14 December 2018

Zimbabwe: Knives Out for Mudzuri

Photo: The Standard
Opposition leader Elias Mudzuri.

MDC-Alliance faces a potential split, with party leader Mr Nelson Chamisa set to preside over two high-level meetings today in a drive to have his deputy, Mr Elias Mudzuri, expelled. At least 220 party districts are said to have resolved to have Mr Mudzuri fired ahead of next year's party congress for harbouring presidential ambitions.

This comes in the wake of reports that MDC-Alliance's deputy treasurer and Kuwadzana East Member of Parliament Mr Chalton Hwende had allegedly threatened to shoot party secretary-general Mr Douglas Mwonzora.

Mr Hwende, a Chamisa ally, was reportedly miffed by Mr Mwonzora's declaration that Mr Chamisa could be challenged at the party's congress next year. Mr Hwende could not be reached on his mobile phone for comment last night.

Mr Mwonzora said he could not recall such an incident.

Party sources said Mr Hwende openly threatened to shoot Mr Mwonzora for "derailing" Mr Chamisa. Mr Chamisa has been accused in the past of using the notorious militia, the Vanguard, to silence his opponents.

Another allegation against Mr Mudzuri is that he attended a function at State House without Mr Chamisa's "consent". He survived expulsion last week after he failed to attend a standing committee meeting for unexplained reasons.

"It is end of the road for (Mr) Mudzuri," a source said. "The president (Mr Chamisa) is going for broke and the process of eliminating his rivals has begun in earnest. (Mr) Mudzuri is the first target and (Mr) Mwonzora is likely to follow. Remember (Mr) Hwende threatened to kill (Mr) Mwonzora and it is becoming clear that the Chamisa camp is worried about the inroads that (Mr) Mwonzora has been making in the race for the party's top job."

Another source said Mr Mudzuri was being used as a warning to Mr Chamisa's potential rivals.

"This is not so much about (Mr) Mudzuri but (Mr) Mwonzora and those who are secretly canvassing for support at next year's congress," said the source. "You should know that (Mr) Chamisa has never really considered (Mr) Mudzuri as a threat but (Mr) Mwonzora. So what we are seeing is (Mr) Chamisa firing warning shots at the likes of (Mr) Mwonzora.'

Today's meetings, one for the national executive and the other for the national council, will be held at the party's Harvest House headquarters.

The fissures in the opposition are in sharp contrast to the ruling Zanu-PF which is holding its 17th Annual People's Conference at Mzingwane High School in Esigodini, Matabeleland South, with a heightened unity of purpose.

President Mnangagwa has said the ruling party's conference will focus on the country's new investment trajectory towards attainment of his vision to turn Zimbabwe into an upper middle income economy by 2030.

Party organs have already endorsed President Mnangagwa as the party's candidate for the 2023 polls to ensure leadership stability and policy consistency.

In the opposition camp, Mr Mwonzora and allies have indicated they want congress held in February next year but Mr Chamisa and his camp insist that it should take place later in October.

Sources in the opposition said Mr Mudzuri's fate in the party was sealed when he recently accompanied Parliament's presiding officers to State House where they met President Mnangagwa. This was against a standing party directive not to recognise the Head of State and Government.

Mr Mudzuri, as leader of opposition party in the Senate, accompanied Speaker of the National Assembly Advocate Jacob Mudenda and Senate President Mabel Chinomona when they went to formally introduce themselves soon after their election.

"The issue of (Mr) Mudzuri is definitely coming up for discussion in our meeting tomorrow (today). We have a national executive and a national council meeting. Decisive action has to be taken. At least 220 districts have resolved that he be fired. They expressed a vote of no confidence in him. What is likely going to happen is that he will either be fired on the basis of a no confidence vote or we will constitute a disciplinary tribunal," said the source.

"Either way you look at it, (Mr) Mudzuri is gone. In fact, he expelled himself by defying the party directive."

Another source said Mr Mudzuri could be stripped of the vice-presidency.

"We are exploring various options. One is to expel him. Another one would be to weaken him by demoting him to an ordinary card-carrying member," said the source.

Mr Mudzuri declined to comment yesterday saying he was in a meeting.

Party spokesperson Mr Jacob Mafume confirmed that there would be a national executive and national council meeting today but sought to play down the Mudzuri issue.

"Yes, there will be national executive and national council meetings tomorrow (today). (They) will focus on the deteriorating economy. Those issues you are asking me about, there are processes that are provided for by the constitution. We are a big organisation and there will always be sentiments against leaders but at the end of the day as a party we follow what the constitution provides," said Mr Mafume.

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