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Chamisa's MDC face threat of new split

by Staff reporter
14 Apr 2019 at 15:48hrs | Views
AS THE MDC enters the final weeks of its preparations ahead of its make-or-break elective congress next month, there are real fears that the country's main opposition could suffer another damaging split due to widening fissures within the party, the Daily News on Sunday can report.

This comes as the party's charismatic interim leader Nelson Chamisa has been nominated by five provinces to become the MDC's substantive new leader — with secretary-general Douglas Mwonzora, who is tipped to contest him at next month's crucial gathering, struggling in the early nominations process.

On the other hand, a number of disgruntled party members continue to pin their hopes on a recent High Court application that they made, in which they want the forthcoming congress stopped.

At the same time, Mwonzora has set the cat among the pigeons by rallying party members to whittle down the powers of the MDC's next president — a move which has been interpreted by some in the brawling party as a direct challenge to Chamisa, who has responded sharply by saying that those who are against the current process are free to "leave the party".

The MDC will hold its keenly-watched congress from May 24 to 26 in Gweru, where a new party leadership will be chosen — including the substantive successor to its late and much revered late president, Morgan Tsvangirai — who died on Valentine's Day last year after losing his brave battle against cancer of the colon.

Chamisa, who narrowly lost to President Emmerson Mnangagwa in last year's hotly-disputed elections, is still expected to face competition from Mwonzora at the congress, despite the latter's slow start in the ongoing nomination process by party structures.

Well-placed sources told the Daily News on Sunday yesterday that there were "genuine fears" within the party that the MDC could be heading for another split, unless the bitter fight to lead the party is resolved before the start of the elective congress.

They said rival factions pining for Chamisa and Mwonzora respectively were going at each hammer and tongs over the party's chaotic restructuring exercise which is said to have side-lined the latter's support base.

By yesterday, Mwonzora was yet to receive a nomination to become party boss, meaning that he is now firmly on the back foot in the race to lead the MDC.

On his part, Chamisa has so far received nominations for the position from Matabeleland North, Matabeleland South, Midlands, Mashonaland West, the United States and Mashonaland East.

According to the MDC constitution, a prospective candidate for a national leadership position should get at least one nomination per province to be eligible to contest the post.

Other sources said Mwonzora's loyalists were miffed by Chamisa's camp's alleged use of the "power of incumbency" to tamper with the nomination process and "pluck out" elements deemed to be against him.

They also claimed that Mwonzora's camp was planning a press conference this week to denounce "Chamisa's dictatorial tendencies" — buoyed by last week's stinging statement that was issued by their secretary-general, who called on the forthcoming congress to whittle down the party leader's powers.

In last week's statement, Mwonzora said the congress must usher in a new, dynamic and robust leadership that was willing to serve its members well and with respect.

"For us to truly reflect a democratic outfit, it is imperative that the 5th congress does not centralise a lot of power in the president," he said, adding that the party must also go beyond tribal and gender lines to accommodate all progressive-minded people.

"In order to cover for the disparities in gender and ethnic representation that might arise through the democratic electoral process, it might be necessary for us to reserve certain positions for the disadvantaged groups of our society.

"It is also key that all the regions are represented at national leadership," Mwonzora said.

"Therefore we look forward to a credible electoral process leading to congress. The on-going congress electoral process must not be reduced into a charade of candidate imposition as this will render the whole intention of rejuvenating the MDC useless.

"The will of the people at grassroots must be respected. The on-going violence and intimidation of members … is a serious affront to the very tenets and democratic principles on which the MDC was founded. These are acts of cowardice by people afraid of contestation," he said further.

MDC spokesperson Jacob Mafume yesterday waded into the already explosive situation by dismissing Mwonzora's statement, which he said was out of line.

"At every congress we review our constitution and we don't have any issue with the powers of the president.

"We are a voluntary organisation … and we are perfectly happy with the powers that the president has. I am not sure who isn't," Mafume told the Daily News on Sunday.

"We are aware of attempts by people who have been given money by the State to cause chaos and possibly engineer a split.

"We are alive to the fact that people hide behind anonymity and try to paint a picture of a party that is in disunity but … we are united as a party and our congress is the poetry of politics," Mafume added.

Meanwhile, a group of disaffected party supporters is determined to stop next month's congress and to also have Chamisa stripped of his current leadership powers, as it says the planned gathering violates the MDC constitution.

In their court application, the disgruntled members want Chamisa to relinquish his current position as interim MDC boss, and to revert to his former position where he was one of the party's three vice presidents.

They are arguing that in terms of the MDC constitution, an extraordinary congress should have been held a year after the death of Tsvangirai — instead of next month — to elect a new party leader.

At the same time, political analysts said the MDC could only split if the winner from next month's gathering failed to accommodate losers.

"I think there won't be any split. This is not going to be winners-take-all … those who lose must not leave the party.

"A democratic contest must manage to solve such differences. Any differences in the top leadership must not lead to a split," academic and researcher Pedzisayi Ruhanya said.

Namibia-based scholar Admire Mare said there was a possibility of another split in the MDC, although its impact would be "minimal".

"I doubt there is going to be a major split, but some disgruntled members may jump ship if they feel cheated by the process.

"Political parties are voluntary associations. So, it is possible some members may join in while others leave.

"But we must not read too much into congress grandstanding by candidates. A lot of bridge-building may be happening behind the scenes where you and I have no access to," Mare said.

The MDC initially split in 2005 when its former secretary-general Welshman Ncube walked out of the party, accusing Tsvangirai of taking unilateral decisions.

In 2014, the party split again, this time with another secretary-general Tendai Biti packing his bags after he also accused the popular Tsvangirai of allegedly having dictatorial tendencies.

Both Biti and Ncube have since been re-integrated into the party, and are in the mix for the post of one of the vice presidents at the looming congress.

Source - dailynews