The tussle for the leadership of MDC renewal team is allegedly threatening to stall the party’s reunification efforts with the Welshman Ncube-led MDC — with Tendai Biti and Elton Mangoma said to be going toe-to-toe for the president’s post.
With the renewal team expected to go for its inaugural elective congress in April, party insiders said on Tuesday that relations between Mangoma and Biti had become frosty, amid allegations of smear campaigns as the two lock horns for the party’s presidency.
After the congress, the United MDC (UMDC) congress will follow four months later, where leadership of the united party will be chosen — opening up another theatre of power games as the two are also said to be keen to lead the united front.
“The two do not see eye to eye these days amid allegations that Mangoma’s supporters have started to de-campaign Biti, labelling him a coward who could not stand up against (Morgan) Tsvangirai’s dictatorship,” said one well-placed source.
Mangoma was the first to come out openly about the need for leadership renewal in the mainstream MDC. His supporters want him rewarded for his courage by becoming the party’s president.
But Biti’s supporters, on the other hand, feel that while the former Energy minister is brave, he does not have the political acumen and clout that the former Finance minister possesses.
Among those supporting a Biti presidency are the Madzore brothers — Paul and Solomon.
Mangoma is said to boast the backing of influential former mainstream MDC treasurer-general Roy Bennett, who is believed to be unhappy with the decision to rope in Ncube in a United MDC.
Bennett, insiders say, supposedly dislikes Ncube whom he accuses of not doing enough to support him in the parliamentary portfolio committee on Justice after his assault case on Patrick Chinamasa was brought before the committee. Bennet was jailed for one year for assaulting Chinamasa in Parliament.
Ncube was a member of the portfolio committee.
Mangoma admits that there are elements within his party who are not comfortable with the reunification, but denies there is a fallout between him and Biti.
He said he was not interested in the politics of personalities as he was concerned with serving the people, adding that after the April congress, they would begin to work on the modalities of the united MDC congress set for August.
“There might be some people who do not want progress to be made and they may not necessarily be the ones you mentioned (Biti and Bennett),” Mangoma said.
“At this stage, it is not about personalities and who did or did not do what. It is not a case of because you fought yesterday so you must be rewarded.
“I did what I had to do and that cannot be justification for a position. What is important is whether an individual is ready to work for the people.”
Mangoma also said his party was ready to work with Tsvangirai’s MDC as well as disgruntled Zanu PF elements that include former vice president Joice Mujuru.
“Anyone who is genuine about the need to work for the nation and deliver people from the current crisis, we are prepared to work with,” he said.
“If they (Zanu PF members) genuinely see that they were wrong, if their Damascene moment comes and they say we know we were lost, then it’s fine because we are one nation. There is no enemy among us, we are one,” he said.