Court ruling declaring MDC Alliance's leadership illegitimate splits party

Mwonzora to talk to rival leader as court demotes Chamisa

19 May 2019 - 00:00 By KENNETH MATIMAIRE

MDC Alliance secretary-general Douglas Mwonzora says he is open to talks with the party's estranged deputy leader, Thokozani Khupe, about Wednesday's high court ruling declaring the main opposition party's leadership illegitimate.
His remarks, in an interview with the Sunday Times this week, are likely to intensify the opposition fallout over a court ruling that reinstated Khupe as the party's sole deputy leader.
Judge Edith Mushore ruled that Nelson Chamisa was not the legitimate MDC leader, and scrapped the 2016 vice-president appointments of Chamisa and Elias Mudzuri by late MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai.
She ordered the party to revert to the 2014 elective congress structures that made Khupe the only vice-president and elevated Mwonzora to secretary-general in a race against Chamisa. And she said the party must hold an extraordinary congress within a month.
The ruling makes Khupe the only properly appointed vice-president, and therefore the person who should have taken over the leadership when Tsvangirai died.
When Chamisa assumed the leadership, Khupe led an MDC-T breakaway faction.
Khupe welcomed the judgment and said she would contact Mwonzora and other "elected leaders" to discuss its implementation. Mwonzora, the MDC Alliance's most recognisable politician after Chamisa and the only person to have beaten him in a party election, said he would be happy to meet.
"I only learnt from some press statement that Dr Khupe wanted to get in touch with me in my capacity as the secretary-general of the party. However, she has not formally requested me to see her," he said.
"I have since learnt from the press that she has sent her lawyer, Professor Lovemore Madhuku, to discuss with the lawyers representing us. I am made to understand that they are trying to find an amicable solution with advocate Chamisa."
The Chamisa-led MDC Alliance has dismissed the ruling and hired top lawyer Thabani Mpofu to contest it. The Khupe-led MDC-T is being represented by Madhuku, who leads another opposition party, the National Constitutional Assembly.
Mwonzora defended his decision to talk to Khupe. "As a civilised person, I will talk to any person who contacts me," he said. "It is the substantive matter of the discussion that I will respond to. I don't think I am so hateful as to avoid a conversation.
"Entering into a conversation with a person is not the same as agreeing with what that person will say … If we talk to Zanu-PF people in parliament, why should we shun a simple conversation with someone who was our deputy president for so many years?
"I am sure that people have read in the press where our president has expressed willingness to talk to President [Emmerson] Mnangagwa, given the right conditions. Conversation and dialogue are a hallmark of all civilised interaction."
Mwonzora rebuked opposition party activists for using social media to demonise the judiciary over the ruling. "That seriously undermines our justice system. If one is not happy about a judgment then one can appeal or seek review of that judgment," he said.
He also claimed to be a victim of mudslinging by younger opponents, a statement which appeared to be aimed at Chamisa.
The senator for Nyanga North attempted to challenge Chamisa for the party presidency ahead of the Gweru elective congress that starts on Friday. However, Mwonzora failed to gain any nominations.
This made him unpopular among opposition supporters, who accused him of working in cahoots with Zanu-PF and having a hand in the high court judgment.
But he said it would be a "grave mistake for my opponents to write me off", adding: "I am in the running for secretary-general of the party, having been nominated for that position. However, I admit that I have been a victim of so much hate within and outside the party.
"In an effort to destroy my integrity to society, my opponents have desperately resorted to spreading outrageous lies against me. One of these lies is that I have been paid by Zanu-PF to contest elections in the party. But I have been contesting elections in the MDC for years. I reiterate that I don't suddenly become Zanu-PF because MDC is having its congress.
"However, what I have learnt from my younger opponents is that they use so much mudslinging as a political method. This is a relic of student union politics of their era. It is anachronistic and cowardly. For the sake of completeness, I have not used this judgment in any way because it is not mine."
Mwonzora said he yearned to see the MDC united behind its founding democratic principles.
He called on the party to shun the politics of hate, violence, regionalism and tribalism and called on leaders to "jettison the politics of violent intolerance in favour of the politics of tolerance and rational disputation".

This article is reserved for Sunday Times subscribers.

A subscription gives you full digital access to all Sunday Times content.

Already subscribed? Simply sign in below.

Registered on the BusinessLIVE, Business Day, Financial Mail or Rand Daily Mail websites? Sign in with the same details.

Questions or problems? Email helpdesk@timeslive.co.za or call 0860 52 52 00.