THE gloves are off in the opposition MDC as hawks plotting the ouster of leader Nelson Chamisa are reportedly unhappy that the party’s elective congress will be held in October next year, when they would have preferred an early congress to have the leadership mess cleaned up as a matter of urgency.
Highly-placed sources said there was a clique in the opposition pushing for the ouster of Chamisa and replace him with party secretary-general Douglas Mwonzora.
“There are people within the party who are fronting Mwonzora as the next leader of the MDC. These are unhappy that congress has been moved and are now mooting to attack the party leader on social media and paint him as a dictator. We are acutely aware that this is the work of Zanu PF,” a source said.
The fight for the control of MDC appears to be at its peak, with Kuwadzana East legislator Charlton Hwende (MDC), claiming on Twitter at the weekend that MDC members opposed to the party’s elective congress October 2019 date were surrogate candidates sponsored by Zanu PF and war veterans.
“The MDC congress is due in October. This is determined by the date of our 2014 congress. Zanu PF and their surrogate candidate sponsored by the war veterans want an early congress to divert us from the agenda of marching to State House to defend the vote (for) @nelsonchamisa,” the legislator tweeted.
Last week, a letter purporting to have been authored by Mwonzora querying the October 2019 elective congress turned out to be a forgery.
In response, Mwonzora fumed: “Some political criminals have resorted to forging signatures of MDC officials. They have also been posting fake tweets, with the aim of creating tensions within party leadership and that will not succeed. I did not issue any statement regarding the party’s elective congress at all. The letter circulating on social media is fake.”
Soon after the contested July 30 general elections, Zanu PF showed its hand when war veterans secretary-general and Zanu PF central committee member Victor Matemadanda said the MDC would be in better hands if it was led by Mwonzora than Chamisa, whom they accused of being violent.
Mwonzora distanced himself from the statements, saying he did not need the endorsement of Zanu PF or war veterans, but his latest tiff with his bosses at the party over the expulsions of party members who stood in the polls as independents has set tempers flying.
Party spokesperson Jacob Mafume fingered Zanu PF, saying they were behind the plot to set the MDC leadership against each other by planting false narratives.
“We are aware of efforts by Zanu PF to use our congress to put Trojan horses of instability using dirty money. We want to assure our supporters that we are capable of emptying the Trojan horses’ way before they enter our gates at congress,” he said.
Chamisa, through his spokesperson Nkululeko Sibanda, insisted that congress would be held and party members would be allowed to make their choices as they elect officers of congress.
“Our constitution is very clear. Our congress is held after every five years. Our last one was in November and since the upcoming election is not about electing a new leader of the party, it’s not a special congress, but a congress that will elect all officers of congress. It will be held in October,” he said.
Zanu PF spokesperson Simon Khaya Moyo distanced his party from the MDC internal fights, saying they were not concerned about their squabbles.
“We are not interested in the fights by those boys. Talk to the people who are allegedly getting funding from us. We are not going to be drawn into their agenda,” he said.
MDC national chairperson Tabitha Khumalo, on the other hand, has indicated that she would protect party members from victimisation ahead of the party’s congress.
She said the recent wave of expulsions that gripped the party were ineffectual, as some provincial executives had breached the party’s constitution.
The party’s national council opened floodgates for victimisation of perceived enemies when a resolution was made that those who stood as independent candidates in the June 2018 polls must be brought to book or shown the door.
NewsDay understands that Chamisa could face stiff challenge from his deputy Elias Mudzuri or Mwonzora.
Mwonzora recently refused to sanction the arbitrary expulsions of party members, reportedly targeting delegates against Chamisa’s leadership.
“In terms of the MDC constitution, section 9:3, my role is to make sure that the party and the structures are healthy and so, if there is a grievance, let’s say at the branch level, there must be a disciplinary committee led by the deputy chair and they will deal with the issue,” Khumalo told NewsDay recently.
“If they find fault, they must make recommendations. Theirs is just a recommendation and they will pass it to the higher organ until it gets to my office. Their role is to recommend and not to resolve. I am the final person to make the decision.”
Khumalo also said she was happy with the manner the Bulawayo deputy mayoral position was handled, saying it was a sign of democracy at play. It is also understood that MDC partners holding influential positions could face a stiff challenge at the elective congress.
Chamisa recently made key appointments, including elevating party chairman Morgen Komichi to deputy president, together with Welshman Ncube.
He also appointed Mafume as party spokesperson, while Khumalo became chairperson.
Former People’s Democratic Party leader Tendai Biti was incorparated and elevated to party vice-chairperson.
Under the new MDC constitution, Chamisa was empowered to appoint his deputies only, but the other positions of spokesperson, chairperson and secretary-general are elected at congress.
Insiders said there was a scheme to contest the positions held by Biti, Mafume, Ncube and others who were viewed as Chamisa’s close allies.
“Chamisa appears to be on his way to win the post of president, but his allies are being targeted. They want to suffocate him and leave him as a sitting duck. So it’s going to be a tough call for the likes of Biti and others,” another highly-placed source said.
But Mafume said it was too early to make conclusions: “Congress is still some way off. The party is thanking supporters and voters for its victory in the past elections, regardless of the grand theft. We are also concentrating on fighting to reclaim that victory so the nomination process has not begun.”
He said the MDC was also aware that Zanu PF could be actively funding people to destabilise Chamisa’s party.