Constitutional amendment hounds MDC

BY RICHARD CHIDZA

OPPOSITION MDC leader Nelson Chamisa and secretary-general Douglas Mwonzora are engaged in a fresh fight that could determine the way the party’s first elective congress following the death of founding leader Morgan Tsvangirai, will be handled.

A constitutional amendment that gave Tsvangirai power to appoint members who make it into the standing committee has come back to hound the party with sources claiming that disagreements have emerged on which positions should be contested at the congress. High-level sources this week said the MDC was now grappling with the resolution amid indications it was never co-opted into the constitution proper.

“Mwonzora is arguing all positions should be contested while Chamisa wants to maintain the status quo. The secretary-general argued that the 2014 resolution is not law, but part of rules that can be chopped and changed before congress, depending on circumstances,” NewsDay heard from a member of the MDC national standing committee.

In a bid to deal with what the party claimed were “two centres of power between the president and secretary-general”, Tsvangirai, at the close of the 2014 congress, pushed for changes to the party’s governance charter centralising power in his office and stripping the then powerful secretary-general of influence.

Described at the time as the “Zanufication of the MDC”, the changes were used by Tsvangirai to elevate Chamisa and Elias Mudzuri into the presidency as his two deputies, joining Thokozani Khupe, who had been elected at congress.

Chamisa was still licking his wounds after a loss to Mwonzora in the race for the coveted post of secretary-general.

The new secretary-general and Khupe were left seething with anger, but the die had been cast. Sources said the party’s standing committee would be the next battleground to determine how the congress will be run with a draft template set to be debated.

“Today (yesterday), the standing committee will meet and debate the draft rules for the congress that will come from the national organising department. It is a template that would need to be endorsed by the national council as well as congress. It is possible that all positions could be elected,” another source said. “The most difficult decision is on how to deal with the position of vice-president. We need to deal with how many will be elected. As things stand, none among the presidency (Chamisa) vice-presidents (Morgen Komichi, Welshman Ncube and Elias Mudzuri) are elected. The national chairperson and her deputy were appointed. It’s a mess.”

Party spokesperson Jacob Mafume, while confirming that the MDC standing committee was meeting, said he would give details after the indaba.

“Yes, the standing committee will meet today. We will consider the manner in which congress will be held. I, however, can’t give details now,” he said.

Tsvangirai moved to centralise power in an effort to stem the tide of consistent break-aways by party secretary-generals. It started with Ncube in 2005 following disagreements over participation in senatorial elections before Tendai Biti broke away from Tsvangirai in the aftermath of the 2013 electoral loss.

Both Biti and Ncube have since returned to the party now under Chamisa.

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