THE MDC congress started slowly in Gweru yesterday, which it blamed on a spike in transport costs and shortages of fuel.
The congress was supposed to kick off at midday at Ascot Stadium with a youth and women’s assembly congress, followed by elections of the two organs.
Delegates were still trickling into the stadium way into the evening, while the logistics team was setting up the arena.
The delays meant that voting by youth and women assemblies would now go deep into the night, raising fears of rigging and vote manipulation.
Lovemore Chinoputsa, who is eying the position of youth assembly chairperson, said owing to the delays, the youth would have to skip their mini congress and go straight into voting.
“The youth were supposed to have come in on Thursday and started their congress early. However, because of fuel shortages, a spike in transport and accommodation costs, we could not travel in advance, as you see delegates are still arriving, but we are ready and soon, it will be all systems go,” he said.
The national executive meeting, scheduled to run concurrently with the youth and women assembly congress, had yet to start late in the evening.
Outside the congress venue, delegates gathered in different groups, campaigning peacefully for their preferred candidates.
There was horse-trading as provincial leaders moved in to secure votes for candidates from their provinces by pledging to vote in other positions for their partners.
Song, dance and toyi-toyiing was the order of the day as rival camps denounced candidates from the other side, while praising their own.
Being hotly contested in the MDC are positions of the three vice-presidents, women and youth assembly chairpersons, treasurer-general and vice-chairmanship.
Candidates running for those positions fear that a loss could spell doom for their political careers.
Tendai Biti faces off against Welshman Ncube, Elias Mudzuri and Morgan Komichi for the VP posts.
Between Biti, Mudzuri, Komichi and Ncube, two giants will fall and possibly create problems for party leader Nelson Chamisa.
Lilian Timveos faces a stern challenge from Lynette Karenyi-Kore, whose campaign appeared well funded and co-ordinated, while former Zanu PF MP Tracy Mutinhiri remains with an outside chance.
Despite the heated rivalry, all camps were united in singing praise for president-designate, Chamisa.