Attempts to restructure the country’s main opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC-T), could lead to even more fractures as peeved party members who failed to garner nominations into national leadership positions have been teaming up to form parallel structures to enable them to force their way into congress.
The party, which has since completed the arduous task of re-organising fallen lower structures, will hold its elective congress starting on Wednesday, October 29. Yet, the restructuring process itself is brewing even more trouble than anticipated. Sources in the party allege gross indiscipline within its ranks given that many were failing to embrace the outcomes of provincial congresses that came up with a lot of surprises.
On the one hand is a group of discontented members unhappy with the way in which MDC-T organising secretary, Nelson Chamisa, handled the re-formation of lower structures such as districts and branches. An even more troublesome grouping seeking the head of party president, Morgan Tsvangirai, whom they blame for the confusion that rocked the Mashonaland West, Bulawayo and Manicaland provincial congresses, is fighting from the other corner.
Tsvangirai is accused of railroading the nomination processes in favour of his alleged preferred candidates, particularly aspiring secretary-general, Douglas Mwonzora, who had gone through 11 provinces without getting any nomination with only his home province, Manicaland, remaining. Mwonzora ended up getting the much-needed nomination unopposed. Information at hand shows that while Mwonzora will now square off with Chamisa for the secretary-general position at congress, those who failed to make it or lost their positions in the districts and provinces are not going down without a fight.
Disgruntled party members are forming their own parallel structures and are on their way to congress despite the fact that they are no longer eligible to attend. “We are aware of some losing candidates at district and provincial levels, who have refused to back down. They are teaming up to form parallel structures to come to congress so they can contest during the accreditation process because they still think they are the legitimate party structures. We therefore foresee a very big challenge with regards to that because they are definitely coming,” said a top MDC-T official who requested not to be named.
“We the leaders must urgently sit down and make decisions in this respect. Power is not an easy contest. I have seen people turning into animals because of power and so we must find a way of taming them before it is too late,” the official added.
Another official agreed there was need to find a way to quell the situation. “We are facing a really serious problem. The powers-that-be in the party must find a way of making sure those who lost positions during the restructuring exercise embrace the results. There is need for some peace building and conflict management as well as instill individual discipline among party members,” he said.
The most volatile group is the ejected Shuwa Mudiwa-led Manicaland executive which has branded the nomination process a sham and is seeking annulment of the results. The controversial elections ushered in a new executive led by one, David Chimhini. Mudiwa has since taken the position that he is the head of the genuine provincial executive and both teams are packing their bags in preparation for congress.
In Bulawayo, the High Court nullified the nomination of the newly-elected chair, Gift Banda after losing candidate, Matson Hlalo, filed an urgent High Court application. The High Court effectively barred Banda from assuming office, a development which adds further turmoil. With Banda possibly not going to Harare for the congress, it was unclear at the time of going to press whether or not Hlalo and his executive would, instead, pitch up. It will be interesting to see how the party will treat the case.
Similar situations are also happening in other provinces, particularly in Chitungwiza, Mashonaland West and Midlands North. At the same time, the party is seized with trying to ensure that those who would have lost at congress are accommodated within the structures.
“The case of Mwonzora and Chamisa is a classic example. Both men have served the party well and we would not want to lose either of them. So we need to find ways of accommodating them at all costs,” said one party official. Meanwhile, party heavyweights are also understood to be on the ground campaigning and canvassing for support ahead of the congress.
Tsvangirai; his deputy Thokozani Khupe; national chairman, Lovemore Moyo; and his deputy, Morgan Komichi have all retained their positions after they were overwhelmingly nominated. The biggest battle will be at the secretary- general level. The battle between Mwonzora and Chamisa has reached a crescendo while Paurina Mpariwa looks set to land the deputy secretary general position amid indications that her only competitor, Tapiwa Mashakada, is considering to go for the more lucrative treasurer general position where he will have to clash with Theresa Makone, who has been acting in that position since the infamous Tendai Biti breakaway.
Outspoken Charlton Hwende and Itai Chiwondegwa will battle to deputise either Mashakada or Makone. The battle to replace Chamisa’s organising secretary position is between Abednigo Bhebhe and Amos Chibaya while Thamsanga Mahlangu and Budiriro MP, Costa Machingauta will be out for the right to be deputy organising secretary.
Obert Gutu is set to win the spokesman position without competition if the only other nominee, Mwonzora, opts to run for secretary general. If that is the case, Tabitha Khumalo will automatically retain her deputy spokesperson position. Gweru South chairperson, Lillian Timveos, is fighting to control the Women’s Assembly. She is tipped to shake off competition from Lynette Karenyi.
It is a tight call between Happison Chidziva and Clifford Hlatswayo who are vying for the presidency of the Youth Assembly. Another nominee, James Chidhakwa, could, however, cause a surprise. MDC-T deputy national chairman, Komichi, said all contestants were free to hit the campaign trail.
“All we want is to come up with dedicated and able leaders who will steer the party forward and rebuild it as we approach the crucial 2018 general elections. I am confident that the leadership that will come out of congress will be vibrant and strong,” he said.
Komichi also urged candidates who will lose the elections not to abandon the party but immediately start working for the party in the new responsibilities they would have been assigned. The MDC-T congress was originally scheduled for 2016 but the party was forced to move the dates back to October this year after it disintegrated when former secretary general, Biti and some key members broke away, leaving it crippled and needing to restructure with haste.