MDC-T Congress, Succession Battle Under The Spotlight

Harare – The democracy ball is rolling within the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC-T) party led by Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai as the party is set for a congress this weekend to elect a new leadership.

Some political commentators and critics see the congress as key because those who shall get key positions of party Secretary General and National Organiser are seen as the most likely candidates to take over from incumbent party President when his term eventually comes to an end. If elected at this congress, which is most likely, Tsvangirai will be serving his third term as party leader and probably his last.

A lot of canvassing for votes has been going on in recent weeks. Some of the political shenanigans have threatened to tear the party through its seams. The stakes are so high that even the post of secretary general, currently being held by Harare east Member of Parliament and Finance Minister Tendai Biti, is being hotly pursued by Public Service Minister Professor Eliphas Mukonoweshuro and Gutu South Member of Parliament.

The political trickery which has seen violence occurring during the provincial elections has prompted Tsvangirai to tour the country’s provinces to quell the high tempers in the party as potential candidates jostle for positions.

An interesting aspect of the weekend congress is that many of the current executive members are likely to return from the congress as ordinary members. Elias Mudzuri who holds the current position of National Organiser and Chairman Lovemore Moyo are at risk the most. Mudzuri faces a formidable challenge from the hugely popular Nelson Chamisa for the post of National Organiser while Moyo is being challenged by Lucia Matibenga.

With Tsvangirai almost sure to return to the party’s top position together with Biti as Secretary General and Chamisa as National Organising Secretary, political observers are keen to find out how the post congress political power dynamics within the MDC will work. This follows widespread speculation that both Chamisa and Biti are eyeing to take over the party’s top leadership once Tsvangirai leaves.

Chamisa (33) who has youth on his side is viewed by political observers as having a charismatic character, hugely popular among ordinary MDC supporters and the media. He is seen in some circles as second in popularity ratings within the rank and file of the party after Tsvangirai. He is also believed to be quite close to Tsvangirai than Biti. He is also credited for the critical role that he has played in steering the majority of Zimbabweans onto the technology platform through internet access on mobile phones as Minister of Information and Technology.

On the other hand, Biti who will be turning 45 years old this August and is Minister of Finance is credited for bringing back the lives of Zimbabweans back to normal with his economic policies since the formation of the Government of National Unity (GNU) in 2009. He is also liked by many for standing up to Mugabe and Zanu PF’s excesses. However his undoing seems to be what his critics term as aloofness because he lacks grip with the ordinary masses. His approach to politics is seen as elitist.

It is with this background that political relations within the MDC will be tested to the fullest after the congress when the battle for succession is likely to be more pronounced.

But analysts believe “the MDC congress is for sale” and the highest bidder will win.

“Battle lines have already been drawn and its going to be a battle for money, those who can buy votes will win this election,” a Harare based political commentator who is involved in MDC politics said.

Mudzuri has already accused Chamisa of using his media muscle to de-campaign him.

Others have sought to use social network sites to win themselves supporters.

As they say a day is a long time in politics, curiosity is high to discover what happens between now and election day.