BY ZENZELE NDEBELE/TANAKA MREWA
The fight for the control of the MDC Alliance between its leader Nelson Chamisa and secretary general Douglas Mwonzora has escalated ahead of the crucial May congress to choose Morgan Tsvangirai’s successor with Bulawayo emerging as the battleground.
Chamisa announced last week that the eagerly awaited congress on May 24 to 26 where 7000 delegates will select the party’s leadership following Tsvangirai’s death last year and the return of founding party secretary-general Welshman Ncube as well as Tendai Biti into the fold.
According to insiders, last Friday’s nomination of two candidates to represent the party in next month’s Cowdray Park by-election was the manifestation of the bruising fight between Chamisa and Mwonzora’s backers to control the structures ahead of the congress.
The sources said Mwonzora, who has emerged as a potential strongest challenger for Chamisa for the party’s presidency, has aligned with one of the three MDC Alliance presidents, Tabitha Khumalo in a bid to control the party structures in Bulawayo.
Khumalo is eyeing one of the two vice presidents’ posts that would be up for grabs and has identified Ncube as her biggest challenger, allegedly wants to cripple her rival through the control of structures, the insiders said.
Ncube is preferred by Chamisa’s camp ahead of the vocal Khumalo.
Details have since emerged of how Mwonzora signed former Cowdray Park Councilor Collet Ndhlovu’s nomination papers even before the party’s chaotic primary elections to torpedo Nomagugu Mloyi’s candidacy at Khumalo’s behest.
On nomination day, the MDC Alliance fielded double candidates in Ndhlovu and Mloyi.
A source said Chamisa confronted Mwonzora and Khumalo about the clandestine signing of Ndhlovu’s nomination papers and the two reportedly apologised, saying it was an oversight.
“The president is now aware that Khumalo is fighting to control the party structures in Bulawayo and the ward 28 (Cowdray Park) double candidacy was the culmination of that factional war,” the source said.
“Khumalo and Mwonzora are claiming that Mloyi is being sponsored by Ncube hence their attempts to block her from representing the party.
“The infighting is going to intensify as we approach congress and the Khumalo/Mwonzora alliance must not be taken lightly.”
Mwonzora confirmed in an interview with CITE that Ndhlovu’s nomination papers were signed before the primary elections held on the eve of the sitting of the nomination court and claimed it was caused by the political situation that prevailed after the January 14 protests.
He said the party will now hold fresh primary elections anytime from this week pitting Mloyi and Ndhlovu. The losing candidate will be forced to withdraw ahead of the by-election.
“We signed Ndhlovu’s nomination papers sometime in January during the clampdown against our members and the state of emergency that was there,” he said. “It was impossible to gather people and do a proper election.
“After we did the primary elections we couldn’t withdraw Ndhlovu’s candidacy because there was a possibility that he could have won.
“We are going to hold proper elections sometime this week.”
On allegations that he was eyeing Chamisa’s position at the congress and that he had combined forces with Khumalo, Mwonzora said he had a constitutional right to campaign for any post, but he was waiting for the nomination process to decide.
“I am a full member (of the party) with constitutional rights including the right to be elected,” he said. “I will be contesting and I don’t know which position I will stand for.”
Khumalo could not be reached for comment as she was said to be out of the country.
The fight over Tsvangirai’s post almost divided the party on the eve of last year’s elections and this saw then vice president Thokozani Khupe being pushed out of the party.
Mwonzora survived the chop but has remained under pressure from Chamisa’s supporters who accuse him of sabotage.