Opposition leader Nelson Chamisa has set the cat among the pigeons in his party, after he recently suggested that one of the MDC’s three posts of vice president should be reserved for a woman, the Daily News can report.
This has agitated some of his ambitious lieutenants who intend to go for the posts when the country’s main opposition gathers at its elective congress in May — as their chances of falling by the wayside have just gone a notch up. This comes as an insane rate race for the posts has ensued in the party, with nearly a dozen heavyweights expected to throw their names into the ring at the eagerly-anticipated elective congress.
The MDC will hold the congress from May 24 to 26, to choose a new party leadership — including the substantive successor to its revered founding president Morgan Tsvangirai, who died early last year after losing his valiant battle against cancer of the colon.
The popular and charismatic Chamisa, who narrowly lost to President Emmerson Mnangagwa in last year’s historic elections, could face competition from either Elias Mudzuri or respected secretary-general Douglas Mwonzora at the gathering. However, it is the three posts of vice president which could ignite real fireworks, with well-placed party sources confirming to the Daily News yesterday that these would be contested by a number of senior officials.
But in a new twist to the eagerly-awaited elections, Chamisa appeared to have thrown spanners in the works of some of his powerful colleagues, after he indicated that the party’s presidium needed gender balance.
“We want to advance you. We want to elevate you. That is why we came here to celebrate balance … which is the theme for this celebration.
“We want to make sure we have balanced our leadership … as we go to the congress. Let us balance leadership in the party structures,” the MDC leader told women who gathered in Chitungwiza last weekend to celebrate International Women’s Day.
Chamisa went on to heap praise on women’s assembly boss Lynnet Karenyi-Kore, whom he lauded for having provided “inspiring leadership which he was proud of” in the party.
“We have known Karenyi-Kore for a long time when she was a councillor in Mutare. She has developed tremendously.
“I know she is going to school, she is advancing herself. All women wherever you are continue to advance and we want you to feel encouraged that MDC is the home for all women who want to develop, including young female leaders,” he said further.
MDC insiders told the Daily News yesterday that while it was “not cast in stone” that Karenyi-Kore would get one of the party’s VP posts, it was “very telling” that Chamisa had praised her at a time that she was actively pushing for promotion.
The MDC’s three current vice presidents are all men — comprising Welshman Ncube, Morgen Komichi and Mudzuri. Thus far, it is also not clear if the party will keep this structure intact or return to its old arrangement where it had only two vice presidents.
Among the notable party bigwigs who are said to be vying for the VPs’ posts include Komichi, Ncube, vice chairperson Tendai Biti, Mwonzora, chairperson Tabitha Khumalo and secretary for elections Murisi Zwizwai.
Karenyi-Kore, former Labour minister Paurina Mpariwa, Midlands Senator Lillian Timveos and treasurer-general Theresa Makone are the other women said to be also eyeing the posts.
While none of these bigwigs have openly declared their ambitions yet, preferring to wait until they are officially nominated by party structures for the positions, Karenyi-Kore recently hinted at her higher ambitions by calling for the elevation of women to the MDC’s top decision-making positions. She also said that she was aware that her supporters wanted to know what position she would contest at the May elective congress, but said cryptically:
“I would like to throw the ball in your court my beloved MDC … family”.
“What is your advice as leaders and supporters of our party? I will be willing to take up a position of the people’s choice where supporters feel I can best represent the movement.
“In the meantime, speaking on behalf of many women in the movement, my wish is to see a balanced leadership that also puts the issue of gender into consideration.
“I also wish to see a reasonable number of women in senior positions, including the standing committee, national executive, provincial executives, district executives, ward executives and branch executives,” Karenyi-Kore said.
Other party sources told the Daily News yesterday that Chamisa’s weekend remarks could spell trouble for many bigwigs among the prospective male candidates for the VP posts — including Biti and Ncube who only returned to the main opposition party in August 2017 when, the late Tsvangirai formed an alliance with their respective parties.
Both Biti and Ncube are former secretaries-general of the original united MDC. In 2005, Ncube walked out of the party accusing Tsvangirai of being a dictator — while Biti similarly packed his bags in 2014 after also accusing Tsvangirai of having dictatorial tendencies.
The sources added that Komichi and Mudzuri, who are already in the presidium, could be favoured by their intimate knowledge of party structures — where Biti and Ncube allegedly had “all to do to win over support”. One of these insiders also said while Ncube appeared “a shoo-in” to retain his post, this could change if the party decided to reserve one of the VP posts for a woman from Matabeleland.
Previously, one of the party’s then two VP posts was occupied by Thokozani Khupe — who later formed her own breakaway party last year, following an ugly leadership wrangle in the MDC. Another insider said should the party decide to have a woman from the Shona-speaking side of the country as one of its VPs, as was “most likely” given Chamisa’s recent remarks, this would mean that the likes of Biti, Zwizwai, Mudzuri and Komichi would fall by the wayside.