MDC-T has been thrown into a state of confusion and uncertainty following the recall of its four legislators from Parliament on grounds that they had ceased acting in the interest of their party.
The recall of Mr Charlton Hwende (Kuwadzana East), Mr Prosper Mutseyami (Dangamvura-Chikanga), Senator Lillian Timveous (Midlands) and Ms Thabita Khumalo (proportional representative Bulawayo Province) followed a Supreme Court ruling which declared Ms Thokozani Khupe the legitimate leader of the main opposition party and ordered the holding of an extraordinary congress within three months.
Our Deputy Editor Ranga Mataire (RM) spoke to MDC-T secretary-general Senator Douglas Mwonzora (DM) on the reasons behind the recall of the four legislators and the way forward on leadership wrangles that threaten to further decimate the opposition political party.
RM: Mr Mwonzora, I understand you are a signatory to a letter to the Speaker of Parliament requesting the recalling of four MDC-T legislators. What informed this decision?
DM: Basically, the four are senior members who ought to have acted responsibly in the discharge of their duties, particularly after the Supreme Court ruling, which directed that we revert to the 2014 structures.
RM: Have you tried yourself or as a group to engage Mr Chamisa after the Supreme Court ruling?
DM: Yes, we did through Honourable Elias Mudzuri. He tried to set an appointment with Advocate Chamisa. He was not forthcoming and we sense that he did not have enough respect for us. Maybe he thought that we don’t matter.
But as I said before, our aim is never to divide the party, but to have a responsible leadership. If you can see; Adv Chamisa has not commented for one month. He has not commented on the Supreme Court decision and we think that he has commented via his deputy presidents and other party officials who were just dismissive.
All they would say is that anybody speaking a different opinion was a ZANU PF agent. That’s their standard answer. Anybody who differs with them is ZANU PF and is supposed to have been bought. Sometimes they even volunteer figures. This is their trademark and its tragic. These are young people and they ought to do things in a modern way.
RM: When you say “us” and “them”, who are you referring to?
DM: The party, the majority is us. The people who are saying let’s follow the law; let’s follow values, let us be a party of discipline, let’s follow our own constitution and let us be a party of rules. It is critically important. I heard someone saying that why should we worry about the constitution and what does it help?
The world’s biggest economy is the United States economy and that country’s economy is predicated on its strong constitution and the respect for that constitution. If you have respect for constitution, you will then have respect for institutions and a country with strong and inclusive institutions has been shown by empirical evidence to develop faster.
Even in commerce, we must have rules otherwise we have corruption and clientelism setting in.
Constitutionalism is critically important. People who meet in a particular political party are not necessarily friends. They are united by certain values. A political party must be known for something. It must be known to represent something. Does it represent democracy? Does it represent nationalism? Does it represent anarchy? Where we were going was anarchy.
RM: How do you respond to the accusation that what is happening has happened before and you are a divisive element sent by ZANU PF to destroy the MDC? Others are saying Mr Chamisa will remain the MDC leader in the court of public opinion despite the Supreme Court’s ruling.
DM: Well, what has happened has not happened before. Definitely not. This is very unique. This is a division caused by a court judgment. And the difference between all the court judgments in the past, for example, the court judgment versus President Mnangagwa. It was a court judgment versus an external person.
In this court case, it was an MDC’s Elias Mashavira who is the organising secretary in Gokwe versus the MDC president. So it was MDC versus MDC. It was an internal dispute that spilled onto the public arena.
Once you have an internal dispute between yourselves and is resolved by the highest court in the land, you have to obey it because if you don’t, when that dispute comes back home, it doesn’t go away. That’s why some of us were saying we must follow the ruling.
So the basis for the division is between anarchy and lawfulness. It is a moral issue. It is not always true that there was a problem of Biti and Tsvangirai and the former lost in the court of public opinion and there was a problem between Welshman and Tsvangirai and again Welshman lost in the court of public opinion.
Therefore, if there is a conflict between Chamisa and Komichi or Chamisa and Mwonzora then the court of public opinion will be in Chamisa’s favour.
History will show that this is too early for people to write off other people. Nelson Chamisa is certainly not Tsvangirai and the disputes are different. The worrying thing is that instead of listening to one another to say what exactly is the issue, people rush to say you have been bought by ZANU PF and that I am sponsored.
I can’t be sponsored by ZANU-PF. I have been a lawyer for almost 30 years and in those years I have attempted three times to write the Constitution of Zimbabwe. I failed on two occasions, but on the third occasion together with others, I succeeded. My passion is constitutionalism. It is order, it is against anarchy.
RM: Assuming that we have by-elections for the seats left vacant by the recalled MPs, how do you foresee the candidates in terms of their representations?
DM: These will be by-elections you have never seen before. I am sure you have seen the number of people in the provinces writing statements in support of the court judgments. There have been statements from youths in Manicaland, Masvingo, Mashonaland Central, women in Mashonaland East, youths in Harare and I am told that the South African province has also issued a statement. This is unprecedented in the history of the movement and leaders must begin to listen.
RM: But Mr Mwonzora, I don’t remember any youths in Harare issuing a statement in support of the Supreme Court ruling.
DM: Yes, through Paul Gorekore, he issued a statement a few days ago and I can send you a copy.
RM: So Mr Mwonzora, you are saying we don’t anticipate to have more MPs recalled? The ones who were recalled were the ones who had acted irresponsibly as leaders.
DM: Not only that. They actually did something that was positively wrong. Besides being in authority, they actually acted in a manner that invited the recall. For example, Mr Hwende tweeted that he was no longer a member of the MDC that was once led by Tsvangirai.
That was a positive act and that is a statement we can never allow. First of all, it is factually incorrect and secondly, it is politically incorrect.
RM: Lastly, how far have you gone with preparations for the extraordinary congress?
DM: The preparations are going on very well. We have been reconstructing the structures because there was a lack of cooperation on the part of the immediate past administration.
They were refusing to give us information of the people. But we are now in communication with these people. We have, of course, been disturbed by the Covid-19 pandemic, which makes certain organisation methods not appropriate.
For example, we are going to have our national council meeting online on Friday. And then after that we will find ways of getting to the delegates without jeopardising their health and our technical team is looking at all this. On Friday, we will be announcing the date of the congress and unveiling the rules concerning the nomination of the candidates. Our hope is that if we get one candidate nominated unopposed, then there may not be need for a bigger gathering.
Once a candidate has been nominated unopposed, then they are automatically elected unopposed.
RM: Then how do you hope to resolve the issue of the party headquarters currently occupied by the faction aligned to Mr Chamisa?
DM: We have said to the people who were occupying the building that they should hand it over, but they have not done so.
In fact, they have been promising a bloodbath. I am told there are about 30 youths holed inside there with all manner of crude weapons to do harm to anybody who comes. Now, that is something we cannot accept. We are trying to use dialogue and persuasion for them to see sense and do what is right. The long and short of it is that we will have the building.