The titanic MDC leadership battle now appears to be effectively over bar the shouting, after the country’s main opposition alliance unanimously endorsed Nelson Chamisa as its presidential candidate for this year’s harmonised national elections.
People’s Democratic Party (PDP) leader, Tendai Biti — who is also a key figure in the MDC Alliance — told the Daily News on Sunday yesterday that Chamisa's nomination had been made with the complete agreement of all the leaders of the grouping.
Apart from the mainstream MDC, the alliance includes the PDP, Welshman Ncube’s MDC; Jacob Ngarivhume’s Transform Zimbabwe; Zanu Ndonga which is headed by Denford Masiyarira; and the Multi-Racial Christian Democrats which is led by Mathias Guchutu.
Biti and Ncube are former secretaries-general of the original and united MDC which was led by the late Morgan Tsvangirai — whose recent passing away ignited a damaging three-way leadership tussle within the MDC-T, involving Chamisa, Thokozani Khupe and Elias Mudzuri.
The MDC National Council — which is the main opposition party’s highest decision-making body outside congress — has also already endorsed Chamisa as the party’s acting president, although the gathering that made that decision was contested and boycotted by Khupe and Mudzuri.
Biti said emphatically yesterday, that as a result of the MDC alliance rallying behind Chamisa, the youthful Kuwadzana legislator would be its sole presidential candidate, and would thus square off against President Emmerson Mnangagwa in this year’s presidential elections which are due in less than five months.
The watershed polls will be the first in the past two decades not to feature 94-year-old toppled former president Robert Mugabe and the late Tsvangirai.
“Anyone who fails to see that we are done with the succession issue needs to see a witch doctor. Tsvangirai gave us Chamisa and that automatically means that he becomes the presidential candidate who will face Mnangagwa and his junta. It’s done.
“We are already on the campaign trail having been to Epworth, Mutare and Chitungwiza … and now we are heading to Chinhoyi. We are not going back. We are going for Mnangagwa … we will kick out the junta this time around.
“We have have a dynamic leader in Chamisa and we are brave and ready as a team,” a confident Biti told the Daily News on Sunday yesterday — nonchalantly, and without mentioning their names, drowning the leadership aspirations of Khupe and Mudzuri.
On Friday, a consultative meeting of the MDC which was held at the party’s Harare headquarters — and which was attended by 639 delegates from 210 party districts — also endorsed Chamisa as Tsvangirai’s successor and the party’s presidential candidate in this year’s ballot.
Among other people, this crucial meeting was attended by the national executive, as well as by provincial and district chairpersons from across the country.
Meanwhile, the Daily News on Sunday also understands that the party has roped in Tsvangirai's former advisor Alex Magaisa, to broker peace and unity among its feuding leaders. Magaisa apparently enjoys cordial relations with all the different camps in the party.
On his part, Chamisa has said that the leadership wrangles bedevilling the party will end soon, adding that he was trying to reach out to Khupe.
“I have been trying to get hold of her but without success so far. But, you do not need to worry about her, all will be well and she will be here soon. We will not leave her out,” he said.
Chamisa’s endorsement by the MDC Alliance also came amid unconfirmed reports that Mudzuri has now also thrown his weight behind the former ICT minister.
Mudzuri himself cryptically told the Daily News on Sunday yesterday that there was need for unity within the party.
“Yes, we have an MDC Alliance, but unity should begin with us. We must settle our differences amicably,” he said.
"We should be uniting … We must work towards ensuring that the party doesn't split, otherwise we will be left with nothing. We have to unite as a party,” he added.
Asked whether he still considered himself the acting MDC president, Mudzuri said: “The party cannot be run through the media”.
Khupe, backed by party national chairperson Lovemore Moyo, organising secretary Abednigo Bhebhe and national spokesperson Obert Gutu, is said to be steadfastly refusing to accept that Chamisa is the bona fide successor to Tsvangirai.
Gutu, who has also stopped attending party meetings, told the Daily News on Sunday yesterday: “I will make a big announcement in the fullness of time … because at the moment I am under pressure with corporate responsibilities that are taking much of my time”.
He also insisted that he remained the MDC’s national spokesperson despite his recent absence from duty.
“My deputy (Thabitha Khumalo) is not standing in for me because I am an elected official, a product of congress,” he said when pressed why an acting spokesperson had been appointed in his absence.
In his acceptance speech after the crucial MDC meeting on Friday, Chamisa pledged to unite the party.
“As regards the issue of the party in terms of its unity and hygiene, this is part of what we are doing to make sure that the party is clear so that we remove all the noise in the cockpit … and that people are clear as we prepare for elections … and they are clear in winning the elections,” he said.