Explaining the confusion in MDC-T primaries - Part II of II

 Explaining the confusion in MDC-T primaries - Part II of II
Published: 27 May 2018 (218 Views)
This article was originally published by ZOOMZimbabwe.com

While the grassroots are eyeing the July elections, the top officials are eyeing the December congress. Whoever gets to December with control of the structures will win the party presidency, and with it the chance to fight ZANU PF in 2023 after reorganizing themselves.

One thing the very top officials of the MDC know and acknowledge is the fact that they are not going to win the elections against Zanu-PF this year. Chamisa is fully aware of this, and so is Chalton Hwende, Amos Chibaya, Morgan Komichi, and all the other top hierarchy members. All the rally talk about forming the next government is political grandstanding.

This is why they would not spend their energy on an extraordinary congress. For now all the time, funds and energies are being directed towards obtaining the majority of 4,400 votes eligible to vote at an MDC Congress.

The script with Karenyi is similar to what frustrated Harare West legislator Jessie Majome last week. Majome was assigned by the party leadership to help campaign in other constituencies which the MDC does not have already, so she went to Mt. Darwin. She was assured her seat was safe and she would not be contested at primary levels.

While she was in Mt Darwin, Jessie Majome's Harare West was being invaded. Chalton Hwende, using both the financial resources of the party and Komichi and Chamisa's unlimited blessings, changed the party membership cards and hurriedly distributed them to their runners in Harare West. Young Joana "Mama Madikizela" Mamombe was thrust into the unsuspecting Majome's Harare West neighbourhood armed with the membership cards and the youths to distribute them, all to the exclusion of Majome. It worked, and Majome got frustrated out of the party.

The average observer thinks Chamisa would lose sleep over Majome: he won't. Majome's jettisoning is just what the doctor ordered for Chamisa – that's very much according to his script. Harare West is now in his hands, and that comes with a cool 180 to 220 votes at the December Congress. Just like the Khupe case, Chamisa will act as if he is trying to mend bridges, only to soon just announce that Majome is being unreasonable and difficult. Then leave her out in the cold. Chamisa 1, Mwonzora 0.

With Harare West in the bag, Chamisa and Hwende's eyes went for Manicaland, the citadel of Mwonzora's powerbase. Now, Manicaland is the largest voting block at the December Congress and it has to be in Chamisa's control by then. But MDC-T Women's League Chairperson Lynette Karenyi is a Mwonzora ally. The places her in the path of the bullet train.

Just like with Jessie Majome, Karenyi was told not to worry because the Chikanga-Dangamvura Constituency she was eyeing was safe and reserved for women. While Majome was sent to Mt. Darwin, Karenyi was assigned a role in Chamisa's national tours so that she won't be on the ground while re-configurations occurred.
While Karenyi was on national tours with Chamisa, one Prosper Utseyami was tinkering with the Mutare supporters' base with the able assistance of Chalton Hwende. They distributed new-look membership cards to exclude Karenyi's usual voters, and played a delaying tactic on 20 May to frustrate Karenyi's supporters into going back home after waiting twelve hours with no voting happening.
Utseyami is a sitting MP for Musikavanhu constituency, and the MDC-T has not cared to explain why he is leaving his current seat to cause havoc in Chikanga. Is it because Utseyami knows he has not done enough o retain the confidence of the Musikavanhu folks, and wants an easy seat in Mutare?

As soon as Karenyi's unsuspecting supporters had gone home, Utseyami's supporters emerged from all corners and demanded to be served voting slips. They all voted at a few polling stations of within a few kilometres from each other, showing that it was a pre-arranged matter.

When some of Karenyi's supporters started trooping back to vote, Utseyami and his boys grabbed the ballot boxes and disappeared with them right in the middle of the voting, leaving supporters angry and shocked. Those ballot boxes are still to be accounted for. The only votes accounted for show Utseyami having ‘won' the Chikanga-Dangamvura constituency by 300 to 271 for Karenyi. These are the results Karenyi rejected on her Facebook page on Monday until proper voting is done and all eligible voters are afforded a chance to vote.

This is notwithstanding the fact that Chikanga-Dangamvura Constituency had been reserved for women and Utseyami is a man. The formal MDC-T policy is that parliamentary seats should be split between men and women on a 50 -50 basis. That has been disrespected. Out of Manicaland's 26 parliamentary constituencies, only Dangamvura-Chikanga had been reserved for women.

So massive has been the chaos surrounding the Chikanga-Dangamvura primaries that it is evident it's not a battle between two aspiring MPs Karenyi and Utseyami: it's a battle between two aspiring party leaders Chamisa and Mwonzora. Already, the re-run scheduled for Saturday 26 May has been clouded in controversy with Karenyi set to reject the sham poll. This despite the fact that it was a re-run!

