INTERIM MDC president Thokozani Khupe, has postponed the party’s court-directed extra-ordinary congress which was slated for next month — where a substantive new party boss was to be chosen.
Khupe’s spokesperson Khaliphani Phugeni told the Daily News yesterday that the decision to push forward the gathering was informed by the party’s desire to ensure public safety, as well as the limitations brought about by the coronavirus national lockdown which disallows gatherings of more than 50 people.
This comes after the MDC’s interim leadership held a virtual national council meeting last month, where a number of key decisions were taken — including the scheduling at the time of the July 31 extra-ordinary congress date.
It also comes as the senseless ructions that have been devouring the country’s main opposition party, ever since its much-loved founding father Morgan Tsvangirai died from colon cancer in February 2018, continue to deepen.
“The situation with Covid-19 is worrying. It should be appreciated that it is not only Zimbabwe that has come to a standstill, but the whole world.
“Whatever process we have to do as a party must, therefore, be within the realisation that we have this pandemic and that we need to play our role to combat its spread.
“In that context, and while the preparations for the extra-ordinary congress are at an advanced stage, we are not in a position right now to confirm the original planned date,” Phugeni told the Daily News.
“We are looking at different ways and means to stay within the legal parameters, while at the same time mindful of the public health imperative on us … So, there is a balancing act to play and we are working on that,” he added.
Asked to explain further if this would not be a violation of the March Supreme Court ruling which directed that the extra-ordinary congress be held within three months from the day that judgment was handed down, MDC secretary-general Douglas Mwonzora said the court had allowed them a six-week extension.
“When the ruling was handed down, the Chief Justice (Luke Malaba) made a blanket extension of time limits by six weeks.
“The three months deadline was due to expire on July 31, but there is a six-week period we were given — which means that the extra-ordinary congress will have to be held on or before the 15th of September.
“We are, therefore, working on any date between now and then,” Mwonzora told the Daily News.
“We are expecting the Covid figures to go down as we approach summer, but we are going to be working on the advice of ministry of Health officials.
“There are a number of other options which include finding ways to reduce the numbers which will attend congress at the material time.
“One of the other possibilities is to decentralise the congress or to seek an extension in the courts. That of course is not an option we would like,” Mwonzora further told the Daily News.
This comes as there has been a renewed push to unite Khupe and Nelson Chamisa ahead of the now postponed extra-ordinary congress.
It also comes as Khupe and Chamisa have been involved in a fierce tussle for the control of the country’s main opposition party ever since Tsvangirai died in February 2018.
The senseless infighting went up a notch following the 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.
Presenting a report in the party’s standing committee last week, MDC organising secretary, Abednico Bhebhe, said it was time for the MDC’s leaders to bury the hatchet in the interest of the party and the country.
“Our meeting today is founded on the reality of the divisions sponsored by our own indiscretions and admittance of the fact that there were two congresses — one at Stanley Square in Bulawayo and another at Gweru — with two leaders who contested each other in the 2018 elections.
“It is our collective responsibility to bring the two leaders to the table, whatever the stakes involved.
“It has taken us literally forever to meet as a team, and I want to speak to our mandates as responsible adult citizens on whom the whole nation reposes,” Bhebhe said.
“I appeal that we be cognisant of the aspirations for liberty, prosperity and happiness of the people that look up to us for an alternative to the governance failures by the government of the day.
“Guided by the aims and objectives of the party, particularly in terms of 3.7 of the … constitution, as well as the character and culture of the party, as captured under 4.5 of the constitution, I propose that we bring together party structures from both formations, invite national executive committee and national council members from both formations.
“The different formations should start engaging and cease forthwith the fights going on in the courts between the formations,” Bhebhe added.
“We need each other if this struggle is to be won at all.
“I appeal that as leaders we cast our sights into the long run, ahead of the short termism that manifested in the decisions, actions and choices we have taken so far, both individually and collectively in small sub groups.
“I am appealing to you as fellow trench men and women that we treat each other with one eye to sustaining the struggle against a common enemy,” Bhebhe said further.
“Closely associated with the foregoing is the politics of labelling erstwhile comrades Zanu PF, and making attempts to reach out to such matters of treachery,” the former Nkayi South legislator added.
“I am hoping we can be mature to use the courts of law in a manner which assists our struggle than one which serves to ventilate our deficiencies in the open.
“I am hopeful, fellow comrades, that I am not asking for too much on my modest request that we narrow the gaps between different groups of the same family by supressing the basest of our intuitions as motivators of our decisions, actions and choices.
“In terms of the executing of my obligations, my task is to mobilise stakeholders eligible for the extra-ordinary congress which is hard upon us,” Bhebhe continued.
He added that he was going to visit all provinces in a bid to unite 2014 party structures, which he said were unnecessarily divided.
Bhebhe was subsequently given the mandate to initiate negotiations with the rival Chamisa camp.
Both Chamisa and Khupe have been criticised for failing to heal their rift and focusing on the failures of Zanu PF — whose incompetent handling of the economy has stirred anger among long-suffering Zimbabweans.
Last month, former MDC chairperson Lovemore Moyo said pointedly that the current brawling between Chamisa and Khupe had “absolutely nothing to do with serving the long-suffering people of Zimbabwe”.