THE breakaway factions of the main Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) have postponed their joint congress which had earlier been slated for March to a later date due to a dogfight that has erupted in both camps as party heavyweights haggle for positions.
Welshman Ncube’s MDC and the MDC Renewal Team — under the interim leadership of Sekai Holland — had agreed sometime last year to convene a joint congress in March where they were to emerge with a new leadership to front a united party. It is however, no longer possible to have the congress in March owing to vicious fights for positions that have characterised the build up to the congress. The joint congress is now likely to be held in either June or August.
As part of the preparations for the congress, both parties — as represented by their negotiators — have drafted a roadmap to lead up to the elective congress. Each of the parties, as part of the roadmap, is to come up with a list of their preferred candidates. This is proving to be difficult due to intense squabbling over positions. Insiders in both parties said the development throws into doubt the eagerly-awaited formation of a grand coalition ahead of the 2018 national elections.Critics say one of the reasons behind ZANU-PF’s continued stay in power has been failure by the opposition parties to confront President Mugabe’s party as a united front. President Mugabe has ruled Zimbabwe since independence from Britain in 1980. Previous attempts by the opposition parties to forge a coalition have come to naught due to their leaders’ obsession with power. ZANU-PF has also been accused of using its functionaries to infiltrate the opposition with a view to weakening it.
Jacob Mafume, the spokesperson for the MDC Renewal Team, confirmed the postponement of the joint congress this week although he could not say much about the wrangling for positions. He said: “Yes, we are implementing the roadmap. It’s (the congress) by the end of June or August. Both parties are preparing lists of their structures. These will be audited by joint teams by the end of February.
“After the audit, they will be merged and then the leadership that will emerge from the merger will participate at the joint congress. There are no such power struggles. There is no reason to fight for a position that is practically academic. We have agreed that Holland and Ncube be co-presidents in preparation for congress. That is when the leadership question will be answered,” Mafume added.
Recent reports suggested that the infighting is more intense in the MDC Renewal Team where Tendai Biti, the party’s secretary-general, and Elton Mangoma are reportedly angling for the presidency of the party. Holland has been more of a bystander in the dogfight, which shows that her interim leadership lacks the muscle that would have enabled her to put her foot down.
The Ncube-led MDC is also experiencing its fair share of troubles occasioned by the debate around the leadership of the coalition. Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga, the party’s secretary general, has since threatened to quit as she cannot fathom the likelihood that she could emerge from the congress with a far junior position.
The envisaged coalition has so far failed to attract interest from ZAPU led by Dumiso Dabengwa and Mavambo/Kusile/Dawn headed by Simba Makoni. Civic society organisations, including churches, have also stayed away from the talks. Dabengwa has not been particularly impressed with the way the MDC Renewal Team has handled the process, criticizing the party for negotiating in bad faith. As a result, the coalition, which was primarily targeted at bringing together an array of opposition parties, the church and the civic society, has just been about the reunion of former MDC comrades.
Both parties revolted against Tsvangirai citing what they perceived to be undemocratic tendencies by the former trade unionist. Meanwhile, Amen Mpofu, who served as the deputy mayor for the second city until 2013, is tipped to take up the vacant Bulawayo Province chairmanship for the MDC Renewal Team. The post fell vacant following the resignation of city lawyer, Kucaca Phulu earlier this month.
The race to fill the vacancy has gathered steam with the provincial council scheduled to meet on Sunday to conduct the elections. Mpofu is likely to face a token challenge from Collet Ndlovu, a councillor for ward 28. All aspiring candidates were requested to have submitted their applications to the national chairman, Samuel Sipepa Nkomo by the January 25.
While confirming his interest in the chairmanship, Mpofu downplayed any notions of discord among those eyeing the position. “People came and asked me to take the chairmanship’s post hence I am in the race. To me it’s not an issue because I have been in similar positions for some time. What I am trying to avoid is a situation where elections divide people and we fight each other like what happened in the MDC-T elections,” he said.
Mpofu is among a group of councillors and Members of Parliament who defected to the MDC Renewal Team from the MDC-T on grounds that the country’s largest opposition party had morphed into a dictatorship and had become a ‘pet project’ of Tsvangirai.
Nkomo also denied reports that the party’s top leaders were backing different candidates for the chairmanship as they pursue their own personal agendas of gaining support at the grassroots. “We are not ZANU-PF and we are not the MDC-T. We do not have any factionalism in our structures,” he said.