HARARE – Elias Mudzuri, the Warren Park MDC MP, is gunning for the MDC presidency where he is angling to fight for the opposition’s top post with former Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai.
Mudzuri confirmed to the Daily News yesterday that if the people decide he should be the next MDC leader, he will gladly accept.
The former Harare mayor’s admission that he wants Tsvangirai’s post resonates with reports that Mudzuri has been co-ordinating meetings in Harare to drum up support for his ascendancy to the top post in MDC.
Officials have been surreptitiously approached to endorse the credentials of the Harvard-educated engineer, who has previously served as Harare’s mayor and MDC’s organising secretary before suffering a crushing defeat to Nelson Chamisa at the 2011 MDC congress held in Bulawayo.
It was said to be a “well-organised’’ campaign by individuals concerned about the party’s prospects of romping back to office amid poor opinion poll ratings and grim electoral prospects.
But the ex-prime minister’s popular promise to call an extraordinary congress to decide the need for leadership renewal appears to have fuelled speculation that there is an intensifying plot to oust the 61-year-old MDC leader before the 2016 MDC congress.
Mudzuri told the Daily News yesterday that leadership of the MDC was not limited to Tsvangirai, who suffered his heaviest electoral defeat at the July 31 presidential elections.
Pressed to state categorically if he intends to challenge Tsvangirai at the party’s next congress, a scenario he proffered as a possibility in a recent controversial opinion piece, Mudzuri said he would not turn down the call to lead if the opportunity arises.
“Do you intend to become the editor of your paper one day?” Mudzuri asked.
“If you do, then that is what applies to everyone. When that position is vacant, then it is a possibility but at the moment there is no vacancy.”
Several top MDC officials have publicly called for Tsvangirai to step down and last week Mudzuri took it a gear up as he suggested five ways he thinks would serve the beleaguered party from demise.
One of the scenarios he proffered was that Tsvangirai steps down and becomes the godfather of the party and become the “Nelson Mandela” of the labour-backed party.
Mudzuri seemed to favour putting the issue to an elective congress where people would determine their preferred candidates.
“We go by what the people demand. If they demand that there be a new leadership, then so it will be,” he said.
Mudzuri accused the media of “killing our leadership renewal debate by personalising the issue”.
He complained that when he proffered his five scenarios, one of which he believes can shape the destiny or demise of the party, he wanted party members to choose their preferred scenario not him.
In a thinly veiled admission that he was ready to wrestle power from the veteran opposition leader, Mudzuri said the purpose of discussing leadership renewal was meant to prepare the party to be able to figure out who takes what post ahead of the next election.
“I was only challenging my society to look at what we need to do in preparation for 2018, but now I am being treated like an enemy,” Mudzuri complained.
“The media has also been harassing me saying Mudzuri this, Biti that, as if it’s a crime to discuss these things in the public. The idea of discussing these things is so that we can see how to place each other for leadership and then we go along with what the people say. Anyone who the people choose will be accepted."
“You media guys are killing our debate on the need for re-invention of the party because you have chosen to make this discussion personal. Leadership in any democracy is not about individuals, it is not about Mudzuri because even you journalists can also be the party’s president.
“If we want Zimbabwe to be a real democracy, we must desist from this thing of saying when leadership renewal is talked about in Zanu PF, people point to (vice president Joice) Mujuru and (Justice minister Emmerson) Mnangagwa; or Mudzuri and Biti in the MDC, yet it could be anyone else, even from outside.
“When I proffered the five scenarios that could obtain in the MDC, I soon realised that the media chose one of the scenarios I gave and they presented it as my preferred choice.
“Now I am being harassed in newspapers which are writing all sorts of stories as if I committed a crime.”
Mudzuri has been fingered internally by Tsvangirai loyalists as part of a group led by party treasurer Roy Bennett which has been advocating for leadership change in the party.
The former Energy minister, who was removed from the post by Tsvangirai after a Cabinet reshuffle, warned that without introspection and debate the MDC would fade into insignificance and allow the continued dominance of political space by Zanu PF.
Despite gunning for the top job, observers say Mudzuri lacks a critical mass to mount a serious campaign against the charismatic MDC leader.
At the MDC congress, Chamisa handed Mudzuri a humiliating defeat at a vote held at the party’s congress in Bulawayo in 2011.
Chamisa, a populist Tsvangirai loyalist whose political career is rising at an incredible pace, is also being touted as a strong contender for the MDC presidency, together with former Finance minister Tendai Biti.
Just to underline voter preferences, Chamisa at the last MDC congress received 2 700 votes, ahead of Mudzuri’s 700 votes for the organising secretary post.
Those who back Mudzuri say he guided the MDC to electoral victories only two years after taking the hot organising secretary’s seat in 2006 following a damaging MDC split.
But critics say Mudzuri was ousted from the organising secretary’s post after accusations that he was moving too slowly to rejuvenate the party structures, end Zanu PF rule and lift millions out of poverty.