and Mugove Tafirenyika
SENIOR STAFF WRITERS
THE government has barred interim MDC leader Thokozani Khupe from holding the party’s planned extra-ordinary congress slated for July 31 — until the coronavirus pandemic is under control in the country, the Daily News reports.
The decision by authorities to stop the party from going ahead with its extra-ordinary congress followed a recent letter to the government by Khupe — in which she asked for clearance from the Health ministry for the gathering, which was due to be attended by 4 500 delegates.
This comes as Khupe and her interim MDC leadership are involved in a hammer and tongs fight with Nelson Chamisa and his allies for control of the country’s main opposition party.
It also comes as major cracks are emerging within Khupe’s camp, with the party’s organising secretary Abednico Bhebhe accusing interim secretary-general Douglas Mwonzora of sidelining him in the running of the MDC’s affairs.
The acting permanent secretary in the ministry of Health and Child Care, Gibson Mhlanga, said in response to Khupe that it was impossible for the MDC to hold its congress as the gathering would violate Covid-19 regulations.
“Your request for clearance to hold an extraordinary congress on 31 July, 2020 is not approved.
“We are in a Covid-19 lockdown and one of the requirements is that there must not be any public gatherings of more than 50 people. The delegates that you are indicating exceed the recommended number.
“Based on this requirement, it is, therefore, impossible to hold the meeting in this environment,” Mhlanga said.
In the wake of the ban, Khupe’s spokesperson Khaliphani Phugeni told the Daily News yesterday that the party was consulting its lawyers to chart the way forward.
“We definitely want to comply with the court ruling, but then again we are faced with a situation where the executive arm of government has told us that this is not possible at the moment.
“We have engaged our lawyers who are currently dealing with the matter.
“The party will, however, continue with its preparations as scheduled, until we have been shown the direction by the legal team,” Phugeni told the Daily News.
A fortnight ago, Khupe had attempted to move the planned congress from this month to between September 4 and 6 this year, citing the national lockdown, whose regulations bar large gatherings — before she reverted to the original date of July 31.
Meanwhile, cracks have emerged in the Khupe camp, with Bhebhe accusing Mwonzora of sidelining him in the running of party affairs.
“I notice with disenchantment how your office has failed, omitted or just neglected to send me notice of sittings of the standing committee, for the entire period stretching up to this moment from the delivery of the Supreme Court judgment.
“Your failure, omission or neglect has consigned me to whims of the rumour mill, getting information either a few minutes before or after the meeting and with no formal briefing of the proceedings.
“As you well know, just like my colleagues which you favour with such courtesy, I am entitled and I demand as such, appropriate notice given on time to allow my effective participation,” Bhebhe said in a recent letter to Mwonzora.
“The current opportunistic practices are just untenable and I do not accept that, not even for a split of a second.
“As secretary-general, your office is responsible for sending out invitations to members whose attendance on various party committees is prescribed by the constitution.
“My attendance at sittings of the standing committee, as the national organising secretary cannot, and has never been a matter of the pleasure of your office,” Bhebhe added.
“Your failure, omission or neglect to do so has and continues to prejudice the party of the checks and balances the constitution sought to strike by placing various roles in the hands of a plurality of separate individuals.
“For the record, this misguided attempt to tamper with my agency in the direction of party affairs is superfluous and I reserve the right to assert my interests in this regard through the courts of law.
“I reserve the right to take appropriate steps to assert the exercise of my rights and obligations as the national organising secretary through meetings of party organs to which I must receive proper notice from your office,” Bhebhe said further.
Mwonzora was not reachable for comment yesterday.
All this comes as both Khupe and Chamisa have increasingly demonstrated their lack of capacity to heal their warring party’s rifts, and to give direction to their followers as the crucial 2023 elections beckon.
It also comes after the Senate announced the recall of eight senators from Parliament on Wednesday.
The recalled senators are Meliwe Phuthi (Matabeleland South), Helen Zivira (Bulawayo), Siphiwe Ncube (Bulawayo), Phyllis Ndlovu (Matabeleland North), Keresencia Chabuka (Manicaland), Herbert Sinampande (Matabeleland North), Gideon Shoko (Bulawayo) and Tapfumanei Wunganayi (Mashonaland East).
Khupe and Chamisa have been involved in a fierce tussle for control of the country’s main opposition party since the death of its much-loved founding father, Morgan Tsvangirai, from colon cancer in February 2018.
The senseless infighting went a notch up following the March Supreme Court’s judgment which upheld last year’s ruling by the High Court which nullified Chamisa’s ascendancy to the leadership of the party.
The court conferred the party leadership to Khupe and also directed that the MDC reverts to its 2014 structures, in addition to holding an extraordinary congress to elect Tsvangirai’s substantive successor.
Last month, Chamisa’s faction suffered a setback in its bid to bar Khupe from recalling party legislators from Parliament.
Then, High Court judge Justice Tawanda Chitapi ruled that Chamisa’s team was improperly before the courts, as the MDC Alliance was not a juristic person that was capable of suing or being sued.
That ruling paved the way for Khupe to recall nine more legislators last week, after she had successfully recalled four others earlier — including the MDC Alliance’s leader in Parliament Tabitha Khumalo, national assembly and Senate chief whips Prosper Mutseyami and Lilian Timveos respectively, as well as Chalton Hwende (Kuwadzana East).
The nine MPs that were recalled last week were Amos Chibaya (Mkoba), Happymore Chidziva (Highfield West), proportional representatives Bacilia Majaya, Mucharairwa Mugidho, Virginia Muradzikwa, Anna Muyambo, Francesca Ncube, Nomathemba Ndlovu and Murisi Zwizwai (Harare Central).
This also comes after High Court judge, Justice David Mangota, recently dismissed petitions by Chamisa’s MDC faction to repossess Morgan Richard Tsvangirai House, formerly Harvest House — meaning that Khupe and her allies are now officially the legitimate occupants of the iconic building.
Meanwhile, Khupe moved on Wednesday to further weaken Chamisa when she barred 1 050 party delegates said to be sympathetic to her rival from attending the planned extraordinary congress — saying they were bent on fomenting violence on the day.