MDC Alliance leader Nelson Chamisa is facing a rebellion from former legislators and councillors who were recently recalled from their positions by Thokozani Khupe – after he ordered them to go through primaries for the forthcoming by-elections for those posts.
This comes as Chamisa and Khupe continue to be involved in a senseless war for the control of the country’s biggest opposition party – with the latter politician having recalled 31 legislators and dozens of councillors to date.
It also comes as Khupe and her interim MDC leadership have signalled their intention to hold talks with Zanu-PF, with a view to forming a government of national unity (GNU) to help resolve Zimbabwe’s myriad challenges.
MDC Alliance insiders told the Daily News yesterday that the recalled MPs and councillors were seething with anger after Chamisa told members of the national standing committee that they would have to contest in primary elections if they intended to run in the pending by-elections.
The insiders said Chamisa had argued that some of the MPs and councillors had lost popularity in their constituencies even before their recalls by Khupe.
They also claimed that organising secretary Amos Chibaya had attempted to challenge Chamisa’s order, even though the Alliance leader would have none of it.
“The president (Chamisa) suggested during a standing committee meeting that primary elections be held in all constituencies where MPs and councillors were recalled, to choose candidates to represent the party when by-elections are held.
“The suggestion came as a shock to all of us because the party made a resolution that the concerned MPs and councillors would be our candidates again as a reward for their loyalty to the party – given that some were bullied by Khupe into selling out.
“Soon after the suggestion, Chibaya raised his objection, but Nero would have none of it and told him in no uncertain terms that he could as well chair the standing committee meeting if he so desired.
“The call for Chibaya to chair the meeting was met with dead silence as Chamisa sternly warned that he did not countenance leaders who dared challenge him,” one of the insiders told the Daily News.
Efforts to get a comment from Chibaya yesterday were unsuccessful.
“The president said this suggestion was premised on the fact that some former legislators were no longer popular in their constituencies – citing Harare Central and Epworth, as cases in point,” another insider told the Daily News.
Harare Central constituency was held by Murisi Zwizwai – national executive member and traditionally a key ally of both the late MDC founding father Morgan Tsvangirai and Chamisa – before he was recalled by Khupe.
Contacted for comment yesterday, Zwizwai said he was not aware of the development.
“I can’t comment because I am not aware of the development. But from your sources, what would be the reasons for having primary elections?” he asked.
Ethrage Kureva, the former MP for Epworth and a national youth assembly member, was not reachable for comment.
Other insiders further told the Daily News that Chamisa’s decree did not go down well with the other recalled MPs who include his top allies such as Chalton Hwende (Kuwadzana), Wellington Chikombo (Glen Norah, Prosper Mutseyami (Chikanga Dangamvura), Happymore Chidziva (Highfield West) and Eric Murai (Highfield East).
MDC Alliance deputy spokesperson Clifford Hlatywayo downplayed the furore yesterday, adding that the party would only hold primary polls in constituencies and wards where sitting MPs or councillors would have died.
“The party is doing primary elections where there are vacant seats … not by recalls, but deaths or otherwise.
“Those who were illegally recalled are the candidates of the party in their respective constituencies and wards.
“That is the resolution of the national council,” Hlatywayo told the Daily News.
“There is not a single time in the national standing committee that the president said that because it has been our party position since day one,” he added.
But Chamisa’s move is also said to have unsettled other party legislators who have not been recalled, with one source saying some of these officials were now allegedly considering leaving the MDC Alliance – fearing that should Khupe wield the axe on them, their leader would not protect them.
The latest storm comes as political analysts have warned Chamisa and the MDC Alliance that they risk sinking into political oblivion if they do not respond appropriately to the onslaught from authorities and the Khupe group.
It also comes as the Supreme Court has granted Khupe time to hold the party’s delayed extra-ordinary congress by year-end – in yet another development that has far-reaching implications on the future of the country’s main opposition.
Chamisa and Khupe have been brawling for control of the party since Tsvangirai’s death from colon cancer on Valentine’s Day in 2018.
The party’s infighting escalated after the Supreme Court’s judgment in March upheld last year’s ruling by the High Court that nullified Chamisa’s ascendancy to the leadership of the country’s biggest opposition party.
Chamisa muscled his way to the helm of the main opposition at the expense of the rest. Khupe, Obert Gutu and a few other senior officials left the party in frustration and formed a splinter organisation.
In an interview with New Zim TV in April, Gutu claimed the only reason why the Khupe led MDC contested in the 2018 election was to stop Chamisa from being elected president of Zimbabwe.
“The 2018 election for us was a brave statement. We said let’s stop this young dictator (Chamisa) from getting to State House and indeed we stopped him,” Gutu said.
“In (the) 2023 (election), we will stop him because we know what he is, a little dictator,” he added.
In the 2018 election, Chamisa lost with a narrow margin to President Emmerson Mnangagwa who was contesting on a Zanu-PF ticket. Khupe garnered a paltry 45 000 votes.
However, Chamisa is disputing the 2018 presidential election results insisting the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) rigged the outcome in favour of Mnangagwa.