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MDC Congress: The struggle for supremacy

10 Apr 2019 at 16:00hrs | Views
As the MDC heads for its inaugural post-Morgan Tsvangirai congress slated for 24 to 26 May 2019, sharp divisions have started to rock the party as members are split on who to choose for various positions. Since the formation of the party in 1999, this year's congress is turning out to be the most violent one and the pre-congress processes such as provincial elections are being carried out in a way that has demonstrated that democratic space is fast shrinking. These have been characterised by threats to rivals of various factions.

It seems party positions have become free for all. Almost everyone is vying for an influential positions with some aligning to whoever they think will parachute them to a better future.

When MDC leader, Nelson Chamisa took over the party leadership following the death of Morgan Tsvangirai in 2018, he thought he was the sole contender of the party presidency. Given that elections were due anytime, Chamisa's supporters in the MDC thought it was wise to support his candidature so that the party would assume some form of unity ahead of the elections. However, he received a rude awakening when he lost the Presidential election to President Emmerson Mnangagwa. Chamisa's supporters have realised that he has developed some dictatorial tendencies which Tsvangirai never displayed.

Coming to the ongoing party restructuring ahead of the congress, the exercise had been strategised to give Chamisa an upper hand. The MDC National Organising Secretary, Amos Chibaya is Chamisa's blue eyed boy and is doing everything in his power to see to it that those aligned to Chamisa get influential positions. During the run up to the 2014 congress, a team of MDC national members were deployed to supervise provincial congresses which were held simultaneously to curb the influence of some provinces over others. The provincial congresses were so smooth compared to the kindergarten play which is currently unfolding in the embattled party.

In order to protect his turf, Chamisa has made use of violence in thwarting rivals or those who want to block his way to the party presidency. Chitungwiza and Manicaland had become the epicentres of violence. Chamisa's ally MDC Dangamvura/Chikanga legislator; Prosper Mutseyami unleashed violence in Manicaland in April 2019. A similar case of violence was recorded in Chitungwiza when that city's former deputy Mayor, Jabulani Mtunzi was run over by a vehicle and latter beaten by a rival camp belonging to Chamisa.

In Harare Province, the current Provincial Assembly Chairperson, Eric Murai who used to be Chamisa's runner has been sidelined. Chamisa now supports the candidature of Wellington Chikombo. Murai stands accused of having a soft spot for the party's secretary general, Douglas Mwonzora, who is set to contest Chamisa for the party's presidency during the congress if nominated.

Having been nominated by Matabeleland North and South Provinces, Chamisa felt let down by Bulawayo Province and had to visit them on Monday, 8 April 2019 and issued some threats. He threatened to bar the province from participating at congress. What Chamisa is failing to read is that Bulawayo Province had traditionally had been their 100 percent stronghold, but that position has since shifted and seems to be rallying behind Mwonzora, hence, the tongue lashing they received from Chamisa over their alleged lack of respect for Prof Welshman Ncube.

Whilst Chamisa and his camp were scheming like this those who are supportive of Vice President, Elias Mudzuri and Mwonzora were not sleeping. Mudziri and Mwonzora are yet to get their first provincial nominations for the party presidency.

Rival camps are emerging in the MDC. Some are supporting Chamisa while others are vying for Mudzuri and Mwonzora. As a result, some party members have realised that Chamisa is poised to win the party presidency overwhelmingly at congress; hence, plots are already being mooted to isolate him.

"The new plan is to surround Chamisa with a team that will not be entirely loyal to him. His opponents want to make sure that if he wins, he will not have an easy reign and will not manoeuvre easily, while, for instance, if Douglas Mwonzora loses, he wants to have insiders and control the narrative of the MDC", an MDC official is alleged to have said.

Another sad development in the MDC is that the nominations are being manipulated through intimidation. Chamisa, an interested part in the presidency matrix is attending these nominations cowering people to vote for him. The most underhand tactic is that the voting is done by show of hands and who would choose anyone else but Chamisa with threats of violence over their heads.

When it comes who would deputise Chamisa, ten (10) vice presidents hopefuls have thrown in their names. These are Morgen Komichi, Prof Ncube, Biti, Murisi Zwizwai, Lynette Karenyi-Kore, Theresa Makone, Paurina Mupariwa and Lilian Timveous, among others.

A notable development is that they seem to be electing leaders on tribal lines. Most of them are agreeing on Chamisa's candidature, but on the rest of the candidates there are differences bordering on tribal connotations.  This was noticeable in Matabeleland South Province where they nominated Obey Sithole (Youth Assembly Chairperson). Clifford Malingwa was nominated for vice-chair and Ostallos Siziba received nominations for the secretary-general's position in both Matabeleland South and North Provinces.

Another developing scenario is that those who had remained in the MDC ever since feel they are being overshadowed by those who once jumped ship in the mould of Biti and Prof Ncube. These people are accused of splitting from the party, taking money away from the party and hurling unprintable insults on Tsvangirai.

Although Chamisa has claimed that the party would emerge stronger after the congress, this seems to be just a mere wish as party members on the ground are sharply divided and miffed by some of Chamisa's dictatorial tendencies.  Depending on Mwonzora's fate, the party is likely to further split for the umpteenth time further weakening it. If Mwonzora loses out the presidency and the secretary general's position, his backers are likely to press him to ditch Chamisa.

This spectre of further divisions is likely to become a reality given that Chamisa has openly displayed his prioritisation of winning the presidency at all costs at the expense of unity in the party ahead of 2023.

Source - Elijah Chihota
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