BY RICHARD MUPONDE
MDC-T interim secretary-general, Douglas Mwonzora won the race to become substantive party president at a chaotic extraordinary congress on Sunday but outgoing acting leader Thokozani Khupe held a Press conference to immediately “suspend” him.
The court ordered congress was characterised by violence leading to Khupe, Elias Mudzuri and Morgen Komichi — the other presidential aspirants — to abandon the process citing electoral fraud and violence.
Mwonzora’s pyrrhic victory was announced in the wee hours of the morning by the MDC-T’s independent electoral management body which said he had polled 883 votes out of declared 1 027 ballots, against Khupe’s 118 votes, Mudzuri (14) and Komichi (9).
Khupe told journalists on Sunday night while voting was in process that she had suspended Mwonzora from his position, while she also filed a report for serious fraud under number (IR) 123496 at Harare Central Police Station against her erstwhile partner.
On Sunday morning, she had attempted to have Mwonzora arrested by the Special Anti-Corruption Unit (Sacu) on allegations of abuse of party funds but called MDC Alliance lawyer Thabani Mpofu instead of Sacu head, Tabani Mpofu.
She alleged she had been manhandled by Mwonzora’s supporters and that other party members and election agents were also subjected to violence. She also cited the withdrawal of party funds by Mwonzora without following due process as the reasons for his suspension.
“Following the recent developments in the party in which you have been involved in fraudulent activities regarding electoral procedures of the MDC-T extraordinary congress, instituting violence to our members and election agents as well as inappropriately withdrawing party funds without following due process, you acted in a manner inconsistent with express or implied conduct of your membership of the party, putting the party into disrepute … Accordingly in terms of clause 126.96.36.199 of the constitution of the party you are hereby suspended from your position as secretary-general of the party. During the period of your suspension you shall not perform any duties as secretary-general,” Khupe said in a statement.
However, in the resolutions adopted by the congress after Mwonzora had been declared the winner, read by acting party spokesperson, Tapiwa Mashakada, said the suspension was null and void as Khupe had ceased to be the interim party president at the commencement of polling.
“Interim president Thokozani Khupe ceased to be acting president at the commencement of polling at the extraordinary congress (EOC). Now therefore, this congress resolved that the attempts by (DR) Khupe to suspend the extraordinary congress during polling was null and void and of no force or effect final,” Mashakada said.
“That the purported stoppage of the EOC by (Dr) Khupe having been overruled by the independent electoral management body was null and void and of no force or effect whatsoever, as she has no power to do so. That the decision of the independent electoral management body on the elections held for the post of president shall be valid.
“The purported suspension of the SG (Mwonzora), who was a candidate by Khupe, also a candidate of the same congress that was in progress, was equally null and void.”
He also said that congress had also resolved that external auditors should audit all the monies received by the party as a government grant, before any criminal reports were made.
“The party shall immediately, after the EOC appoint external auditors to audit all the monies received as part of the government grant this year. The party has no criminal complaint against any other officer of the party relating to finances at present, should one arise no reports should be made before the decision of the national standing committee of the party. The allegation of financial misrepresentation was part of a smear campaign for disadvantaging others at the congress and this congress dismisses it,” he said.
In his acceptance speech, Mwonzora paid tribute to the late party leader Morgan Tsvangirai (and) sent a conciliatory message to the other contestants preaching unity.
“It was a contest of members of the same family; therefore, I do understand that my contestants just like myself also wanted to win. I also understand the frustrations that came with a protracted campaign. I also understand the anxieties that accompanied this gruelling campaign and, therefore, I do understand the emotions around the same. I’m sure when everybody cooled down, when everybody has sobered up, we will come together as members of one family. I want to make it clear that the three leaders (Khupe, Mudzuri and Komichi) are part of my leadership plan,” Mwonzora said.
He said he held Khupe in high regard because of the work she did for the party over the years in fighting for democracy in the country.
“First as vice-president of the party, and secondly as acting president during a very difficult time, she did a lot of good work for the party and we must never forget that. I also want to pay special tribute to Mudzuri. His historic achievements for this party are there for all to see. He was our national organising secretary when we handed Zanu PF its heaviest defeat in history in 2008. He was also acting president of this party during the difficult time of president Tsvangirai’s illness,” he said.
Mwonzora described Komichi as “a man of undoubted intelligence, a man of undoubted strategic value to his party”.’
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