that could make or break his political career.
Mwonzora has previously been keeping his cards close to his chest. But in an interview with the Daily News yesterday, he declared that he has rights including that of contesting the sitting leader since he is a “full member of the MDC”.
“I will be giving you a statement regarding what I will be standing for; there are key processes that must happen first and these include the nomination process. Within the MDC set-up, people are nominated by the structures, I want to emphasise (that) I am a full member with full rights including the right to contest any position,” said Mwonzora.
The former MDC spokesperson has previously been accused by Chamisa’s legion of supporters of harbouring presidential ambitions. But unlike other MDC officials who chose to side with Chamisa for fear or reprisals, Mwonzora has soldiered on — suffering in some instances humiliating boos, jeers and sneers from some who regard him as the opposition party’s Judas Iscariot who is turning against the hugely popular Chamisa.
The soft-spoken politician, who is a lawyer by profession, said before he could pronounce himself on the matter there are conditions precedent.
“There are processes that have to be followed. We must have branch congresses, then ward, district, provincial congresses and after that the provincial assemblies will do nominations. It is at that time that we will know if we have been nominated,” said Mwonzora.
Already, the incumbent Chamisa has received endorsements from several party structures including provincial wings, with the youth league going as far as declaring war on anyone who would dare challenge the youthful opposition leader.
Several party heavyweights have also thrown their weight behind Chamisa with those who are seen as potential challengers likely to face a hostile reception in the run-up to the congress and at the elective indaba itself.
Mwonzora told the Daily News that he is aware of a smear campaign targeting him but that will not deter him to contest any position “because the opposition now requires someone with the right temperament and who understands democracy”.
“We are also aware of the smear campaigns that are going on but that is expected considering that we are now going to the congress,” said Mwonzora.
Chamisa’s close allies are sabre-rattling, keen on fending off potential rivals to the 41-year-old politician who amassed more than two million votes during last year’s presidential elections. Last Sunday, Chamisa told MDC supporters at a rally in Gweru that he was not having sleepless nights over prospects of him being challenged at congress.
“We are a mature party; the character is that we are a democratic party. Tsvangirai left us this party, so our things will be done quietly, all positions are going to be nominated, they are open and up for contestations from the presidency,” Chamisa said.
The MDC leader said he is ready to step aside and allow someone to take over should he lose his position at congress.
“We are all allowed to contest for this position because I came to finish the term of our leader but I said the term has come to an end and I am removing the jacket and giving it to congress. If you still feel that I should continue leading the party, I am still ready but if you think my time is up and someone should take over, let it be because that is the democratic way of working,” he said.
There are also rumblings within the MDC that there could be a third hand sponsoring some of the candidates so as to remove Chamisa who has thus far failed to accept the results of last year’s presidential elections. In 2014, Chamisa faced off with Mwonzora who was the then spokesperson but lost in the battle to become secretary-general.
Mwonzora scored an unexpected crushing victory over Chamisa in a shock result — which saw him getting 2 464 votes against his rival’s 1 756. This left Chamisa as an ordinary card carrying member until he was appointed by the party’s founding father Morgan Tsvangirai (now late) to the MDC national executive as secretary for policy and research.
Mwonzora’s 2014 victory came amid reports that Chamisa had had a row with Tsvangirai during the nomination process where he apparently accused his mentor of meddling in the Manicaland party provincial elections.
The elections saw Tsvangirai personally taking part in the nomination process there, where Mwonzora — who until then had not got any nominations for the post – got a ringing endorsement from the region. The results completely flew in the face of the nomination tally that had Chamisa garnering 11 out of 12 provinces.
Tsvangirai is suspected to have rigged the results in favor of Mwonzora.