IT HAS emerged that warring MDC factions are engaging in tentative talks, in a bid to end their damaging power feud, the Daily News on Sunday revealed.
This comes as concerned insiders have also told the Daily News on Sunday that hardliners on both sides of the feud are working hard to scuttle the negotiations in which some key players in the Thokozani Khupe camp are said to be playing a central role.
It also comes after the Supreme Court recently annulled Nelson Chamisa’s MDC presidency after ruling that Khupe should be the party’s interim leader — with the mandate to organise an extraordinary congress to elect new party leadership using its 2014 structures.
Now, the Daily News on Sunday can reveal exclusively that key Khupe players — who apparently include reinstated secretary-general Douglas Mwonzora and national chairperson Morgen Komichi — recently approached the Chamisa camp, to investigate the scope for unity ahead of the extraordinary congress scheduled for July 31.
Well-placed sources said the deal that has been put on the table includes Chamisa being elected as the undisputed new party leader — deputised by Khupe and Komichi, and Mwonzora retaining the secretary-general’s post.
Approached by the Daily News on Sunday yesterday, a cagey Mwonzora would only confirm the taking place of “engagements”, while declining to give details of the exploratory negotiations.
“Yes, we have had some engagements, but I cannot disclose much. We are determined to have unity in the party and we want everyone to attend the extraordinary congress,” he said.
Belligerent key Chamisa ally, Chalton Hwende, also confirmed the approach for talks yesterday, but rejected the negotiations outright.
“They sent some emissaries and when they came up with their proposal we rejected it. We rejected their proposals because they acknowledged that Chamisa is popular and should be the president of the MDC.
“They wanted to poach our president and we shot that down,” he said.
But other sources in Chamisa’s camp told the Daily News on Sunday that notwithstanding Hwende’s utterances, negotiations were “on-going”.
“Early in the conflict, Mwonzora and Khupe sent a team of lawyers for us to come up with a congress. They wanted to deal with Tendai Biti, Hwende and vice president Welshman Ncube.
“They were proposing that they would then go to the extraordinary congress with a slate that would have a pre-determined outcome — whereby Chamisa would be president, while Khupe and Komichi would be his deputies.
“Mwonzora would then revert to his secretary-general post. But we rejected those proposals because it was a proposal meant to reverse the Alliance. That is the only sticking point,” one of the sources said.
But while these initiatory talks are going on, the Khupe group is also pressing ahead with its preparations for the extraordinary congress — amid reports that they are prepared “to go it alone” if the current discussions fail.
Meanwhile, Komichi told the Daily News on Sunday yesterday that since the Supreme Court’s judgment, the party’s national standing committee has not been able to meet despite the fact that the party is two months away from the planned extraordinary congress.
“We have not met as a national standing committee because we still have challenges. Some people are still hesitant to make clear their positions because they want to establish who has the power to recall, and now that it is clear we hope to get started soon,” he said.
The MDC’s 2014 national standing committee included the party’s late founding leader Morgan Tsvangirai (president), Khupe (deputy president), Lovemore Moyo (national chairperson), Komichi (deputy national chairperson), Mwonzora (secretary-general) and Abednico Bhebhe (organising secretary).
The other members were Paurina Mpariwa (deputy secretary-general), Theresa Makone (treasurer-general), Hwende (deputy treasurer-general), Amos Chibaya (deputy organising secretary), Obert Gutu (secretary for information and publicity), Thabitha Khumalo (deputy secretary for information and publicity), Lynnette Karenyi
Kore (women’s assembly chairperson) and Happymore Chidziva (youth assembly chairperson).
However, with Tsvangirai now late, while Gutu and Moyo are no longer in politics, Komichi said they would have to get the sufficient quorum from the remaining 11 people.
All this comes as the pressure has been mounting on Chamisa and his top allies, after more party MPs defied his decree to withdraw their services from Parliament last week.
It also comes as political analysts have warned that the charismatic politician’s directive was a “bad” and “irrational” call, which was already backfiring spectacularly.
MPs David Tekeshe, Joice Makonya and Virginia Mafuta became the latest party legislators to attend parliamentary business.
This was after their colleagues Peter Moyo and Winnie Kankuni similarly attended parliamentary business earlier in the week.
The MPs later told the Daily News On Sunday’s sister paper, the Daily News, that it would be a “travesty of justice not to attend Parliament” when their constituencies expected the legislators to represent them in the august House.
Tekeshe added that he had been “directed by people” in his constituency to attend parliamentary business after he consulted them.
“I do not believe I am defying the party directive, but that I am doing what the constituency has directed me to do.
“During this time of Covid-19, the people in my constituency need me the most, and if I don’t come to these platforms they will miss out on many things.
“People think that politics is about hatred and enmity, but I think we need to unite,” Tekeshe said defiantly.
“I am not bothered if anyone recalls me because I am an established businessperson. I did not join politics to become MP, but for the people,” he told the Daily News.
Pressed to say if he still recognised Chamisa as his leader, Tekeshe said the time was “not yet ripe” for him to declare his allegiances.
“We will cross that bridge when we get to it. All I can say is that in a democracy we have the right to make choices, and I made the choice to come to Parliament today,” he said.
On her part, Mafuta said she had decided to defy Chamisa’s directive after having allegedly suffered abuse at the hands of fellow MPs in the party, who were accusing her of backing Mwonzora.
“I was removed from the party’s WhatsApp group by Lilian Timveos (who is among the MPs who have been recalled), who accused me of being Mwonzora’s person.
“When I begged for re-admission to the group, I was told to wait. I only got re-admission for a short time before I was removed again.
“From that point I realised that there was a bigger hand behind all this. So at the moment, I am standing by the court judgment. That is my position,” Mafuta told the Daily News.
Southerton MP Moyo also questioned why Chamisa wanted them to withdraw from Parliament for the sake of the four recalled MPs when he had failed to do the same after he lost the 2018 presidential election.
“For the record, I voted for Chamisa and I will vote for him again. But let us not use emotions here.
“The bigger question is why did we not boycott Parliament when we said the presidential elections were rigged?
“Why should we now disengage from Parliament … simply because four MPs have been recalled from Parliament?” Moyo said.
“The issue is that we are disputing the decision by the party to tell us to disengage before they consult.
“If they are saying MPs should disengage, everyone else should disengage. A war is not fought in bits and pieces.
“I couldn’t miss the committee meeting because that meeting was crucial, especially during this time of Covid-19 when people in our constituencies are hungry.
“We have people we lead who we should consult first. Let us not put emotions everywhere,” Moyo further told the Daily News.
Chamisa and his lieutenants have appeared to be in disarray ever since the Supreme Court delivered its ruling on the party’s leadership ructions at the end of March.
On its part, the Khupe group has successfully recalled Hwende (Kuwadzana), Tabitha Khumalo (MDC proportional representative), Prosper Mutseyami (Dangamvura) and Midlands senator Lillian Timveos, from Parliament, as it flexed its muscles and demonstrated that it is fully in charge of the beleaguered party for now.
Complicating matters further for Chamisa is the fact that the MDC has a total of about 107 legislators who got top-of-the-range vehicles, including Toyota Hiluxes worth between US$40 000 and US$60 000.
Under their parliamentary privilege, they are supposed to pay for them through a stop order for a period of five years.
Besides their average monthly salary of between $6 000 and $8 000, the MPs are also entitled to $700 sitting allowances per session, fuel coupons and lucrative foreign trips on parliamentary business.
The government emphasised recently that it would withdraw all their benefits if they withdrew from Parliament. – Daily News