THE battle for the MDC presidency begins in earnest in a fortnight with the party receiving nominations of candidates aspiring to challenge interim leader Thokozani Khupe, at an extra-ordinary congress.
This comes as the Supreme Court directed that the party holds the congress that had been scheduled for July 31, but was put on hold after the government expressed safety concerns in the face of the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.
With the Supreme Court set to give Khupe a new congress date on October 1, following the party’s application for variation, party secretary-general Douglas Mwonzora told the Daily News yesterday that they had resolved during Wednesday’s national standing committee meeting to resume preparations for the congress.
“We agreed that the congress process to start immediately and hence next Wednesday’s national standing committee will deal with the logistics, including coming up with an electoral college and the nomination process, which should start in the next week or so while the date of the congress will be announced after October 1,” Mwonzora said.
The congress comes amid senseless bloodletting which erupted following the Supreme Court’s judgment in March which upheld last year’s ruling by the High Court which nullified Nelson Chamisa’s ascendancy to the leadership of the party and also directed that an extra-ordinary congress be held within 90 days of the order.
In line with the judgment, Khupe had applied for clearance from the ministry of Health for direction on how to hold the extra-ordinary congress set to be attended by over 4 000 delegates without flouting the national lockdown restrictions imposed to combat the Covid-19 spread — which restricts public gatherings to not more than 50 people.
However, the then ministry of Health acting permanent secretary Gibson Mhlanga said it was impossible for the party to hold the extra-ordinary congress under the Covid-19 environment.
“Your request for clearance to hold an extra-ordinary 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.
Following the development, Khupe approached the Supreme Court seeking guidance on the dates to hold the extra-ordinary congress.
Before the congress preparations were stopped by the ministry of Health, Mwonzora — who is believed to be eyeing Khupe’s position along with party national chairperson Morgen Komichi and his deputy Elias Mudzuri — had already secured nomination from Harare province.
The nomination was, however nullified amid allegations that it had been done irregularly.
Mwonzora said the party had also discussed the recent election of new Harare mayor, Jacob Mafume, to replace the recalled Herbert Gomba as well as by-elections to replace recalled councillors and MPs.
“We discussed the issue of by-elections and noted the misinformation regarding the dates. The correct position is that the dates have not been set because the President has not proclaimed them. The December 5 date that is being thrown around was a mere proposal by the Election Resource Centre.
We also discussed the Harare mayoral election which led to the result that saw us lose the position we initially held despite the fact that we have the majority of councillors. We noted the issue of gross indiscipline among them and we found that our decision to recall them was proper because they voted for a candidate from another party.
“We also agreed that in terms of the MDC Alliance agreement, Mafume cannot be mayor. We, however, noted that we have no power to recall him although he was wrongly elected,” Mwonzora said.
In the tightly-contested election, Mafume polled 19 votes against Luckson Mukunguma’s 14 while one ballot was spoilt out of a combined total of 34 councillors who include one from the ruling Zanu PF party.