BY RICHARD CHIDZA
THE opposition MDC led by Nelson Chamisa is likely to hold its congress in October after a national standing committee meeting held on Wednesday failed to come up with a date, NewsDay has learnt.
Sources who attended the meeting said there were heated exchanges during the meeting over the interpretation of the party’s constitution.
But Chamisa told his lieutenants that he would have the final word.
Chamisa reportedly clashed with party secretary-general, Douglas Mwonzora after the latter recused himself from indicating which date he preferred congress to be held.
“It was a heated meeting. Chamisa asked everyone to give a date on which the congress should be held, but Mwonzora refused probably feeling he had been waylaid. Chamisa probably wanted to gauge his adversaries’ preparedness and was angered by Mwonzora’s response,” a source said.
“He (Chamisa) was not amused. He accused Mwonzora of ‘trying to be clever and half’. Chamisa’s supporters in the meeting preferred August while others want it in October. In the end, there was no consensus and Chamisa said he would have the final say.”
Chamisa controversially rose to power last February railroading the party’s national council into endorsing him as successor after founding leader, Morgan Tsvangirai passed away in South Africa.
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Tsvangirai’s death triggered an internal power struggle that resulted in then co-vice-president Thokozani Khupe breaking away, while another vice-president, Elias Mudzuri and Mwonzora stayed on. They are reportedly plotting to challenge Chamisa at congress.
Another source, however, said Chamisa had given everyone a chance to give their interpretation of the constitutional provisions.
“Chamisa asked everyone to read the constitution and give their interpretation of when the congress should be held. Our constitution says congress must be held every five years, but a special congress can be held in the event of a vacancy in the office of the president before his or her term expires.
“While we all know that Chamisa was endorsed by the national council to take over as substantive leader, it is important to note that it would be unhygienic to hold an extra-ordinary congress in the same year as a congress proper,” NewsDay heard.
“The president is actually right. He could call for an extra-ordinary congress today, get elected and then refuse to have his position contested in October. The fifth year for us began in November last year and anytime from then we could have held our congress. It’s just a matter of logistics.”
Party spokesperson Jacob Mafume confirmed that the standing committee discussed the issue of political dialogue, congress and the situation in the country.
“It was an open meeting in which people were allowed to air their views regarding congress. While we do not have a specific date yet, most agreed that we will have it in October. What is left are logistics and, in any case, our structures will have to begin this process soon,” Mafume said.
Mwonzora refused to comment on the claims of an altercation between him and Chamisa.
“The national standing committee is a private meeting whose discussions are the preserve of members of the party,” he said.