MDC-T leader Douglas Togarasei Mwonzora’s manoeuvres to position himself as the main opposition leader suffered a double blow last week after the United States and the European Union (EU) signalled that they consider his ascendancy as lacking credibility.
Mwonzora took over from Thokozani Khupe as interim leader of the MDC-T after the party’s chaotic extraordinary congress last December.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government regards Mwonzora as the head of the official opposition ahead of MDC Alliance leader Nelson Chamisa after a series of controversial court rulings that allowed the MDC-T to elbow out their rivals from their offices and elected positions.
In a new report on the human rights situation in Zimbabwe, the US said Mwonzora’s “minor” political party was the beneficiary of court rulings that disfranchised voters.
“The High Court, in a series of decisions beginning in March, paved the way for a minor political party, the MDC-T, to challenge the leadership of the main opposition party, the MDC Alliance, ignoring earlier jurisprudence that ruled that political parties, as private and voluntary associations, should resolve their differences using internal remedies,” the US report read in part.
“This decision disenfranchised voters by allowing the minor political party to recall and replace elected MDC Alliance parliamentarians and local councillors.
“In June police and military arrested some and blocked other senior MDC Alliance officials from entering the party’s headquarters when MDC-T party members broke into the building.”
The damning report was a blistering attack on Mnangagwa’s human rights record with accusations that state security agents were being used to target government critics for abductions and torture.
Mwonzora says he wants to introduce a new kind of politics in Zimbabwe, which promotes dialogue and has been gravitating towards a working relationship with Mnangagwa’s government.
Last week’s developments, however, pointed to lack of trust by the international community with the EU delegation reportedly pointing out to the MDC-T that it has questions about its status.
Mwonzora was told in no uncertain terms that his claim to be the main opposition leader in Zimbabwe was dubious during a March 31 virtual meeting with EU heads of mission, multiple sources that followed the proceedings have told The Standard.
“The envoys told Mwonzora that they had challenges recognising him as the face of the opposition because he did not participate in the 2018 elections as a presidential candidate,” said the official, who requested to remain anonymous.
“The two parties, however, agreed that broad-based dialogue should include Chamisa.
“It has been a long-held EU position that dialogue in Zimbabwe be broad-based and includes the MDC Alliance.”
Mwonzora’s spokesperson Lloyd Damba, who described the meeting with the EU as cordial, refused to comment about the allegations that the envoys queried their claim to be the official opposition party.
Damba referred all questions to the EU.
“We issued a statement on our meeting with the EU,” he said. “If you have any doubts on what transpired, did you make an effort to reach out to the EU?”
Timo Olkkonen, the EU ambassador to Zimbabwe, was not available for comment yesterday as his mobile phone was unreachable.
Last week, Olkkonen only described the meeting as “an extensive and interesting discussion”.
In March last year, Mnangagwa’s Political Actors Dialogue (Polad) platform was told that the west had expressed reservations about supporting any dialogue platform that excluded Chamisa.
“Although they applaud and appreciate the great initiative taken by His Excellency ED Mnangagwa and the political leaders that participated as presidential candidates in the 2018 harmonised election, that of coming together to establish Polad, they are all of the view that the ongoing dialogue process should rather be broad-based, with key stakeholders that include the MDC Alliance, civic society, religious groups, white commercial farmers and business included,” Khupe, who represented Polad’s international relations committee, said at the time.
“Both the US and EU ambassadors emphasised their desire to have South Africa playing a leading role in the dialogue process with former president Thabo Mbeki as the mediator.”
The MDC Alliance says the MDC-T is being used by Mnangagwa to decimate the opposition and create a one-party state.
On the other hand, Mwonzora says he is the legitimate successor to MDC founding leader Morgan Tsvangirai.
— The Standard