Top Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) officials Nelson Chamisa, Douglas Mwonzora and Tapiwa Mashakada are entangled in a "titanic battle" for the party's secretary-general (SG) post.

The epic clash comes in the wake of the party's ex-secretary general Tendai Biti's decision to start a breakaway faction, triggering a bitter power fight to take charge of the powerful office ahead of the Morgan Tsvangirai-led party's October congress.

While Chamisa is leading the race with two key official nominations — from Harare and Chitungwiza — his bitter rivals Mwonzora and Mashakada are yet to get any nominations, although the former is also banking on support from Mashonaland East, Masvingo and other outlying areas.

Mashakada, meanwhile, is counting on the MDC leader Tsvangirai's support or backing, since he is already occupying the position though in an acting capacity.

Wilson Makanyaire, the Mashonaland West organising secretary, told the Daily News this week that they had nominated Chamisa on the basis of his loyalty to Tsvangirai and the province felt Mwonzora should remain the party's information secretary because he has "handled the portfolio with distinction."

"He (Chamisa) is our man for the post because we believe he is the man who can effectively handle the administration of the party if we entertain any hope of being in power after the 2018 elections," he said.

Makanyaire said his province wanted Chamisa to become SG because he was "a patient leader with potential to eventually take over leadership of the party after Tsvangirai".

On the other hand, Youth Assembly chairman for Chitungwiza Jabulani Mtunzi, confirmed Chamisa's nomination on the basis that he "deserved to be rewarded for his loyal service".

Apart from the SG post, which is to be contested at congress, Tsvangirai and his deputy Thokozani Khupe as well as national chairman Lovemore Moyo are said to be safe.

The on-going provincial nominations also include contestations for standing committee candidates that have sharply divided the MDC.

Even, though, Chamisa is widely tipped to land the key post — as he banks on structures he has built up in his capacity of organising secretary and reportedly enjoys the backing of all 12 MDC provinces — dissenters say it is not fait accompli.

In particular, a Mashonaland East official said yesterday that it was not going to be an easy race, as both Chamisa and Mwonzora seemed to have ample support countrywide.

"It looks like Mwonzora has an upper hand over Chamisa here, but you never know because nobody in the province has been confirmed yet so people are still playing their cards close to their chests so taking sides openly at this point in time may be dangerous because we want to be confirmed first," said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

On the other hand, officials in far-flung Matabeleland provinces also predicted a close contest between the two, saying support was almost 50-50.

"Tsikamutanda (as Mwonzora is known to his supporters) seems to have more support in Matabeleland, particularly in Bulawayo but Cobra (Chamisa) is cunning," they said, adding that the former seemed "to be leading the race, although Chamisa has been steadily clawing back and making inroads" in those outlying areas as well.

"He (the Kuwadzana Member of Parliament) is a Rick Flair character and can do anything, especially when he is cornered. He believes in getting what he wants against all odds and has been steadily gaining ground," the officials added.

In particular, Chamisa's foes will try to capitalise on the charge that he had "destroyed the party after inheriting a healthy parliamentary majority and structures from Elias Mudzuri".

However, with Chamisa garnering at least two nominations and the Mashonaland West one virtually assured, the odds are heavily tilted against Mwonzora and the Hatfield legislator Mashakada.

As party supporters — and Zimbabweans in general — remained entranced, and gripped by the epic fight, the contest has escalated internal feuding, with violent clashes having been recorded in Chitungwiza and other areas.

Nonetheless, the issues will be put to congress for decision.

While Harare and Chitungwiza have nominated Chamisa for the SG's post, both provinces have nominated Mashakada for the post of deputy SG and Mwonzora to retain his post as party spokesman.

According to the MDC organising secretary's supporters in the two provinces, they feel the ex-national youth league leader would be able to "fully restore the MDC's moral reputation" following the much-publicised cases of internal squabbling.

Just as the current jockeying for posts has worsened internal wrangling, knives had been drawn over constitutional reforms to concentrate power in Tsvangirai's office.

But as things stand, it is the winner-take-all contest for the SG post that has overshadowed all fights.

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