The most logical thing would have been that if Karenyi is drafted into the national tour with Chamisa, then replace her in Dangamvura with another woman. That has not happened. Hwende and Chamisa have brought in a man and one who already is a sitting MP elsewhere. Karenyi is adamant that unless issues are resolved properly and fairly, it can go balls-up. Notice that Karenyi is the only opposition woman to have won a rural seat in Zimbabwean politics, when she won in Chimanimani in the 2013 elections. She definitely is no push-over, but Chamisa is determined he won't have any Mwonzora allies in key positions by December 2018.

Where is Mwonzora in all this?

Mwonzora knows he is the target of all these electoral shenanigans. His Twitter profile reads: "My silence does not mean I am stupid." The structures that voted him in 2014 to the shock of Nelson Chamisa are still very much largely intact. Mwonzora is a top constitutional lawyer: him, Edward Mkhosi (MDC-Ncube) and Paul Mangwana (ZANU-PF) were the co-Chairs of COPAC during the authoring of the Zimbabwe's new constitution.

When Chamisa took Khupe to Court, the court issues were supposed to be handled by Mwonzora as the Secretary-General, but he refused to be used to fight his ally Khupe in court. This is why the court issue is being managed by Morgan Komichi, the acting party chairman.

It is quite telling that Mwonzora's daughter, Isabel, is in the executive of Thokozani Khupe's faction. Equally revealing is the fact that Yvonne Musarurwa, who is Mwonzora's adopted daughter, is also in Khupe's camp. Whatever Mwonzora is doing, he does not seem to be in bad books with Khupe. One can safely tell that if Mwonzora have his way around the problems and wins the December congress, he will re-unite with Khupe and the MDC will be a single entity once again.
Mwonzora is very good at organizing the structures.

Alex Magaisa, former Tsvangirai advisor during the GNU days, wrote the following about Mwonzora soon after the 2014 congress defeat of Nelson Chamisa: "I have not seen a more humble and respectful politician and, I fear, these qualities have caused him to suffer serious underrating by his critics… Without the money and resources that his competitors were endowed with, worked his way through to win the national spokesman-ship of the party at the 2011 Congress in Bulawayo. Even now (in 2014), having received just one nomination, he has confounded his critics again and won a tough contest to become the Secretary General of the party… The unpopular personality in the media may be far different from the actual person on the ground."

Chamisa himself knows how good Douglas is at arranging structures, which is why Chamisa refused to entertain any extraordinary congress before December.
"We do not have funds to hold an extraordinary congress," said Chamisa in February following his rise to the top on the back of shady meetings by members of the National Council. But the MDC-T Congress is usually just a two-day event attracting only about 5,000 members including invited dignitaries. The cost of such an important democracy tool is surely far less than the ebullient rallies Chamisa has been having nationwide.

Nelson Chamisa asked Karenyi to support him in his fights against Khupe, using Karenyi's muscle as the Women's League boss. Karenyi refused, opting to remain within the support base set up by Douglas Mwonzora. She is very much in Mwonzora's camp. This explains why there has been so much vote-rigging, intimidation and vote-buying targeted Chikanga-Dangamvura constituency primary elections. The whole aim is to remove Karenyi and pave way for Chamisa to control the structures ahead of the December congress. Chamisa is not at all worried about the votes he will lose in July against ZANU-PF; he already knows he will lose and so has set his eyes on the December congress which will give him more lease of life at the helm of the party.

And to ensure he cruises at the December Congress, he has to eliminate all competition; and the main challenger is Douglas Mwonzora who won convincingly against Chamisa at the 2014 Congress. Let us also remember that the structures than voted Mwonzora against Chamisa in 2014 are still very much intact.
We have so far seen Chamisa acting as if he wants to engage with Majome and Karenyi. The whole point is buying time. He did the same with Khupe, promising the nation that they would reach an agreement somehow "in a matter of days."

That agreement never happened. The same will happen with Majome. Joana Mamombe is already solidifying her presence on the ground with the open and brazen support of the paramilitary outfit called Vanguard led by Shakespeare Mukoyi. By the time Chamisa engages with Majome, Mamombe would have already been confirmed by the party electoral team of Murisi Zwizwai and Morgan Komichi, known pro-Chamisa supporters.
The same time-buying tactic by Chamisa is playing out in Chikanga-Dangamvura. Karenyi has been tacitly removed from the ground by assigning her as part of Chamisa's countrywide team. She has no time to campaign. Meanwhile, her rival Prosper Utseyami has all the time to campaign and even buy votes. Karenyi has also been assigned daily duties at the Harvest House, a development meant to ensure she never sets foot in her constituency at a key time like this.

As we can see, Nelson Chamisa is the main source of troubles bedeviling the MDC structures in Harare West, Chikanga-Dangamvura, Mabvuku-Tafara, Glen View West, and other areas. Chamisa is subtly re-configuring the structures that support Mwonzora ahead of the December congress, because he knows he was beaten clean last time. Chamisa is also not in the national elections to win the vote: he already privately admits he will lose and thus has set his eyes on the party congress in December. All else that we see him doing is pure political grandstanding. It is a pity the rank and file members do not have such information.


- Felix Mbonderi Chiroro

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