MDC leader Douglas Mwonzora has described the fact that his opposition rivals continue to underestimate him politically as “the best position” for him to be in.
Speaking to the Daily News On Sunday at the weekend, the Harare lawyer-cum-opposition boss also said time would show that his detractors were making a political mistake by maliciously linking him to the ruling Zanu PF.
In addition, he revealed, MDC Alliance leader Nelson Chamisa was continuing to rebuff his efforts to heal the senseless rifts that were ravaging the country’s opposition.
“I am a terribly underestimated character. The current MDC is also terribly underestimated. That is the best position to be from a strategic point of view.
“From the statistics on the ground, we are gaining ground where the rest of the opposition is losing ground.
“Some of the leaders who speak disparagingly against my prospects have also lost party internal elections against me in the past,” Mwonzora told the Daily News On Sunday.
“So, if I defeated them in elections at a smaller scale, why can’t I repeat that feat at a larger scale now?
“The amount of hate against me that you see on social media is coming from people who know and have worked with me for years.
“If I was as weak as they say, they wouldn’t be spending so much time and energy in negative campaigns against me and my party,” Mwonzora further told the Daily News On Sunday.
“I have tried to talk peace with my brother Chamisa with a view to uniting Zimbabweans and solving national problems, but this effort has been rebuffed by his team and himself.
“They have resorted to denigrating and trying to humiliate me on social media. Unfortunately they are under the influence of the G40s (Zanu PF’s vanquished Generation 40 faction) who specialise in hate politics.
“They have also hired the services of some academics who day in and day out churn hate and peddle propaganda against me on social media,” Mwonzora also let rip.
The opposition leader also said it was wrong to call him or the MDC “sell-outs” on account of the recent passage of Constitutional Amendment Number 2 Bill — which removes the running mate clause and also restores power to the president to handpick judges.
This comes after Parliament passed the hotly-debated law changes, which seek to introduce at least 27 amendments to the Constitution — including dropping the presidential election running mate clause.
Zanu PF did not need the opposition to pass the amendments as it enjoys a super majority in the National Assembly following its landslide victory in the 2018 parliamentary elections which the bickering opposition did not challenge.
The running mate clause was supposed to become operational as from the 2023 general elections, which President Emmerson Mnangagwa has already indicated he will participate in.
The Bill also intends to amend the country’s supreme law to give a sitting president the power to appoint the prosecutor-general, extend the terms of retiring judges, increase the women’s quota in Parliament by 10 years, create a youth quota in the National Assembly, and appoint more non-constituency ministers, among other things.
Mwonzora said he and other opposition bigwigs had voted for the changes because not all of the mooted amendments were wrong.
“Out of the six issues in the Constitutional Amendment Number 2 Bill, MDC supports four, including the women and youth quotas, the quota for women in councils and devolution.
“Those who voted yes were thus voting for the women’s quota, the youth quota, the quota of women in council and devolution.
“Those who voted no were voting no to the running mate and the judges’ clauses. We also think that their behaviour was reasonable.
“The MDC does not support unnecessary amendments of the Constitution. It is our view that any amendments must be preceded by wide consultations and dialogue with stakeholders.
“We also think that consultations cannot be made to solve internal party issues like what the running mate clause does to apparently resolve the issues of succession within a political party,” Mwonzora further told the Daily News On Sunday.
“Our MPs were faced with a genuine dilemma and so was the party. At the stage the Bill had reached, all this had to be voted as a whole.
“In other words it was indivisible and so the choices that faced each individual MP was rejecting everything in the Bill, and in the process rejecting the clauses the party is comfortable with or accepting the entire Bill and also in the process accepting the running mate clause and the judges clause.
“It was a genuine dilemma that MPs were faced with and, therefore, they voted using their conscience.
“Those who voted for it were voting for the clauses we agree with and those who voted against were voting against the running mate and the judges clause,” Mwonzora added.
This comes as many legal and political experts have said that the move to amend the Constitution was retrogressive.
University of Zimbabwe political science lecturer, Clever Mumbengegwi, was among those who said the amendments were meant to bolster President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s powers to deal with political dynamics in both Zanu PF and the government — especially relating to succession politics.
“The removal of the running mate clause will make the president powerful and he can fire the vice president without following any procedure.
“It’s a political calculation. We have seen the firing of the vice president before, but at the end it weakened the president, which led to his downfall,” Mumbengegwi told the Daily News On Sunday.
He was referring to the last few years in power of the late former president Robert Mugabe, which saw Zanu PF effectively splitting in the middle due to its ugly factional, tribal and succession wars.
Then, Mnangagwa’s supporters were involved in a hammer and tongs war with the G40 faction which had coalesced around the nonagenarian’s erratic wife Grace.
The vicious brawling took a nasty turn when Mnangagwa was allegedly poisoned by his rivals during one of Mugabe’s highly-divisive youth interface rallies in Gwanda in 2017.
Mnangagwa’s fate was eventually sealed on November 6 of the same year when Mugabe fired his long-time lieutenant a few days after the then VP’s allies had booed the irascible Grace during a tense rally at White City Stadium in Bulawayo.
However, tables were dramatically turned on Mugabe when the military rolled in their tanks on November 15 and deposed the long-ruling geriatric from power — which saw a number of alleged G40 kingpins fleeing into self-imposed exile soon afterwards.