The decision by the MDC-T not to participate in the by-elections is a manifestation of renewed factional fights within the bickering opposition which could affect the party’s unity in the near future, The Standard has learnt.
BY XOLISANI NCUBE
After re-calling 21 rebel MPs who left the party to join the Tendai Biti Renewal project, the party’s national council on Friday voted not to participate in the by-elections slated for June 10 demanding that electoral reforms be implemented first.
Insiders said the decision not to participate was made along factional lines between losing aspiring secretary-general Nelson Chamisa and the winner Douglas Mwonzora.
Chamisa, according to party insiders, “vigorously” campaigned against the decision to participate, arguing that it was “insignificant” as “the party was bound to lose the polls given the electoral environment”.
The campaign had the support of party leader Morgan Tsvangirai although “he did not make it public”.
The source said the former organising secretary had lobbied the national council members to object the move to participate in 14 by-elections which could have seen Mwonzora and a number of losing MPs in the July 31 2013 elections bouncing back into Parliarment.
“Mwonzora wants to be an MP and he had seen this as an opportunity to go into parliament,” said a source.
“Mwonzora had in his camp, Theresa Makone, Obert Gutu, Lynnette Karenyi and Thokozani Khupe, all of whom had seen the by-elections as an opportunity to bounce back in parliament,” the source added.
Contacted for comment on the development, Chamisa denied claims that he lobbied for support to block the participation in the by-elections, but said he supported the resolution made by the national council to boycott the polls.
“I never campaigned for any decision to be made. This was a national council decision which voted on principle with a view to solving the national crisis,” said the Kuwadzana MP.
“Yes, there were some who had their own views but the national council looked at the crisis bedevilling the country against the benefits of having a few MPs in parliament who by and large have no power to stop the passage of any constitutional amendment or a bill.”
But the source remained adamant that Chamisa had done his ground work and it was “sweet victory against his arch-rival”.
“Right now they are lobbying against Mwonzora’s push to fill the Manicaland seat which fell vacant after the recalling of Patrick Chitaka as senator. They want the provincial chair, David Chimhini to take over the seat,” the source added.
During the November congress last year, Mwonzora squared off with Chamisa for the post of secretary-general which had been left vacant following the departure of Biti and his team to form the ill-fated Renewal Team.
The ex-Nyanga North MP, who could not be reached for comment yesterday, won the post alongside all his teammates who included, Makone, the treasurer-general, Gutu, spokesperson and Khupe the vice-president.
When the decision to expel Biti and his camp was made, Gutu, according to sources, had expressed interest to take over Harare East seat which was occupied by Biti.
The source said Makone, who lost her Harare North seat to Zanu PF in the July 2013 polls, had hoped to replace Evelyn Masaiti as proportional representation MP for Harare.
But sources said the opposing camp said Makone was likely to be challenged by Susan Matsunga who was on the original list for Harare.
Gutu said as far as he was concerned, he was not desperate to be an MP and at no point was he involved in lobbying to be a lawmaker.
“That’s a lie! It’s people who don’t know me well who are saying that. Right now I am overwhelmed with my job as party spokesperson and running my private business,” he said.
“I don’t know of any lobbying by anyone on that issue because all of us were aware of the congress resolution on this matter.”