BY RICHARD MUPONDE/BLESSED MHLANGA
CHAOTIC scenes rocked the combustible MDC-T extraordinary congress which was held at the Harare International Conference Centre yesterday, with backers of the interim party president Thokozani Khupe (pictured) and those of the secretary-general, Douglas Mwonzora clashing throughout the day.
Khupe and Mwonzora also continuously clashed over the voting process and exchanged harsh words amid reports that earlier in the day, Khupe attempted to have Mwonzora arrested by the Special Anti-Corruption Commission (SACU) on allegations that he abused party funds.
The blows started almost as soon as congress delegates were brought in by Zimbabwe United Passenger Company (ZUPCO) buses, while pushing and shoving was the order of the day. Claims of vote-rigging for the party presidency were rampant.
Mwonzora battled it out with Khupe, party acting chairperson Morgen Komichi, and Elias Mudzuri for the leadership of the party in a vote that went well into the night.
Mwonzora told NewsDay that he was called by SACU, who wanted to interview him over the allegations that some party funds went missing under his watch.
“It is politics of hate, they attempted to get me arrested early in the morning but there is no case at all. The expenditure was approved by the MDC-T Standing Committee,” Mwonzora said.
The spectacle took an absurd turn after Nelson Chamisa’s lawyer Thabani Mpofu told NewsDay that Khupe mistakenly called him asking for SACU to come in and nab Mwonzora over the alleged corruption.
Chamisa’s lawyer Mpofu has a similar name and surname to the SACU boss Tabani Mpofu, hence the mix up.
“She called me thinking I am the head of SACU and asked for help with the MDC-T congress. I will release the transcript of the conversation,” Mpofu said.
But Khupe’s spokesperson Khalipani Phugeni said he was unaware of the call and could not comment on the matter.
However, in an interview before the voting process, Mwonzora who appears to be the favoured horse judging by the number of his backers who were openly campaigning for him outside the venue, said that he would win the party’s presidency as he was the people’s choice.
Former Mwonzora ally Partson Murimoga earlier reported a case of fraud to the police, accusing him of stealing $5 million from party coffers in an attempt to have him arrested before the voting.
“They had tried to cause my arrest here saying I diverted party funds. There’s no way that party funds can be withdrawn by a single person. The problem is that the treasurer-general Chief Ndlovu wanted to behave like a cashier.
“I have responded to his letter, and surprisingly he has not been there for crucial meetings. He is not here right now but is in South Africa at a time when the party is holding such an important extraordinary congress. I am a veteran administrator, a veteran secretary-general and he is not. Today we have come to end the politics of hate, the politics of mudslinging,” Mwonzora said.
He claimed there would be no retributive politics under his presidency.
“After the congress we will be too busy for retribution. We are not going to seek revenge; we are going to unite the people. The party is sick,” Mwonzora said.
When voting started, Bulawayo delegates led by the provincial chairperson Gift Banda, accused Mwonzora of leading an attempt to rig their preferred candidate Khupe out of the race. They alleged that the names of the delegates from Bulawayo province were bogus and did not resemble those of the 2014 MDC-T structures which were sent for verification last week. They left the venue after using a supplementary roll to vote.
This led to counter accusations. The chaos further delayed the voting process which had already been held up after the party principals were locked up in a National Standing Committee meeting all morning.
The standoff then ended after the party decided to introduce a supplementary voters’ roll, which brought in new names.
But the fracas continued during the voting exercise. A book of ballot papers went missing but was later brought back. An attempt to block Mwonzora’s stronghold, Manicaland province from voting caused more noise. The province was later allowed to vote.
The voters’ roll which was used was the one which was favoured to the party by the sacked organising secretary Abednego Bhebhe after the Khupe camp refused to use the one which was supplied by Mwonzora accusing him of rigging and staffing it with names of his backers.
When it became the turn of Manicaland province to vote, Khupe’s backers tried to bar the use of the supplementary roll while at the high table, Khupe, Mwonzora, Komichi and Mudzuri remonstrated with each other.
By 6pm, only two provinces, Bulawayo and Manicaland had completed voting out of the 10 provinces.
Khupe, Mudzuri, and Komichi then left the venue in a huff around 6pm, with their loyalists claiming they felt that the whole election process was a sham.