Founding MDC member and human rights lawyer, David Coltart has dismissed claims by rival groups in the opposition, that former Nyanga North MP Douglas Mwonzora, is being funded by Zanu PF to challenge party leader Nelson Chamisa, at the upcoming congress in May.
Mwonzora the MDC Manicaland Senator, has reportedly confided in those close to him that he is readying himself to challenge for the biggest political job in Zimbabwe's opposition pitting his wits against Chamisa. However party activists and senior leaders have been quick to dismiss Mwonzora as being part of a wider ruling party project aimed at manipulating the MDC congress in order to "make sure a weak leader emerges."
But respected party member and former Education Minister Coltart, while declaring his support for Chamisa described the attacks on Mwonzora as "unfortunate."
"I know Douglas Mwonzora very well. I respect to him and he has done a great job as secretary general. If we are a democratic party anyone must be allowed to challenge for any position.
"However I think Nelson Chamisa has demonstrated that he has revived the party and that he enjoys the vast majority of grassroots support. That's why I am backing him," Coltart said.
Former Bulawayo South MP, Coltart said it was important that the MDC was seen to be practicing democracy adding he has been disappointed by consistent attacks on those who challenge for leadership positions in the opposition.
"But Douglas has a right to contest. It is critically important that we approach that contest in a mature fashion.
"This is the problem with the opposition politics in Zimbabwe, that when someone puts their head up above the parapet to challenge for a position, they are accused of being a Zanu PF agent. I don't believe that of Douglas. I think its unfortunate, that this has been alleged and I hope it will come to an end," said Coltart.
The Bulawayo lawyer along with former secretary general now vice president Welshman Ncube are returnees to the mainstream MDC after breaking away in 2005. Ncube and his group at the time were labeled a Zanu PF project by then party leader the late Morgan Tsvangirai. Another former secretary general Tendai Biti and then treasurer general Elton Mangoma broke ranks with Tsvangirai in 2014. They were also labeled Zanu PF agents. In the melee that followed Tsvangirai's death last year, then vice president Thokozani Khupe lost out to Chamisa in fight to succeed the former Prime Minister. Khupe has consistently been accused of benefitting from Zanu PF.
Mwonzora has been vilified for his indications that he wants to challenge Chamisa the same man he defeated for the position of secretary general at the 2014 congress after getting only one nomination. Chamisa looked unstoppable at the time before he was humbled only to be elevated to the position of vice president by Tsvangirai in July 2016 a decision that left Mwonzora stunned.
The opposition party has sensationally accused President Emmerson Mnangagwa of dangling a US$6 million bounty to help Mwonzora destabilize the MDC.