MDC-T secretary-general Douglas Mwonzora says his fight with MDC Alliance leader Nelson Chamisa is not personal, but is fuelled by his desire to instil constitutionalism in the opposition.
Mwonzora (DM) told Alpha Media Holdings chairman Trevor Ncube (TN) in the online talk show In Conversation With Trevor that contrary to perceptions, he was not out to aid Zanu PF to destroy the MDC.
Below are excerpts from the interview.
TN: Describe to me your relationship with the late Morgan Tsvangirai.
DM: I started working with Morgan Tsvangirai in 1992 when I was a legal advisor of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions.
He was a very brotherly person to me at that time.
Deep down in him, there was an intelligent character.
I worked well with him when we formed the National Constitutional Assembly.
I found him to be a great strategist and a great thinker. He was also very forgiving.
TN: We move forward to 2014, you were contesting against Nelson Chamisa for the post of secretary-general and you beat him. Tell me about that experience.
DM: First of all, people should know that it was Nelson Chamisa himself, who approached me and asked me to be the secretary-general.
I said, but you, Nelson, I know you want to be secretary-general and he assured me he didn’t want and I accepted their offer.
I started campaigning.
Unfortunately, before the nominations, I was approached by Amos Chibaya, who said I should drop from the race because Nelson wanted to be secretary-general.
I then refused, of course, and I said we will meet at the congress.
I won the first nomination in Harare, but unfortunately that election was reversed.
I was unable to sit for most of the nominations. I lost 11 out of 12 nominations.
TN: Did that in any way affect your relationship? Is that why we are here at the present moment, with you in another formation and him in another formation?
DM: I don’t think so, but when Morgan Tsvangirai died, he took over power in the manner he did and I did not support that.
I thought that we were emasculating our own constitution.
My fight with him has never been personal.
TN: There was an expectation that you would go up against him over the presidency of MDC-A, what stopped you?
DM: First of all, I intended to challenge him and when we started the congress process, I found out my supporters had been purged from the structures.
All the 2014 structures were purged. I then decided not to contest at all.
TN: Does that then set the stage for the approach to the Supreme Court, which then ruled that Nelson Chamisa was not the legitimate leader of the MDC?
DM: Nelson Chamisa was challenged by the organising secretary for Gokwe district, Aneas Mashavira, who was arguing that the manner he had taken power was contrary to our constitution.
TN: But you did support Mashavira’s approach to the Supreme Court, Senator?
DM: I did not. What happened is that, I warned my leaders that we risked losing the case.
In the Supreme Court it was MDC versus MDC, that is why when the judgement came out and one of them had won, I supported the person who won.
TN: Why should Zimbabweans have confidence in an opposition party that conducts itself in a manner not different from the ruling party?
DM: This is exactly my concern. This is exactly why I took the stance I took because we must lead by example and charity must begin at home. We want to bring the MDC back to its founding values.
TN: What comfort do you give viewers, who might want to support you that you are not going to turn around and do exactly what your colleagues in the MDC are doing?
DM: We have all now seen the consequences and cost of not following the constitution and the rule of law.
Constitutions are not there for the fun of it or for decoration, they are there to be followed.
TN: Do you think the MDC supporters get that very important point because I am seeing on social media and other platforms that there is a big chunk of people in the MDC, who do not share the principles and values around constitutionalism that you are so eloquently speaking about?
DM: It is a question of time, Trevor. People will soon enough realise we are in the right. People are beginning to slowly see our point of view as well, but we have also been victims of propaganda; all of which is not true.
Talking of social media, we all know what happens, of course, the manipulation of opinion on the platform, but look at the number of people attending our meetings.
We have a good attendance and people are coming in numbers. It is clear that we are oversubscribed.
TN: You are quite confident that principles, constitutionalism will win over the personality, that is, Nelson Chamisa?
DM: I think personalities come very far behind, a revolution must be predicated on principles.
What we will need to convince Zimbabweans is that they are safe with us because we adhere to principle.
I dare say that I am yet to see a person who is as popular as (the late) Mugabe was in 1980, but he abandoned the constitution, principles, constitutionalism and the rule of law.
