BY RICHARD MUPONDE
The MDC-T yesterday expelled one of its top officials as one of the contestants for the party’s presidency warned that the race to succeed Morgan Tsvangirai has left the group deeply divided.
Abedinico Bhebhe, the acting organising secretary, was shown the door during a national council meeting held virtually “for grossly violating the constitution of the party [by] supporting another political party other than the MDC-T”.
The meeting also endorsed acting president
Thokozani Khupe, interim secretary-general Douglas Mwonzora, acting chairperson Morgen Komichi and former Energy minister Elias Mudzuri as candidates for the presidential election to be held next month.
Bhebhe’s expulsion meant that he was disqualified from contesting for the presidency.
One of the contestants accused Khupe and Mwonzora of playing dirty ahead of the extraordinary congress that was ordered by the Supreme Court early this year.
He said the two engineered a resolution by the MDC-T national standing committee (NSC) to suspend provincial nominations during a strategic retreat held in Nyanga last week.
Initially, Khupe and Mwonzora are said to have been pushing for the nomination of only two candidates to contest for the presidency, but Mudzuri and Komichi were drafted in after they protested.
There is also a plot to reshuffle the standing committee after the congress and dump Mudzuri, who is a presidential appointee.
Komichi is also expected to be sacrificed after the congress.
The presidential candidate, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said he was unhappy about the new nomination process.
“It is a departure from both tradition and procedure in the party,” he said.
“The national committee has five representatives from each province.
“The provincial nomination committee has about 140 representatives from each province, which forms the provincial council mandated to sit and nominate the presidential candidate.
“These people per province cannot be replaced by the national council.
“Nomination by the national council is invalidated in terms of the practice and constitution.”
He added: “We also note that the so-called national council, which purportedly met over WhatsApp has expelled Bhebhe.
“It must be stated categorically that according to the MDC constitution, a standing committee member can only be expelled by a two-thirds vote of the national council in a secret ballot.
“There is no substitution for this provision in the constitution of the MDC.”
He accused Khupe and Mwonzora of manipulating the process to choose a substantive leader of the party under the cover of Covid-19 restrictions.
The official alleged the register to be used by voters at the congress was being kept a secret by the two.
He said over-reliance on virtual meetings was meant to conceal that the people, who are attending their NSC and NC meetings were not part of the 2014 structures.
“There is no register of voters for the congress. A lot of people, who are in the 2014 structures have never been invited to attend even a single meeting,” he said.
“This is causing tension in the party.
“People are also being threatened with recall and expulsion if they raise any objections like what Bhebhe did.
“It is surprising that we have not met physically so that we know who is who, who is still with us and those that have left or died.”
He said there were ways the party could meet safely and make important decisions.
The official added: “Why should we fear Covid-19 to assemble about 150 members of the national council or 76 for the national executive committee yet we are planning to hold a physical congress where over 4 000 delegates are supposed to attend?
“The Zanu PF politburo is meeting here and there, with over 100 people, the MDC Alliance national council is also meeting notwithstanding Covid-19, what is only important is respect of social distancing.
“It is fallacy that the MDC-T cannot meet physically now for just 150 people, but is looking at a venue for 4 500 people. There is a hidden motive.”
High Court judge Justice Webster Chinamora last week reserved judgement in a case where two MDC-T members Gilbert Kagodora and Naison Mamuse are seeking an order to force Khupe to release key information about the congress.
Meanwhile, Mwonzora defended the move to expel Bhebhe and dismissed accusations that he was manipulating the election process.
“First and foremost, we have acted above board in accordance with the law,” Mwonzora told The Standard.
“Bhebhe himself participated in virtual meetings.
“If he thinks that we acted unlawfully, he can find recourse in the courts or any other remedies.
“The other thing is that we held the meeting virtually because of fear of exposure to Covid-19.
“Secondly, it’s less expensive to hold virtual meetings and, thirdly, those who have wanted to use violence were unable to use that violence.”
He said the virtual meetings were also meant to ensure that MDC Alliance supporters do not disrupt the congress.
“I think people just want to blame, instead of using the provincial councils for nomination we have escalated the nomination to a much higher organ of the party and no one can challenge that,” Mwonzora said.