MDC-T leader Douglas Mwonzora has claimed that he is not a sellout and has vowed to fight-off insinuations that he has close links with the Zanu PF party. Mwonzora has also been labelled a power-hungry monster who would do anything and everything to lead the opposition MDC-T. He won the party presidency at a controversial extraordinary congress (EOC) last December, and some party members are now challenging his ascendancy to power. NewsDay (ND) senior reporter Moses Matenga spoke to Mwonzora’s spokesperson Lloyd Damba (LD) on several issues affecting the MDC-T.
ND: How is Mwonzora taking accusations that he is a Zanu PF appendage?
LD: He is not the first person to be accused of being an agent or a puppet of Zanu PF. Right now, if you go to the Chitungwiza Tennis Court in Unit D, there is graffiti that is more than 13 years old. The graffiti alleges that Job Sikhala (MDC Alliance vice-chairperson) is a Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) operative and Welshman Ncube (MDC Alliance vice-president) is also CIO and a Zanu PF project. Such graffiti is all over the country. It was painted during the 2005 MDC split.
In 2013, we also saw Tendai Biti (MDC Alliance vice-president) and Elton Mangoma being accused of the same. Now, these gentlemen sit at the tip of Nelson Chamisa’s MDC Alliance advisory table. The question now is: Have these gentlemen ceased to be CIO or Zanu PF projects? So if somebody has a divergent opinion or differs with anybody other than Zanu PF, he or she is alleged to be a Zanu PF project? I beg to differ. Mind you, the 2005 split was also along constitutional differences within the party top leadership. This is the same script today. Mind you our party constitution was not written by Zanu PF, but by us.
Secondly, one of those that were very vocal about that narrative and propaganda against Mwonzora, saying that he was working with Zanu PF is one Lillian Timveous, who then was the leader and chief principal officer of a cabal surrounding Chamisa. This was during the run-up to the Gweru congress where she was vying for the post of vice-president of the party. Just recently, the same accuser made her new political home known, Zanu PF. So who is working with Zanu PF here?
Thirdly, a Zanu PF apologist can be defined as a person who accommodates Zanu PF members. Look who is surrounding Chamisa. There is Jim Kunaka, Jeppy Jaboon, Shadreck Mashayamombe, Kudakwashe Bhasikiti and Jonathan Moyo — all former Zanu PF functionaries. Look at the people who are surrounding Mwonzora, we have Tapiwa Mashakada, Paurina Mpariwa, Collin Gwiyo, Giles Mutsekwa, Gift Chimanikire, Elias Mudzuri, James Makore and many MDC founding members. Now judge for yourself.
ND: What is your 2023 target in terms of numbers seeing that the party’s presidential candidate in 2018 garnered only 45 000 votes while the MDC Alliance got over 2 million votes?
LD: We are in the middle of a restructuring exercise and we have an ordinary congress that is also coming soon, so let me respond to you about our new set target after that congress.
Secondly, our party is one seventh of the MDC Alliance partners which are the People’s Democratic Party led by Biti, Transform Zimbabwe led by Jacob Ngarivhume and four others. Our presidential candidate then who was representing the MDC-T in the Alliance was Chamisa. If you had been following events from August 6, 2014 the day of the signing of the composite political co-operation agreement known as the MDC Alliance, to the day that party founder Morgan Tsvangirai passed on, and to the Supreme Court case appeal by Chamisa, where he was arguing that he was the legitimate president of the MDC-T through his lawyer Thabani Mpofu until today, you will see that we are the MDC Alliance.
The composite political co-operation agreement was not and is not dissolution of the MDC-T formerly led by Tsvangirai. It actually concretised its independence from other political parties. In other words, we are in the MDC Alliance.
ND: The rift in your party, given what Thokozani Khupe said last week seems to be widening. What is being done to address the problems the party is currently facing?
LD: As far as everybody is concerned, there is no rift in the party. If somebody has highlighted grey areas that he or she wants to be addressed, then that is the sweetness of democracy and it shows that the party guarantees freedom to any individual to air their grievances. So this must not be mistaken for a rift.
Secondly, the president has always been meeting with members of the leadership, the deputy president included as confirmed in her tweet which is a way of resolving and ironing out any grey areas that may be there. However, details of such meetings are not for public consumption.
ND: Does the president have powers to appoint members of the national standing committee and is this not the same issue that was disputed in the courts which then nullified the appointment of Chamisa and Mudzuri by Tsvangirai?
LD: One must understand first the composition of the national council. The national council is composed of all members of the standing committee in terms of article 6.4.3. In terms of article 9.21.3 which clearly states that: “Subject to this constitution, in the event of the death or resignation of any member of the national council, the same shall elect a person to fill the vacancy pending the next congress.” The party had vacancies caused by office bearers who left the party to join the Chamisa outfit, after the latter lost his Supreme Court appeal to remain the MDC-T president.
In his report to the national council, the president highlighted that there are vacancies in the national standing committee and it was the duty of the national council to fill those vacancies and the proposal was adopted by the national council. He then proposed names of long-serving party members for the national council who are Mashakada, Mutsekwa, Khalipani Phugeni and Chief Ndlovu, among others and these names were unanimously seconded without any counter nominations. So those vacancies were filled in terms of the above-mentioned article, not the narrative that has been circulating.
ND: What is your take on the narrative by MDC Alliance supporters that the MDC-T is a party of power-hungry individuals most of whom failed to win at the Gweru congress and are now pursuing an agenda?
LD: The Gweru congress itself, if truth be told, was called by Chamisa six months before the term of office of the 2014 structures expired with members who held divergent views and did not agree in the manner Chamisa ascended to the throne. This was a way to avoid the EOC which had been ordered by Justice Edith Mushore earlier on May 8 2019.
So if anybody is to be accused of having an insatiable appetite for power, it is the other side that had no patience to follow constitutionally laid down procedures.
ND: On the issue of dialogue, what is the party position on Polad?
LD: Mwonzora has been emphasising about a national dialogue — a dialogue that is meaningful, inclusive and unconditional.
So if you look at the Polad constitutive document or its code of conduct, it is exclusive to individuals who participated in the 2018 harmonised elections and thus excludes labour, church, business, traditional leaders and other civic society groups. We, therefore, call for another forum that is inclusive of all the above-mentioned players, with a clear objective of what must be achieved and timeframes and set targets.