He died a very bitter man, he died a miserable death, I think because he had messed up.
We need to set the foundation of a democratic Zimbabwe.
TN: You have already hinted that there are some people, who are accusing you of being used by Zanu PF to divide the opposition and I am saying that allegation is not helped by the perception that the military and the police helped you to take over the Morgan Tsvangirai House.
DM: Thank you very much for the question, Trevor.
The takeover of Harvest House was actually done by three youngsters as a result of the plan we had conceived.
It was done at 5pm, we had taken about a month planning this, we planned it well and the three youngsters took over. When they took over, they invited the other 12 to make them 15 and this was again according to plan.
This is after I had asked Nelson Chamisa and Charlton Hwende to give over administration of Morgan Tsvangirai House, they had promised there would be bloodshed, and there would be a bloodbath and so on. I told them that the time we take Harvest House, it would be so smooth. The police were not involved; they only came more than three hours later.
This was in response to Charlton Hwende, who came with 45 people.
I think it was smart, cleverly done, and I also think that the youngsters who did it, did it well.
I can also share a secret, that one of the enticements was mealie-meal. Somebody was asked to go and buy mealie-meal and they left the guard.
TN: Some of your colleagues, who are on Nelson Chamisa’s side think the state is actually aiding your cause to take over MDC-T.
DM: Winning a court case is no evidence that you are being helped by the state.
When I win a case, why should people think that I am being aided by the state?
In all these cases, it was Nelson Chamisa’s group taking us to court. They were always making blunder after blunder.
One of the blunders was to forget to mention that the MDC-A was a legal person.
Many of the cases they took to court were not well-thought out by their lawyers while we did our homework well.
TN: Do you concede that you are going to be wrestling with a perception issue around the issues we have just discussed now and how are you going to right that?
DM: Well, first of all we know that the perception is there and those people, who are giving us those allegations know that the allegations are false; we are going to deal with that.
That is a public relations issue. Our team is going to be dealing with that, especially when we come out of congress.
TN: The people out there, Senator, would want to see Zanu PF unseated obviously do not take kindly to the fact that they perceive you as doing something to harm the unity of the opposition. How do you respond to that?
DM: The fact that there is discord within a party does not mean hope is lost, but this is not discord as a result of our greed; it is as a result of wanting to adhere to certain principles beneficial to the people of Zimbabwe.
TN: Apart from the very important issue of constitutionalism and being principled, are there ideological differences between you and your comrade, Nelson Chamisa?
DM: I am not so sure if Nelson Chamisa still adheres to the ideology. I think that if you look at the group Chamisa is leading right now, they have catapulted the MDC into a post-ideological face.
I do not see Nelson Chamisa and the group sharing the same ideology. I don’t think (Tendai) Biti shares the social democracy ideology at all.
TN: You mentioned Jonathan Moyo, is he part of the Nelson Chamisa faction?
DM: If it quacks like a duck, swims like a duck, flies like a duck, then it is a duck. Jonathan Moyo has acted and spoken as if he is with Nelson Chamisa and I know he is.
TN: I know the nominations for the president for the MDC-T are not open, but I have been seeing campaigns on social media that you are going to be a presidential candidate for the MDC-T, which means you might be going up against Thoko Khupe, what’s your take on that?
DM: For you to be a candidate you have to be nominated first, unfortunately these nominations have not taken place but if that is the wish of the members of the MDC to nominate me, I will weigh it and I think that I will take it up.
TN: There is toxicity within the MDC, how are you going to assure people that you are going to be different?
DM: We have taken a very hard stance against violence, you may not know that the last recalls of members of Parliament had brought 80 youngsters to try to attack Harvest House and we don’t take that kindly.
TN: Let me ask you, Senator, there is a school of thought that says, because of the problems in MDC and the problems in Zanu PF, we should have a National Transitional Authority (NTA) to allow the nation to put its house together. Do you subscribe to this view?
DM: I fail to see how a NTA can be conceived without breaking the constitution. I think what is needed is a free and fair election.
TN: How confident are you that the next election slatted for 2023 is going to be a free and fair election that you would want to participate in?
DM: The Zimbabwean people must take their rights. We are going to embark on serious election reforms.