Former Harare mayor Elias Mudzuri is reportedly in the running for the MDC presidency, although he acknowledges wrestling with whether to run or not given the "political challenges" he might face for attempting to dethrone party leader Morgan Tsvangirai.
While MDC officials say Mudzuri was already doing the groundwork for his challenge, the former organising secretary could neither deny nor confirm if he will run for the party's presidency.
But insiders insisted to the news crew yesterday that he was preparing to stand for the party presidency and was already laying the ground.
In meetings and public statements ahead of the congress, Mudzuri has presented a united front with Tsvangirai, highlighting their transition from rivals to confidantes.
Yet in the weeks before the congress, insiders have detailed instances of substantive disagreements between the two including the handling of the fall-out between Tsvangirai and expelled secretary general Tendai Biti and his co-conspirators.
Mudzuri's relationship with Tsvangirai presents a delicate challenge for the former Harare mayor as he rolls out his presidential campaign. He does not want to appear disloyal to his boss but could use some separation given his anaemic poll numbers. He would have to have MDC supporters enthusiastically on board a presidential campaign, while fending off attempts to depict him as a rebel.
Mudzuri's allies dismiss as simplistic the prism through which he is seen as either with Tsvangirai or against him, but insiders are already seizing on any ray of daylight between them, which further complicates his challenge.
Mudzuri described himself as "a politician who is not driven by greed" but the desire to serve the people.
He said instead of thinking about wrestling power from Tsvangirai, he was concentrating more on re-uniting with the Biti faction, now going by the moniker 'MDC Renewal Team.'
The former Harare mayor said he wanted the party to emerge from the congress with a "winning team" modelled around "people with a national appeal."
Mudzuri has been snubbing Tsvangirai's recent campaign rallies.
"I have not been attending these rallies because I feel now is the time to be going underground and work for the benefit of the people. I do not want to talk about that (succession) now because people have gone factional and I don't understand why they have chosen to abandon the national objective. For now, Tsvangirai is the leader of the party and we must all respect that leadership. Anyone who thinks otherwise is lost but there are some people who are greedy who want power for the sake of it. I have been trying to bring people together. I am worried, I am pained, probably the most, and I wish we could just go to congress united and not pursue our selfish interests," Mudzuri said.
Mudzuri said the call for an early congress had caught him off-guard, suggesting that the party holds its congress in 2016 as previously planned.
That would give him ample time to launch a credible challenge, insiders say.
"I have never been opposed to a congress in 2016 because it gives us time to interrogate ourselves so that we hold a congress that comes out with a national team. We do not want to go to congress and come up with a group that will be labelled to be factional. We want to go there and come up with a national team, modelled around people with a national appeal, having engaged everyone including our rural supporters and national opinion leaders," he said.
He said divergent opinions were necessary for internal democracy, saying he disagreed with Tsvangirai on several instances but they still co-existed in the party.
"We agree and disagree with the president. I offer advice and he takes some and leaves some. That is how it should be. I even suggested to him that he should have left Mangoma and his opinions to burn out under the big tent and meet him at congress. Even Mugabe has his factions but he keeps them around," he said.
Top sources in the party said Mudzuri has already hit the ground running, coordinating meetings in Harare and other provinces to drum up support for his ascendancy to the top post.
Tsvangirai has invited any challenge to his post, saying congress was the only legal way to claim power.
Luke Tamborinyoka, the MDC leader's spokesperson, said Tsvangirai and Mudzuri enjoyed a cordial working relationship regardless of reports that the Warren Park legislator was gunning for his throne.
"The president has always made it clear that it is not criminal to aspire for higher office in the party and that includes the presidency. That is why even after the media reports that Mudzuri wants to be president, the two have gone on to play golf together. It is all because there is nothing criminal about it," he said.
Tamborinyoka said what was wrong was usurping power by staging palace coups and what he called "confidential letters and memo detats."
Despite gunning for the top job, observers say Mudzuri lacks a critical mass to mount a serious campaign against the charismatic MDC leader.
With the October congress approaching, jostling for positions in the party has already reached fever-pitch as other potential candidates are already canvassing for support.
At the last MDC congress in 2011, party organising secretary Nelson Chamisa, who sources say is angling to replace Biti as secretary general, handed Mudzuri a humiliating defeat.
MDC spokesperson Douglas Mwonzora is tipped to battle it out with national executive member Murisi Zwizwai for the post of organising secretary, while Women's Assembly boss Theresa Makone is reportedly gunning to replace Roy Bennett as treasurer-general.
Thokozani Khupe is set to retain the vice presidency.
The acting secretary-general Tapiwa Mashakada has also set his eyes on the treasurer-general's portfolio, meaning he could square off with Makone.
Chamisa's deputy Abednico Bhebhe and Thamsanqa Manhlangu, are reportedly eyeing the deputy national chairman post and deputy national organising secretary posts respectively, while former speaker and national chairman Lovemore Moyo will likely retain his post.
Shakespear Mukoyi, Harare provincial youth chairman, reportedly wants to become national youth president to replace Solomon Madzore.
MDC returnees Job Sikhala, Joubert Mudzumwe and Edward Mkhosi will also contest for top positions.