Simmering tensions in MDC escalates over leadership

HARARE – MDC officials accused of plotting to oust Nelson Chamisa from the party’s leadership were given final warnings at the party’s national council meeting held in the capital on Friday.

Party insiders told the Daily News on Sunday yesterday that the officials had Chamisa to thank after he prevailed on the party’s highest decision-making body outside congress not to dismiss them from the MDC.

During the highly-charged meeting, the party’s secretary-general Douglas Mwonzora had a bad day in office after a litany of allegations were levelled against him, along with Elias Mudzuri — the MDC’s vice president.

It was alleged during the meeting that the two surreptitiously approached Chief Justice Luke Malaba asking for forgiveness following the jeers he received from MDC parliamentarians during the swearing-in of the Speaker of Parliament Jacob Mudenda in September.

Mwonzora and Mudzuri, who could not be reached for comment at the time of going to print yesterday, have long been suspected of eyeing Chamisa’s position and causing divisions in the party, formed in 1999.

Both have strenuously denied the allegations.

On Friday, irate party officials bayed for Mwonzora’s blood for allegedly working with Zanu PF to foment discord in the country’s largest opposition party that has risen to become the only credible opposition to the Zanu PF’s hegemonic rule.

Contacted for comment yesterday, the MDC’s national spokesperson Jacob Mafume confirmed that some senior party leaders were hauled over the coals although he could not disclose their names.

“The party spoke on issues of discipline around mayors and other senior party leaders and the council emphasised on the party leaders to be cohesive and focus on the job at hand. The top leadership was given the last chance to toe the line or face the chop,” said Mafume.

Party insiders said after a battery of charges were thrown at Mwonzora, it took Chamisa’s intervention to calm boiling tempers.

“Delegates were baying for Mwonzora’s blood; he was told not to issue press statements because he has been doing that with no approval from the party. Our constitution is clear that the secretary-general should not issue statements,” the source said.

He was also accused of sponsoring lawsuits against the party, and doing very little to campaign for the MDC in the run-up to the July 30 elections.

According to the source, some members of the MDC youth league stood up and claimed that they were being influenced by Mwonzora to sabotage Chamisa.

“The youths alleged that they were sponsored by Mwonzora and everyone who was there wanted the issue to go for a vote so he could be expelled from the party. However, Chamisa told Mwonzora to apologise and he stood up and did just that, that is why he is still the party secretary-general.

“… Chamisa also suppressed discussion on the fate of Mudzuri saying that the party for now has to focus on external threats and not internal squabbles,” the source said.

While addressing the MDC’s 19th anniversary rally recently, Chamisa appealed to his potential challengers in the party to give him some time so that he could secure the late Morgan Tsvangirai’s legacy before they can challenge him.

Chamisa, who lost in the July 31 elections to President Emmerson Mnangagwa by a wafer-thin margin, told thousands of his supporters that removing him now would poke holes into Tsvangirai’s legacy.

“I have told my colleagues in the top leadership that none of us should go wayward because it will be akin to a fish taking itself out of water where it cannot survive,” Chamisa said.

“So we need to continue to follow Tsvangirai’s way, the party’s ways.

“Tsvangirai left power for me so that I will also pave way for the next leader in that order. We don’t want a situation whereby someone would want to grab from me what I was given by Tsvangirai before I even start the journey he set me to embark on yet you don’t even know what he wanted me to achieve. Why don’t you wait for me to accomplish that first then I will also show you the way when you eventually take over?” he asked rhetorically.

Earlier, Chamisa had jokingly asked his deputy Mudzuri if he did not believe that President Emmerson Mnangagwa had rigged his way to power.

This was after Mudzuri had not raised his hand when Chamisa asked who among the thousands present agreed with him that the July 30 elections had been rigged in Zanu PF’s favour.

“I see you have kept your hands down when I asked the question. Does this suggest that you do not believe that the election was rigged,” Chamisa asked teasingly.

Only recently, Chamisa called Mudzuri to order during the party’s national standing committee meeting for engaging in perceived acts that could undermine unity in the party.

This was after Mudzuri had been linked to a controversial Twitter post expressing the desire to challenge Chamisa at the party’s elective congress due next year.

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