IN A dramatic turn of events, frustrated youths from the country’s biggest opposition party, the MDC, last week seized the iconic national headquarters, the Morgan Richard Tsvangirai (MRT) House, demanding dialogue between interim president Thokozani Khupe and bitter rival Nelson Chamisa.
Khupe and Chamisa have been at each’s throats since the death of the revered founding MDC president Morgan Tsvangirai in February 2018. Khupe leads the MDC-T faction, while Chamisa heads the MDC-Alliance, a loose coalition of seven parties of which the MDC-T is the biggest partner.
The Daily News of Sunday Senior Staff Writer Mugove Tafirenyika sat down with MDC-T Harare youth provincial chairperson Paul Gorekore, the architect of the takeover, on the goings-on in the MDC. Below are excerpts of the interview.
Q: You have taken over the party headquarters. What is really happening? Are you now running the party as youths?
A: We are here at Morgan Richard Tsvangirai House as the Harare provincial youth assembly and we have taken over security matters here, up until the extraordinary congress is held as directed by the courts.
We are trying all means to push our leaders to find each other, sit down and solve their differences, all the sticking issues which we believe can be resolved amicably without mudslinging.
Q: Which leaders are you referring to, MDC-T or MDC-Alliance?
A: The MDC-T, we are the leaders in the MDC-Alliance. When I talk about leaders, I am referring to those who held various positions in the MDC-T when Tsvangirai died in 2018. They include Khupe and Chamisa.
Q: But some of them, including Chamisa and others, were sacked by Khupe. What is the youth assembly’s view of their status?
A: According to what we agreed as the youths, the leaders must follow the party constitution so when they say they have suspended or expelled so and so, the procedure must be followed to the extent that the decisions must be ratified by the national executive committee and the national council.
So, the leaders have not been expelled yet until those organs of the party have met. If they endorse that, or do not, then that will be the final decision.
Q: Have you engaged the leadership over your concerns and what is the response?
A: We never engaged anyone in the leadership before our action because this is politics and it is about security. You cannot go about shouting security issues, so we kept it secret lest some of the leadership would have viewed our plans as selling out the struggle.
Some are already saying so, but we will not be moved, we will follow our vision for the party and they will realise where we are coming from and going then follow us.
Our vision is not to sell out the people’s struggle, but to make sure that we continue on the path cleared by our icon Tsvangirai.
Q: Is that the position of all MDC youths countrywide?
A: I cannot speak on behalf of other provinces, but we are pushing our national executive currently led by acting chairperson Shakespeare Mukoyi in the absence of leader Happymore “Bvondo” Chidziva. We are hoping they will consider our concerns and join us as well as encourage other provinces to do the same.
Q: What is the reaction of the national youth executive?
A: I don’t think they realise our vision at the moment, but we have put to the fore what we stand for and hope that they will see reason and back us.
It is like we have actioned our plan before it was adopted by the national executive because we are directly affected by what is happening as Harare Province given that we use the national headquarters for our provincial meetings.
We, therefore, could not stand arms akimbo while our offices are reduced to a playing ground. The leadership is not attaching importance to this building. It is not for the funny games they are playing, it is a revolutionary building and we expect serious business here. That is why we had to step in.
Q: You allege infiltration by Zanu PF. Can you elaborate, mentioning who is involved?
A: I cannot be very specific as to who has worked with Zanu PF and who has not, but we have evidence to the effect that there are people linked to the State, working directly from Harvest House. We had to stop that.
We are here to defend the people’s project. On the other hand, we also have G40 elements in the other MDC faction and we cannot run away from that.
At the same time, the State naturally has an interest in the party, so there are also State elements infiltrating the party and we got worried that the people’s project was being captured.
Q: During the first takeover of MRTH from MDC Alliance, there were reports that you had help from soldiers and the police. Could that be part of the infiltration?
A: This building has always been in the hands of the MDC-T. Leaders take control, but the building remains a party asset. During the first takeover, I was accused along with my deputy here, Tendai Muchekahanzu and Friday Muleya, of using state security. We negotiated with the security to give the powers to the youth assembly since there was no direction in the party.
This time again, it is a continuation of the struggle. We want this project to continue so we cannot let anyone abuse this building.
They abuse this building by engaging in factional fights. This cannot be a venue for factional meetings and a battlefield for individuals fighting their personal wars. We have the power given to us by the party constitution as youths to protect the party.
Q: What are your expectations from the extraordinary congress? Would you want Chamisa to contest for president?
A: I am not in a position to answer that because the issue is going to be brought before the national executive and the national council.
Our vision is that our leader, who will emerge at the congress, will automatically take over the MDC-Alliance leadership. We will monitor things to make sure that is fulfilled because that is what the agreement says.
Q: What is your reaction to the continued recall of MPs from Parliament?
A: It is one of the reasons why we took the decision we took.
We realised that we are now headed for by-elections and we could not fathom a situation where two MDC factions contested each other, donating seats to Zanu PF because of vote splitting.
Our hope is that the dialogue and resolution of the problems is done before the nomination court sits so that there will be one party candidate per constituency.
Q: If all the 2014 structures take up their posts, what will happen to Khupe’s standing committee appointments?
A: For the sake of progress, my thinking is that they were appointed to save the party and it would not be good to chase them away just like that. I suggest that the leadership should accommodate them somewhere in the party because we anticipate that Theresa Makone, for example, will take her position as treasurer, meaning Chief Ndlovu would have to be reassigned.
We expect Lynnette Karenyi- Kore to take back her position as Women’s Assembly chairlady and other leaders too. The appointees are not strangers, so they can be accommodated. Information secretary Khaliphani Phugeni was a member of the national executive.
Q: Is your move meant to shut out Welshman Ncube and Tendai Biti, who are currently deputising Chamisa in the MDC-Alliance, as is being alleged in some quarters? Where do they stand in your scheme of things?
A: They are very much in the plan. Some think that we want to dump our colleagues. These are founding members of the party who cannot be wished away.
While we blame them for interfering with MDC-T internal politics when Tsvangirai died, the solution is that they be patient and allow the party to solve its issues and once that is done, we come back and continue with our alliance project.
We don’t want the alliance to die because it is our baby, it is our project. They must just understand us from that perspective. They will be back with their colleagues again and pushing the national project ahead.
Q: What is your message to MDC supporters out there?
A: I appeal to the MDC family to be patient with us and be focused. They may not understand the direction we have taken, but it is a serious one. We will not backtrack. We will make sure our leaders resolve these things. When people quarrel and sit down, they can come up with something bigger.
We want to urge our supporters not to accept a leader working with Zanu PF on the basis that one is working with G40 so it is a better devil or the other is working with Team Lacoste, so it is better. Zanu PF must be rejected in its entirety.
If the leaders engage with Zanu PF at national level let it be agreed upon by the national council like our late president Tsvangirai used to do.