THE messy turf war between MDC-T rival faction leaders Thokozani Khupe, who is the party’s interim president, and secretary-general Douglas Mwonzora has escalated in the aftermath of hotly contested nominations to fill vacant legislative seats.
Khupe and Mwonzora forged a marriage of convenience to jettison common foe Nelson Chamisa from the helm of the party and subsequently its national headquarters, Morgan Tsvangirai House in Harare and the Bulawayo offices ,but fissures have emerged between the two. There are reports that Mwonzora wants to challenge Khupe for the presidency at the party’s extraordinary congress tentatively set for October.
Chamisa, however, argues he was never kicked out of the party since he leads a different party altogether, the MDC Alliance (MDC-A), which has nothing to do with Khupe’s outfit.
Mwonzora’s camp has reportedly taken issue with Khupe’s decision to nominate herself and her inner circle for proportional representation seats, which fell vacant following her party’s decision to recall some opposition MPs in Bulawayo.
Besides Khupe, other names set to replace expelled MDC-A MPs are Lwazi Sibanda, Sipho Mokone, Molly Dorothy Ndlovu, Tamani Moyo, Yvonne Musarurwa, Lindani Moyo, Chief Ndlovu, Nomalanga Khumalo and her spokesperson Khalipani Phugeni.
Others are January Sawuke, Memory Munochinzwa, Gertrude Moyo, Piniel Denga, and Teti Chisorochengwe.
Senior MDC-T officials this week said there was disgruntlement in the party because Khupe made the nominations without consulting anyone.
“She has shown that she is purely a factional leader and doesn’t think anything outside her camp. She nominated herself and her close associates to fill the vacant seats without making any consultations and this has angered a lot of people,” a senior party official said. “Now she has handed the impetus over to her rival Mwonzora who could now really take the fight to her.”
Mwonzora, the source said, has also been helped by the fact that the extraordinary congress, which was initially set to take place at the end of July, has been postponed to a later date because gatherings of that magnitude are not permissible under the current Covid-19 restrictions.
“This has come as a blessing in disguise for Mwonzora as it gives him a lot of time to campaign, but even so he still has a lot of work to do.”
Some party insiders said Khupe’s camp was plotting to get rid of Mwonzora even before the congress takes place.
“Mwonzora’s biggest problem right now is that he is hobnobbing with violent people and his rivals are plotting to expel him from the party ahead of the congress and this will greatly affect his eligibility if it happens,” a senior official in the party’s women’s assembly said.
“There are even growing calls for a neutral person to stand instead of these top people whose ambitions work against the good of the party. Khupe and Mwonzora surely can never work together. People make the mistake of assuming that when Tsvangirai died, the party split into two camps led by Chamisa and Khupe, but the real truth is that it split into three camps, the third being led by Mwonzora.
“Mwonzora has always had a support base big enough to cause problems and has always harboured presidential ambitions. So, his collaboration with Khupe against Chamisa was purely driven by self-interest and it’s coming out clearly now.”
Mwonzora denied a rift with Khupe, claiming to have “a cordial working relationship” with her, although he could not deny he would be running for the presidency.
“If I get the nomination, I will run,” he said.
Phugeni said: “There is no basis for that allegation. For your own information, the president does not get involved in recalls and nominations. It’s a process that is conducted by provinces spearheaded by the national chairperson Morgen Komichi and the chairperson of the women’s assembly, Dorothy Ndlovu.”
By-elections will be held for parliamentary seats that also fell vacant following the recall of more MDC-A MPs who include secretary general, Charlton Hwende, organising secretary Amos Chibaya, former chief whip Prosper Mutseyami, and Highfields West MP, Happymore Chidziva who are constituency members and can only be replaced via an election.