HARARE – The embattled MDC leader Nelson Chamisa has threatened to wield the axe on party members he says are sabotaging the opposition party ahead of a watershed congress next month.
Smarting from a stinging defeat by Zanu PF in a council by-election in Bulawayo’s Cowdray Park for what was seen as a safe seat, the opposition party is at sixes and sevens, with warring top officials throwing accusations and counter-accusations of sabotage.
According to a local daily Chamisa took to his Twitter account, to warn he will be acting on the lack of leadership in the party which resulted in Zanu PF winning the council seat for the first time in nearly 20 years.
“We have had a serious ‘invisible hand’ we have since discovered and about to cut it off… it is invisible to many I am glad to share via more appropriate platforms the leadership always has invisible eyes and ears,” he alleged.
Chamisa said the loss in Cowdray Park was caused by leadership excesses, which he said will be dealt with as the party goes and comes out of congress.
The fractured MDC fielded two candidates in the Cowdray Park ward 28 council by-election, Collet Ndlovu, who got 221 votes and Nomagugu Mloyi (1 229), against winner Zanu PF’s Kidwell Mujuru, who garnered 1 899 votes.
“The Cowdray Park ward election results are a stark reminder of the urgent need for far-reaching root and branch reforms and renewal set to kick in at congress. Leadership excesses and conduct that resulted in the party donating a seat to our opposition is regrettable, this is the last,” Chamisa said.
Party secretary-general Douglas Mwonzora, who is the likely challenger to Chamisa for the presidency at congress is seen as the likely target of the anger after he was accused of signing nomination papers for Ndlovu ahead of primary elections.
Insiders have been baying for Mwonzora’s head, accusing him of taking a back seat ahead of the 2018 general elections and causing double nominations within the party.
Mwonzora hit back, telling NewsDay that he was not to blame, but instead the fault had to be apportioned to party organising secretary, Amos Chibaya and party chairperson Tabitha Khumalo.
“The responsibility for structures under the MDC constitution lies with the national organising secretary not the secretary-general. The responsibility of making sure elections are conducted orderly and in a constitutional manner rests with the chairperson,” Mwonzora said.
Chibaya, however, sought to down-play the controversy.
“When we put forward a candidate as a party we own the process as a party, we can’t then say this is a specific person’s fault. Yes, constitutionally, it’s true that the organising secretary is responsible for structures. I am sure the secretary-general was just clarifying roles and not apportioning blame. We are reflecting on the issue around ward 28 in Bulawayo and corrective action will be taken,” he said.
Highly-placed sources said Chamisa was unlikely to deal with his opponents before congress because this would make him appear as if he was afraid of losing in a fair contest.
“There are some who want the purges to happen now. They are pushing to have Mwonzora, vice-president Elias Mudzuri, among others, to be recalled from Senate and fired from the party. But Chamisa is hesitant because it will be bad publicity,” the source said.
Chamisa has said he was ready to provide leadership and in a statement likely aimed at party secretary-general, said action will be taken.
“It is always unwise to think of self as the sharpest knife in the drawer. I have received a full report from across the country, I will give a leadership position soon,” Chamisa vowed.
This follows an alleged intelligence report which has since been tabled before Chamisa indicating that there are members in the MDC working with Mwonzora to use any means necessary to topple the youthful opposition leader at congress.
“The report has a detail of names of people being planted to ensure they cause chaos, so that Mwonzora takes over presidency, we are now well aware of this and the president will act,” a well-placed source said.
The congress will likely be held in Gweru, officials say, and there was a concerted push to hold it outside Harare to avoid clashes between rival camps.
“Congress will likely be held in Gweru where chances of clashes are less likely in the event of contested elections. The Chitungwiza factor is what will most likely determine the venue,” said a source.
Rival camps of the party have clashed in Chitungwiza and there are fears that this could spill to congress.
Chibaya said the MDC standing committee would decide the actual venue, but said Gweru and Harare were the most probable.
“We will decide tomorrow (today), but we have two possible venues in Gweru and Harare,” he said.
Chibaya, who was giving an update on the road to the MDC congress which will be held under the theme Defining a New Course for Zimbabwe, said the party will resolve all disputes ahead of congress.
“The organising committee has set up teams which will convene district assemblies where there are disputes and petitions raised,” he said.
On the Chitungwiza clashes, Chibaya said the party was saddened by the isolated cases of violence in the run-up to congress and said the party would deal with those behind the chaos.
“We are happy with internal democracy in the party in most areas as maturity has been displayed. We, however, recorded isolated cases of violence… the relevant organs of the party are getting to the bottom of these cases and disciplinary measures will be taken on all offenders,” he said.