BY OBEY MANAYITI / Blessed Mhlanga
MDC’S standing committee meeting on Wednesday nearly degenerated into a war of words after a faction aligned to party leader Nelson Chamisa, accused secretary-general Douglas Mwonzora of bringing the party’s name into disrepute, allegations he firmly refuted.
Chamisa and Mwonzora are likely to lock horns at the upcoming elective congress next month after the latter won a tightly contested race for secretary-general post in 2014.
Chamisa was later appointed vice-president by the late Morgan Tsvangirai and was elevated to party leader at his death.
According to MDC standing committee sources, Chamisa started the attack on Mwonzora, who was also accused of causing the party’s defeat in Bulawayo’s Cowdray Park local authority by-election.
“Mwonzora was told by the president that this is not a peacock contest, where one is trying to spread feathers and be seen to be more attractive than others,” one source said.
“He was accused of trying to appropriate himself to Tsvangirai’s achievements and to claim all the landmarks into his name, such as the Constitution-making process. He was accused of trying to personalise everything that the party achieved, thereby bringing the party’s name into disrepute.
“He was asked why he was contesting the race that hasn’t been opened yet,” the source added.
According to others, the standing committee fell short of bringing the code of conduct against Mwonzora, with virtually all the leaders fighting in Chamisa’s corner taking turns to accuse the secretary-general of various misdemeanours.
“As for the Cowdray Park, the buck stops with Mwonzora and he must take responsibility. He was reminded that instead of seeking media attention, he is supposed to put the house in order and effectively run the party,” a senior party official said.
During the barrage, Mwonzora, who has been openly described as a “half-wit” by other party leaders, reportedly defended himself, claiming he needed to clear his name as others were unfairly accusing and labelling him in the media.
Asked to comment, the opposition party spokesperson Jacob Mafume said a resolution was made to make him the official spokesperson of the congress issues.
“What I can say is that the standing committee reiterated that the formal channel of communication is through the office of the spokesperson. There will be a period when all the leaders will be told to openly campaign and this is when the nomination opens,” Mafume said while refusing to be dragged into the Mwonzora issue.
However, Mwonzora defended himself yesterday, declaring that he would not be silenced.
“I was never gagged,” he said.
“I was asked why I had said certain things in the Press and I explained that it was because those leaders were attacking me in the Press.
“I explained that I had the right to reply and further explained that for me, it was a reputation issue. I do not accept being portrayed as weak.”
Mwonzora added that many of those who were attacking him rely on urban seats which can be won safely.
“We agreed that we are in this position because of other senior leaders who were attacking me and nobody was there to defend me,” he said.
“In terms of the Constitution of Zimbabwe, accused people have the right of reply, especially when there are lies circulating that I am being funded by Zanu PF.”
In an earlier interview with NewsDay, Mwonzora accused his predecessor and current vice national chairman Tendai Biti of fanning divisions.
He was responding to allegations that he was a Zanu PF pony in MDC internal fights, which have left the party at odds with itself.
“What is ironic in the MDC is that the people who are raising these allegations are people who split from the party, who took money away from the party and who called (the late founding leader Morgan) Tsvangirai all sorts of names and they came back to the party. We accommodated them and what they are trying to do is to drive a wedge between myself and Nelson Chamisa as a way of getting an accommodation. Fortunately, the MDC members are intelligent enough to read through this,” Mwonzora said.
Contacted for comment, Biti said: “He did not mention my name, so that becomes a party issue. The party spokesperson can deal with that. I will not speak on party issues.”
Mafume dismissed the allegations by Mwonzora, saying those who left the party reintegrated with Tsvangirai and were now part of the MDC.
“We are not going to deal with innuendos. Those allegations are being raised in the wrong platform. When you have disagreements with fellow leaders, you should know where to raise them,” Mafume said.
“We are going to congress and it’s a pressure cooker, people will say a lot of things when they can’t stand the heat, but we are committed to holding a successful congress and we will deliver it.”
Party organiser Amos Chibaya, who is looking to retain his position, is reported to be engineering Chamisa’s grip on structures and ultimately, the party presidency amid allegations of voter manipulation.
Chibaya, however, denied allegations that he was Chamisa’s fixer, saying he was conducting party elections in line with the MDC constitution.
“Congress is a contest for power and people will always find a way of blaming the other person for their failures, but I can assure you that the process is going on smoothly after holding congresses in 1 954 wards. We have one unfortunate incident of violence. We have a few petitions. Surely this shows mature democracy,” he said.
Party vice-president Morgan Komichi said he was confident there would be no contests for Chamisa’s post.
“The MDC people are going to nominate Nelson Chamisa with ease. He is going to be nominated by all the 10 provinces in the country and our three external ones. No one is going to be nominated except president Chamisa,” he said.
Those close to Mwonzora said he was not throwing in the towel yet and will be looking to repeat the 2014 feat of defeating Chamisa after securing one last-minute nomination.
“There are some who are saying he should pull out because the structures voting at congress appear to be in favour of Chamisa, but he is not willing to give up. He is going for the presidency, to win it,” a source said.
There have been attempts to paint Mwonzora as a Zanu PF agent to, hopefully, discredit him among the MDC faithful.
Mwonzora has denied the allegations, saying he has a history of defeating Zanu PF and cannot be its agent now.
“I have been fighting Zanu PF. I have a history of fighting Zanu PF. I fought Zanu PF as a member of Copac, they did not want that Constitution. We brought it. I fought Zanu PF in the Supreme Court regarding political funding. Up to now, the MDC is receiving funding from the government. I have been fighting for electoral reforms, we have had success.
I have been a member of almost every demonstration,” he said.
“Now the regrettable part is that when we are going for congress, people start mudslinging. I have seen a few brick bats thrown at Nelson Chamisa, some of which are very unfair. For example, that bizarre rape case, we always go through this.”