Douglas Mwonzora has declared himself leader of the MDC Alliance in a letter to the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC).
Mwonzora told ZEC that only he and three other officials of his MDC-T party could confirm candidates “on behalf of the MDC, any of its derivatives and the MDC Alliance” ahead of by-elections slated for March 26.
The move appears aimed at upending Zimbabwe’s main opposition party, the MDC Alliance, which is seeking to regain seats it lost when Mwonzora recalled its elected officials, ironically accusing them of joining a rival party – the MDC Alliance.
Candidates for the various political parties contesting in 28 parliamentary seats and 105 council seats will be confirmed during the sitting of the nomination court on January 26.
“We are the owners of the Movement for Democratic Change name,” Mwonzora wrote in the letter dated January 3, but only released to the public on Tuesday.
“Over the years, there has been so many derivatives put on it. However, the leadership of this party was defined by the Supreme Court in the judgement in SC 56/20. Pursuant to this judgement the party held its extraordinary congress on December 27, 2020, where I was elected the substantive president of the party.
“By virtue of the Composite Political Agreement signed on August 5, 2017, and the subsequent meetings of the MDC Alliance, I assumed the leadership of the MDC Alliance.”
The MDC Alliance, already aware of Mwonzora’s shenanigans, says it has not yet decided what name it will use during the elections. The party led by Nelson Chamisa is wary of mounting a court challenge, or rolling the dice with ZEC, fearing state institutions have been captured by the ruling Zanu PF party to aid Mwonzora’s disruptive political strategy.
MDC secretary general Charlton Hwende, responding to Mwonzora’s letter, tweeted: “I was one of the first four MPs to be recalled and the reason cited by Mwonzora and accepted by the Speaker of Parliament was that I had joined another party called MDC Alliance from the MDC-T. Now all of a sudden Mwonzora is again claiming to be MDC Alliance. He can’t have his cake and eat it.”
Many expect the MDC Alliance will rebrand and dump the MDC name and emblems, in the process pulling the rug under Mwonzora’s feet – but the party appears set to drag out its strategy until the eve of the sitting of the nomination court.
Supreme Court judges in March 2019 ruled that Nelson Chamisa’s rise to take leadership of the MDC-T, as the party was then known in February 2018, was “fundamentally flawed by gross constitutional irregularities.”
The judges however admitted that the ruling was “academic” and “moot” after the MDC Alliance and the MDC-T held separate congresses to elect new leaders, in which Chamisa and Thokozani Khupe triumphed respectively. The two parties went into elections in 2018 as separate entities.
At the heart of the dispute, taken up with the courts by an MDC member, was whether MDC founding leader Morgan Tsvangirai breached the party constitution by appointing Chamisa and Elias Mudzuri as vice president to a triumvirate with Khupe who had been elected at the party’s last congress in 2014.
A High Court judge ruled that the appointments breached the MDC constitution, a decision upheld at the Supreme Court. Effectively, it meant Khupe was acting president when Tsvangirai died in February 2018, and not Chamisa, who went on to claim leadership of the party on an interim basis.
Khupe claimed leadership of the MDC-T, taking away some members of the party with her, but Chamisa would be confirmed leader of a new movement – the MDC Alliance – in June that year, going on to stand for the party in the elections in which election officials say he polled over two million votes, narrowly losing to President Emmerson Mnangagwa.
Khupe’s MDC-T party, with her as leader, polled less than 50,000 votes but secured two seats in parliament – one in the National Assembly and another in the Senate.
Khupe lost leadership of the MDC-T to Mwonzora at an extraordinary congress ordered by the Supreme Court. Subsequently, Mwonzora began recalling MDC Alliance MPs and councillors who were formerly MDC-T, accusing them of joining another party – the MDC Alliance – which he now curiously says he leads.