THE MDC-T congress which is proving to be an anti-climax begins today in Harare with the party’s most senior positions including the presidency, vice-presidency and national chair uncontested.
This means MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai, nominated by the party’s 12 provinces — minus the three diaspora regions — unopposed, has already secured a fresh mandate to lead the party having been at the helm of the country’s biggest opposition party since the first congress in 2000.
Deputy president Thokozani Khuphe and national chairman Lovemore Moyo have also been nominated by all provinces, and so has Paurina Mpariwa for the deputy secretary-general’s position. Nelson Chamisa is a favourite to land the critical post of secretary-general after securing 11 nominations against Douglas Mwonzora’s single nomination.
By yesterday Mwonzora was still to decide whether to contest for the position or opt for the secretary for information post where he has received 11 nominations compared to Obert Gutu’s single nomination.
Women’s League boss Theresa Makone will slug it out with Tapuwa Mashakada for the treasurer-general position, while Charlton Hwende and Benard Chionde lock horns over the deputy treasurer-general’s position.
Abednico Bhebhe and Amos Chibaya will contest for the national organising secretary’s post, whereas Thamsanqa Mahlangu and Costa Machingauta will contest to be the deputy.
Lillian Timveos and Lynette Karenyi will lock horns for the right to lead the women’s assembly while the battle to lead the youth assembly is between Happison Chidziva, Clifford Hlatshwayo and James Chidhakwa.
Apart from electing members of the standing committee, congress is also expected to discuss party policies and establish a roadmap towards the 2018 elections.
The congress comes after the party controversially suffered a heavy loss in last year’s general elections at the hands of Zanu PF which clinched a two thirds parliamentary majority, while Mugabe secured 61% of the presidential vote compared to Tsvangirai’s 33%.
The heavy loss led to serious infighting in the party as some party officials led by then secretary general Tendai Biti and deputy treasurer general Elton Mangoma blamed Tsvangirai for the loss, accusing him of failing to provide effective leadership and soiling the party’s image through his personal indiscretions, among other transgressions. Mangoma wrote two letters to Tsvangirai demanding that he steps down or calls for an extra-ordinary congress to allow for new blood to take over the party to put in place programmes which will win back support of the majority ahead of the 2018 elections.
The letters, however, escalated the fights in the party resulting in Biti and Mangoma forming the MDC-T Renewal project which is in the process of merging with the Welshman Ncube led MDC.
The electoral loss and the split, coupled with the withdrawal of funds by the party’s traditional donors, have weakened the MDC-T resulting in the party slowing down its activities.
In previous congresses the party’s Harvest House headquarters used to be a hive of activity but there was little action ahead of this year’s congress.
There has also been little public and media interest in the congress, unlike in previous years, with most focus glued on Zanu PF infighting and its congress to in December.
Perhaps to reflect how the party has sunk over the years, the MDC-T leadership was holding a national council meeting yesterday to among other things determine how to transport delegates.
Mwonzora confirmed challenges in transporting delegates but said the party’s leadership would overcome the challenges.
“Transport costs are prohibitive but a solution will be found,” he said. Mwonzora admitted that there had been less interest in MDC-T affairs but said this was because of the chaos in Zanu PF.
“There has been a lot of drama and acrimony in Zanu PF, sometimes quite embarrassing and naturally the public and journalists have paid more attention next door. There is a big fire next door and that’s where the focus is,” he said.