With just under three months to go to the MDC’s eagerly-anticipated elective congress in May where a new substantive party leader will be chosen — sparks are flying within the country’s main opposition outfit.
Emotions have been further ventilated after mischievous Zanu PF “agents provocateurs” backed the party’s well-regarded secretary-general Douglas Mwonzora to beat the current popular leader, Nelson Chamisa, in the fast-approaching polls. This comes as MDC’s senior leadership has openly accused the ruling party of working frantically to destabilise the opposition party again, ahead of its
May 24-26 congress where Mwonzora is expected to contest Chamisa. As a result, a lot of flak has been directed at Mwonzora — particularly following a mischievous tweet by Zanu PF deputy youth leader, Lewis Matutu, who “predicted” the fall of Chamisa come May.
MDC vice chairperson Tendai Biti, whom many are tipping to contest for one of the party’s vice president posts, angrily reacted to the suggestions that Mwonzora was likely to emerge as the new party leader after the May congress.
He said the party would not accept to be led by “a ruling party chosen half-wit”. “We will reject any nincompoop given to us by Zanu PF. We already have a candidate in … Chamisa. So, we will not tolerate that. “Our duty is to protect the legacy of our dear leader Morgan Tsvangirai and we know with Chamisa we will be able to do that,” Biti thundered.
A senior member of the MDC national standing committee, who refused to be named for fear of victimisation, told the Daily News yesterday that Mwonzora was thus likely to be rejected by party supporters as perceptions grew that he was allegedly a Zanu PF ‘Trojan Horse’.
“This does not augur well for our SG (secretary-general) because he will now find it difficult to campaign in the structures as he is now being viewed as a Zanu PF project, which is very sad.
“He could even be booed at rallies, like what happened to (one of Chamisa’s deputies Elias) Mudzuri, as unfair as this will be because the SG is a man of impeccable integrity,” the party official said.
“There always existed a feeling in the party that Mwonzora is no longer with us after he apologised to Luke Malaba when he (Malaba) was booed in Parliament by MDC MPs … and so the Matutu issue is a kiss of death for him,” said another senior party official.
The MDC youth assembly also claimed that Zanu PF wanted a “weaker candidate” to emerge as the party’s leader in May “for obvious reasons” — vowing that this would not happen.
“It is saddening that Zanu PF wants to give us a leader and we know why. We are, however, clear as youths and other organs of the party that we have Chamisa as our leader and the decision is ours not Zanu PF’s,” said Lovemore Chinoputsa, the MDC youth assembly secretary-general.
Matutu threw the cat among the pigeons when he poisonously said Chamisa would receive a heavy shellacking from Mwonzora at the May congress, because “he did not have support in the MDC party structures”.
“Mwonzora is likely to become the new MDC … president because the majority of Chamisa’s hooligans are not in the structures of their party and they don’t form part of the congress delegates,” Matutu said in his controversial tweet.
Matutu went on to defend his statement yesterday saying it was “an honest analysis” of what was happening in the country’s largest opposition party.
“What I said was not informed by my liking for Mwonzora, because I don’t like him as well as Chamisa. If I could have it my way, I would prefer Mudzuri. “I am saying this based on what I see. They also comment about Zanu PF saying bad things about our leaders, and so there is nothing wrong in us giving our views on them as well,” Matutu said on Twitter.
MDC Masvingo provincial chairperson, James Gumbi — who is thought to be backing Mwonzora — said there was nothing wrong with Zanu PF endorsing the Harare lawyer.
“Does it really matter? I don’t know,” he said curtly. Meanwhile, political analysts have warned both Chamisa and Mwonzora to be wary of people seeking to cause divisions in the MDC, ahead of its crucial congress.
“While Zanu PF may have an interest in the MDC congress, it maybe far-fetched to suggest that Mwonzora is a Trojan Horse for Zanu PF,” rights lawyer and political analyst Dewa Mavhinga, said.
On Tuesday, Mwonzora hinted that he was ready to contest for the MDC’s highest position.
“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,” he said.
Chamisa was last weekend given a huge boost ahead of the make-or-break congress when two provinces and key sections such as the youth and women’s assemblies endorsed his candidature.
Well-placed sources have said the result of the congress is likely to be “too close to call” given the profiles of both Chamisa and Mwonzora.
They said this was especially so given that Chamisa was defeated by Mwonzora in 2014 for the secretary-general’s post — who was, at the time, considered a rank outsider in those elections.
Chamisa then held the powerful post of MDC organising secretary, a position which was said to have given him the opportunity to revamp party structures in his favour — and which structures were expected to give him an overwhelming victory against Mwonzora who was the party spokesperson then.
Mwonzora scored a shock and unexpected crushing victory over Chamisa — which saw him getting 2 464 votes against his rival’s 1 756. This subsequently left Chamisa as an ordinary card carrying member, before he was rescued by the party’s revered and now late leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, who appointed him to the MDC national executive as secretary for policy and research.
There were even unconfirmed suggestions at the time that a stunned Chamisa, unwilling to stomach the results of those internal polls, was even contemplating resigning from the MDC altogether — which never happened. In an ironic turn of fate, Chamisa was to later assume the reins of the country’s main opposition party ahead of his rivals following the death of Tsvangirai last year — albeit, under controversial circumstances.
A titanic leadership battle subsequently ensued in the party, which eventually led to Thokozani Khupe forming a breakaway faction which went on to perform dismally in last year’s elections.
Chamisa ultimately prevailed over his party competitors after a consultative meeting of the MDC, which was held at its Harare headquarters — and which was attended by 639 delegates from 210 party districts — endorsed him as Tsvangirai’s successor and the party’s presidential candidate in the 2018 poll.