SENIOR STAFF WRITER
FORMER MDC secretary-general Douglas Mwonzora, pictured, pictured, is the new leader of the country’s biggest opposition party after he trounced his main rival, Thokozani Khupe, in Sunday’s chaotic election in Harare.
But speaking in an interview with the Daily News yesterday, a fuming Khupe claimed that she remained the MDC’s interim president after she “nullified” the results of the weekend vote and also “suspended” Mwonzora — suggesting that the party’s energy-sapping confusion and anarchy endure.
However, legal experts were doubtful yesterday that Khupe had the power to nullify the results of the vote, or to suspend Mwonzora for that matter — which means that she has a real battle on her hands as she tries to undo the outcome of the extra-ordinary congress.
In Sunday’s poll, which showed that the party still has a significant and dedicated following despite its senseless wars, Mwonzora polled an emphatic 883 votes against Khupe’s 118, while the other two presidential candidates — Elias Mudzuri and Morgen Komichi — got a paltry 14 and nine votes respectively.
In the meantime, Mudzuri has since joined Khupe in rejecting the results of the poll, also accusing Mwonzora of rigging and manipulating the voters roll — accusations which the well-regarded Harare lawyer has dismissed as “sour grapes”.
“I suspended Mwonzora. That so-called extra-ordinary congress was a non-event. I am still the acting president of the party.
“We are going to have our national council and map the way forward,” the angry Khupe told the Daily News yesterday.
“The voters’ roll was changed. I wanted the party to have a free and fair election. I said after a few provinces voted that the election is a non-event.
“Our agents were being thrown out. They were being intimidated. The (Mwonzora) thugs were harassing everyone and it was not an election.
“All this was pre-planned to rig elections. Mwonzora remains suspended as the party is investigating his conduct,” Khupe further told the Daily News.
After Khupe “officially suspended” Mwonzora, legal experts said it was not clear in what capacity she had done so as she was a participant in Sunday’s vote, which had also since been officially endorsed by the strife-torn party.
In her “suspension letter”, Khupe accused Mwonzora of sponsoring violence against party members and rival election agents.
“Following the recent developments in the party in which you have been involved in fraudulent activities regarding electoral processes of the MDC … extra-ordinary congress, instituting violence to our members and elections agents, as well as un-procedurally withdrawing party funds without following the due process.
“You acted in a manner inconsistent with express or implied conditions of your membership of the party, putting the name of the party into serious disrepute.
“Accordingly… 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.
“Also note that during your suspension you shall not visit any of the party’s offices,” her letter to Mwonzora read in part.
On his part, Mudzuri also claimed that Sunday’s election had been a farce.
“I don’t even know the results. The voters roll changed many times. I left the venue after I witnessed that the elections were not credible.
“He (Mwonzora) took the (party) money and sponsored thugs. There were hired thugs for the congress.
“My aides were harassed and I left the place because I said to myself life is bigger than politics,” Mudzuri told the Daily News yesterday.
“I am going to meet with other leaders and do a post-mortem. But for now we can only say that there was no election.
“How can you claim to be a leader after winning elections using unscrupulous means?” Mudzuri added.
Komichi could not be reached for a comment.
But Mwonzora told journalists after the congress that Sunday’s “losers” needed to accept the results of the extra-ordinary congress.
“I expect them to cool down, relax and accept the verdict of the people. I can’t be suspended by a fellow candidate in an election, during an election. A split is when the owners of the MDC split.
“The owners of the MDC in this regard are intact. As you saw, it was individual candidates who saw how the election was going who have moved out.
“The members of congress remained and resolved to continue and they have just continued,” Mwonzora said then.
This comes after Sunday’s crucial vote degenerated into chaos, with delegates nearly coming to blows over allegations of manipulation of the voters’ roll.
So bad was the situation at a top Harare hotel where the gathering took place that Khupe and Mwonzora openly traded accusations of vote rigging.
This also came as the country’s biggest opposition party continues to be ravaged by senseless factional wars which began since the death of its much-loved founding father Morgan Tsvangirai — who succumbed to cancer of the colon in February 2018.
Khupe and Nelson Chamisa have been tearing each other apart, especially after the Supreme Court’s judgment in March upheld last year’s ruling by the High Court that nullified the latter’s controversial ascendancy to the leadership of the party.
But any hopes that Sunday’s crucial gathering would start the healing process in the strife-torn party were quickly banished after delegates accused rival camps of attempting to manipulate the voting — amid howls of a shambolic voters’ roll.
And as emotions ran high, Khupe and Mwonzora — who were the front runners to take over the MDC reins — traded barbs publicly.
“We want a credible election. Those who are not on the voters roll must not vote. They shouldn’t be here. Let’s be fair to each other,” Khupe shouted during the melee.
“Let the people vote. Let the people decide. Everybody who is supposed to vote must vote. We can’t change the rules now. This is wrong.
“We can’t stop Manicaland from voting while Bulawayo voted,” Mwonzora shot back as he protested that his home province was unfairly being denied the opportunity to vote.
“You want to rig the election. We are not going to allow this. This process must stop. The voters roll has been tampered with. We can’t allow people to steal the vote,” Khupe shouted back.
The MDC was forced to cancel the congress last week following disagreements among its leaders, as well as the “unearthing of irregularities” — which some officials claimed would undermine voting if these were not attended to.
The run-up to the chaotic contest had also been marred by swirling, but unproven claims of abuse of funds by some party bigwigs.
Khupe was accused of allegedly misusing US$35 000 which was meant for the congress, while Mwonzora was also alleged to have abused $300 000.
Both allegations were dismissed by party spokesperson Tapiwa Mashakada who said they were part of smear campaigns by rival camps ahead of the congress.