MDC leader Nelson Chamisa’s opponents claim they will not be able to freely exercise their voting rights at the party’s forthcoming congress, alleging the incumbent is employing unorthodox tactics to cow rivals.
This is the first congress since the death of the MDC’s founding leader Morgan Tsvangirai who died of colon cancer on February 14, last year. Tsvangirai’s death saw Chamisa emerge as the party leader under controversial circumstances and is currently tipped to retain the post.
He is, however, likely to be challenged by the party’s secretary-general Douglas Mwonzora and one of his three deputies, Elias Mudzuri. MDC members who claim to be backing Mwonzora told the Daily News yesterday that party processes and structures are being manipulated to create a one centre of power built around Chamisa.
MDC organising secretary Amos Chibaya — a staunch Chamisa ally — is being accused of tampering with party structures in order to sieve out cadres who are not supportive of the youthful party leader.
Chibaya dismissed the claims yesterday as outrageous and without merit.
“Ahead of the congress, everyone in the party has a position and everyone is working in their current capacities — is that not (a form of) campaigning? “People are chosen according to merit and people are going to vote for leaders according to their performance; so the fact that there is no level playing field falls away.
Going to congress, we have a template, with provisions to be followed. We are going to hold caucuses at different levels where people who are competing for various positions will present their manifestos in the presence of everyone. “The template also provides for the campaigning period but the longest campaigning period, if one is to put it that way, is the effectiveness or lack thereof that an individual has been while holding a position in the party,” Chibaya said.
The Mkoba Member of Parliament said positions will be contested for in terms of the party’s constitution and any variations can only be made by the national council. But sources in Mwonzora’s camp accuse the organising department of purging supporters of the secretary-general ahead of congress.
“Chamisa wants only four people to be elected and the other 13 to be appointees and that was resisted during the last national council meeting because people felt that this would be akin to taking the party backwards. We are even going backwards to where the likes of (former president Robert) Mugabe took us.
“He (Chamisa) wants to introduce a one centre of power; he wants to remove provincial and ward structures and remain with branches only. The reason for that is that it becomes easier for him to control such an amorphous structure because these people would hardly know him,” an MDC source told the Daily News yesterday, while speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of victimisation.
The source further said even before the nominations which are expected to be done by end of this month, Chamisa has already started campaigning for his position through his proxies at rallies, giving him leverage ahead of the other candidates, who have not yet been accorded a chance to do so.
In as much as Chamisa claims that the whole process will be conducted in a fair manner, insiders say, there were activities that were being carried out to intimidate some of his potential contenders, citing Mwonzora’s booing in Mutare last weekend.
“There are various dirty tactics that are being used to muddy the potential competitors like Mwonzora, who has been accused of working with Zanu PF so that people would view him as a sell-out and bar him from getting support ahead of the congress,” the source said.
Chamisa’s spokesperson Nkululeko Sibanda dismissed the allegations saying Chamisa was the victim. He said Chamisa has also not yet declared his candidacy and that he has been forced to restrain his supporters from campaigning for him because it’s not yet campaign period. “What else do you want him to do? He is actually the real victim,” he said.
Sibanda said it was unfortunate that his boss was being blamed for things that have nothing to do with him.
“The claim that he has an added advantage because he is president and can campaign at rallies is oxymoronic. What do these people want? They want him to resign first?” he said.
“That claim is absurd to say the least. He has nothing to do with the advantage, it’s like (saying) trees in the equator have an added advantage to trees in other areas — they did not choose to be there.”