By Obey Manayiti and Blessed Mhlanga | NewsDay |
The stage has been set for a bruising fight in the Nelson Chamisa-led MDC as almost all candidates nominated for top positions in the party’s standing committee have accepted and are now reaching into their war chests to mount rigorous campaigns ahead of congress this month-end.
Party bigwigs, who include vice-president Elias Mudzuri and secretary-general Douglas Mwonzora face an unsavoury prospect of walking out of the MDC’s elective congress as ordinary card-carrying members.
The congress is the first since the death of the opposition party’s founding president Morgan Tsvangirai, who succumbed to cancer of the colony early last year, five months before the July 31 elections.
This comes as the High Court is set to hand down a judgment on Wednesday next week in which a Gokwe-Sasame MDC secretary Elias Mashavira challenged Chamisa’s legitimacy as interim party leader.
Mashavira wants the court to order the party to go for an extra-ordinary congress as opposed to the elective congress slated for May 24 to 26 in Gweru.
If granted the order, the party could be forced to abandon congress preparations, despite the nomination process having been completed.
Mashavira’s lawyer, Ashel Mutungura said: “Judgment is going to be handed down in a motion court on Wednesday. So today (yesterday) was just that notification.”
Chamisa, who was jettisoned to power through a national council resolution, appears set to win the top post after bagging all 13 provincial nominations.
Apart from Chamisa, who appears to be safe, there will be fierce contests for the posts of vice-presidents, secretary-general and treasurer-general, which have received an overwhelming number of nominations for strong contenders.
Few positions are now up for grabs following a resolution to empower Chamisa to appoint other portfolios.
Leading contender for the vice-presidency, Morgen Komichi called for responsible campaigning, adding that the party must emerge stronger from the congress.
Komichi will square off with former secretary-generals Tendai Biti, Welshman Ncube, and Mudzuri. “Yes, I have accepted the nomination,” Komichi said.
“I look forward to a peaceful campaign. I don’t want to see some campaign teams denigrating other candidates. We must be professional in our approach. We have relationships beyond the congress, we have a party beyond congress and I am aware that the campaign teams sometimes go into overdrive and end up attacking other candidates personally,” he said.
Komichi said campaigning ahead of congress should not create fissures in the party and instead must ensure that the party comes out stronger and united.
Although Biti and Ncube were not picking up their phones, NewsDay is reliably informed that they have accepted their nominations, while Mudzuri was evasive, saying he would not respond to questions on the matter because he was travelling to Buhera for Tsvangirai’s memorial service.
Three women will now battle it out for one vice-presidential post, which was last week ring-fenced by the national council as the MDC seeks to have women in its presidium.
Leading contenders for the post are Lilian Timveos, Lynnete Karenyi-Kore and Tracy Mutinhiri all having confirmed that they have accepted nomination, while Paurina Mpariwa has now decided to stand as women’s league chairperson.
“In line with the forthcoming MDC congress whence I received nominations for both the position of vice-presidency and women’s assembly chairperson, I will have to pave way for my fellow women cadres to contest in the VP post. I have opted to contest for the women assembly’s chairperson. This was motivated by the advices I received from a number of respected people in the struggle,” Mpariwa wrote on her campaign Facebook page.
Chalton Hwende, a close aide to Chamisa will face Daniel Molokele and possibly Mwonzora for the secretary-general post.
Close sources said Mwonzora was itching to retain his post although he could not immediately confirm that he was still interested after receiving one nomination.
After throwing in the towel in the race for the presidency, Mwonzora said he was aiming to keep his current position. Yesterday, Hwende insisted that the position was almost his after getting the majority of the nominations.
“I have accepted the nomination, I cannot betray the nine provinces that nominated me. The nominations will give you some guidance into what people want and in politics you must follow what the people want,” he said.
David Coltart said he was ready for the elective congress after accepting nomination for the treasurer-general position for which he received nominations from seven provinces and will face-off with Tapiwa Mashakada.
“Yes, I have accepted nomination from the seven provinces. Obviously, I will be subjected to election and congress and I am ready,” he said.
Party chairperson Tabitha Khumalo, who is looking to retain her post, faces a challenge from Gabbuza Joel Gabuza. Khumalo said she was ready to face her challenger. “I humbly accept the nominations and will be ready for a healthy competition with my peers,” she said.