By Nyasha Chingono
INTENSE jostling for senior positions, plotting and horse-trading have intensified in the MDC-Alliance following the announcement of dates for the opposition party’s elective congress where a showdown is expected between president Nelson Chamisa and secretary-general Douglas Mwonzora.
The congress — which has also attracted attention from the ruling Zanu PF and other outsiders — will also formalise the return of opposition political heavyweights Welshman Ncube and Tendai Biti, who broke away from the party after disagreements with then MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai. Ncube and Biti are expected to land top posts at congress.
The congress, the first since Tsvangirai’s death in February last year, will be held from May 24 to 26. This will be the second time that Chamisa and Mwonzora will be squaring up after the 2014 showdown when the latter beat the former to land the secretary-general’s position.
Mwonzora’s victory was stunning given that he had secured a single nomination—from his Manicaland home province — while Chamisa had 11 nominations. However, some party insiders say Tsvangirai had used his influence to manipulate voting patterns in favour of Mwonzora, hence the victory.
Mwonzora has told the Independent he was considering running for the presidency — should he get the necessary backing.
“I am aware of my rights; the right to vote and the right to be voted for. I have a right to contest for any position in the party. In other words, I will only contest for a position if I have the backing of the majority within the party. I have not yet made up my mind regarding which position I will contest for at congress,” Mwonzora said.
Ahead of congress, Chamisa is, however, seen as the overwhelming favourite, having consolidated his grip on the party since controversially grabbing power ahead of heir apparent Thokozani Khupe following Tsvangirai’s death in February last year.
Mwonzora is said to be mobilising support behind the scenes and is banking on a nomination from his home province.
“As things stand, it appears the battle will be between Chamisa and Mwonzora. Mwonzora is certainly making moves, but this is politics and perhaps he may step down if he is assured of a safe post,” a senior MDC official said.
Officials revealed Chamisa’s campaign had begun in earnest, adding it has been boosted by the “Thank You” rallies he is holding countrywide.
Party organising secretary Amos Chibaya has also been doing some groundwork for Chamisa. Officials say Chibaya has since last year been meeting party structures to campaign for the incumbent. They said a lot of processes must be fulfilled before congress.
“The work is crucial because it will decide the congress. Before nominations for national positions are done, a restructuring programme has to take place. This will be done at branch, ward, district and provincial levels of the party,” an official said.
“The provinces will nominate national leaders, so there are very important in the equation. Whoever controls the provinces has a good chance of sailing though. But the process has not started in earnest because the secretary general (Mwonzora) has not written to the party structures officially informing them.”
Officials said the MDC constitution will be used at congress, meaning three vacancies for the vice-presidency will be up for grabs. The positions are currently held by Ncube, Morgen Komichi and former Harare mayor Elias Mudzuri.
“There could be an interesting battle for the vice-presidency because Ncube is lining up to take one of the positions, but (national chairperson) Thabitha Khumalo’s name has also featured prominently. Komichi also wants to return the position, while Biti’s name has been thrown in there although he could also opt for the national chairperson’s position,” a senior party official said.
“At the moment, there are a lot of discussions and horse-trading. There could also be competition from secretary for elections Murisi Zwizwayi and Midlands senator Lillian Timveous, both of whom are reported to be vying for the vice-presidency.”
Despite being linked with the vice-presidency, Biti and Khumalo’s names are also featuring prominently along those likely to land the national chairman’s position.
“At the moment there is confusion because people are still weighing their options. But all the ambitions and plans are subject to the nomination process from the provinces,” an official said.
Kuwadzana East member of parliament Chalton Hwende is eyeing the secretary-general’s position alongside long-serving party members Sessel Zvidzayi and Tapiwa Mashakada.
Youth assembly chairperson Happymore Chidziva; former labour minister Paurina Mupariwa and Manicaland provincial chairperson David Chimhini are eyeing vice-chairperson’s position.
A battle to replace Chidziva has begun in earnest in the youth assembly, where the wing’s secretary-general, Lovemore Chinoputsa, is likely to battle it out with MDC youth executive member Obey Sithole, Mabvuku-Tafara National Assembly representative James Chidhakwa and South Africa provincial youth chair Dennis Juru.
Chamisa is reportedly keen on particularly influencing the outcome of the youth assembly battle, according to MDC insiders.
“You realise where there is a contest, there is bound to be problems. There is trouble in the cockpit because Chamisa is going to choose who wins,” said a youth league member.
Chibaya is a favourite to land the organising secretary position. The organising secretary’s position is critical in that it plays a key role in the establishing of structures and deciding congress delegates. A three-way battle for the party spokesperson’s position featuring the incumbent Jacob Mafume, MDC director of communications Luke Tamborinyoka and St Mary’s legislator Job Sikala is also likely.
The women’s assembly post will see Sibusisiwe Masara, the wing’s current secretary-general, squaring up with her boss, Lynette Karenyi. Mafume said processes leading to congress are in full swing.
“The council has made an announcement. There will be advertisements made in the papers and then the organising committee sit down to set timelines. Thereafter, nominations will be done. The congress is a congress of many posts from the bottom to the top. It’s early days yet,” said Mafume this week.
Chamisa was unavailable for comment.