POLITICAL tensions have flared up in the faction-ridden MDC-T ahead of tomorrow’s elective congress amid fierce mudslinging among the party’s contenders for the top post.
Interim leader Thokozani Khupe (pictured) is battling it out with national chairman Morgen Komichi and secretary-general Douglas Mwonzora for the party leadership. Another contender Elias Mudzuri is considered a rank outsider, while the fifth candidate, Abednico Bhebhe, saw his quest to have the congress postponed following his suspension from the party — which effectively nullified his candidature — flop at the High Court.
Although all three frontrunners for the splintered party’s top post have been attracting very small gatherings during the campaign period, they each are confident of victory in separate interviews.
The MDC-T finds itself in search of both a leader and an identity following a contentious Supreme Court ruling in March which compelled it to return to its structures as constituted at the 2014 congress.
The ruling was in terms of an appeal against an earlier decision of the High Court which had annulled Nelson Chamisa’s presidency of the party, assumed in the most acrimonious circumstances following the demise of iconic MDC founding leader Morgan Tsvangirai in February 2018.
Chamisa, relying on a blend of vast popularity within the movement and ruthless political manoeuvre, outwitted both Khupe and Mudzuri to land the leadership, but his nemeses would never forgive him as they went on to mount a protracted legal challenge which culminated in the annulment of his dramatic ascendancy.
The decision resulted in the MDC further splitting as Chamisa went on to establish his own outfit, the MDC Alliance, going away with a lion’s share of supporters and members. However, there has not been peace in Khupe’s MDC-T, with tomorrow’s congress coming amid mudslinging and shadowboxing. In an interview with the The NewsHawks yesterday, Khupe claimed she was well poised for victory.
“I, of course, am very confident of victory. I have had a splendid campaign trail which sets me well ahead of the rest. I am actually looking at strengthening the party in the post-congress period,” she said.
In the run up to the congress, Khupe saw her spokesperson and lead campaignerKhaliphani Phugeni, appearing in court to answer to a charge of raping a minor. The charge was, however, dropped for lack of evidence and he was quick to say the accusation was part of a plot by internal rivals seeking to tarnish his image and that of Khupe.
“This was meant to tarnish my image, vandalise my political career beyond resuscitation but the people of Zimbabwe kept coming to my inbox to tell me how much they loved me,” Phugeni told the press soon after his acquittal at the Western Commonage Magistrates Court in Bulawayo last week.
Mwonzora also claimed he was the most loved candidate in the party.
“I will beat all and sundry and they know it. There is no way I can lose this election,” he said.
Mwonzora early this week found himself in the deep end after he was accused of stealing ZW$300 000 from the party’s coffers. He places it squarely on Komichi’s doorstep. He was later absolved of the charges.
“These are Komichi’s people who want to affect my chances of winning this election by tarnishing my image, but it will be futile. There is no other candidate as loved as me in this party,” he said as he sang praises of himself.
Komichi, on the other hand, dismissed the claims, saying: “I don’t operate that way. My character is such that I cannot do that. I have instead been calling on people to work together. I, of course, am going to win.”
Mudzuri was not answering calls on his mobile phone, but has also previously proclaimed his victory.
…See timelines on next page