Hotly contested race for posts at MDC congress

BULAWAYO – Over 6,000 MDC-T delegates are descending on Bulawayo for the party’s third national congress that kicks off on today. Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga is to officially open the congress on Friday.

Many delegates have been saying that the main agenda of the gathering, the election of the party’s top leadership, will be one of the most unpredictable elections since the party was formed 12 years ago.

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Founding President Morgan Tsvangirai is expected to remain at the helm of the party after he received nominations for re-election from all of the party’s 12 administrative provinces. No other candidate has been nominated for the presidency.

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Political analyst Luke Zunga said there was a risk the MDC would have lost its footing if it changed its leader at this critical time.

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‘I think by maintaining the same leader they are consolidating their challenge to depose Robert Mugabe who could be in opposition after the next election,’ Zunga said.

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However party insiders said what looked set to be a straight contest between deputy leader Thokozani Khupe and party legislator Tabitha Khumalo has now been transformed into a three-horse race. Another Bulawayo based party stalwart, Norman Mabhena, has thrown his hat into the ring for the post of deputy president.

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‘We will certainly see one of the tightest races in the history of our party, whose side effects no one dares to predict. Some candidates have received more nominations than others but that will not guarantee them automatic victory.

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‘When nominations were done, only the top leadership from provincial structures sat down to choose their nominations. Each province has a leadership of about 25 people and their thinking does not reflect that of its other members from districts and wards who constitute about 80 percent of the electoral college from each province,’ an MDC insider said.

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Some positions that are to be hotly contested are that of party Secretary General and Organizing Secretary. Incumbent Secretary General Tendai Biti is facing a stiff challenge from International Relations expert Eliphas Mukonoweshuro, the Public Service Minister.

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The current Organizing Secretary Elias Mudzuri is facing a strong challenge from Nelson Chamisa and many analysts believe he would be the first high profile casualty to lose his post at the congress.

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‘Mudzuri’s political fortunes have nose dived dramatically in the last year and many people predict there is a good chance he might also lose party primary elections for his Warren Park parliamentary seat,’ another MDC insider added.

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The former Mayor of Harare is however expected to make it back into the standing committee through the back door, with strong hints that he has already been earmarked to be appointed the party’s director of elections. This position allows the office bearer to sit in the expanded Standing Committee, the top decision making body of the party.

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Speaker of Parliament and party national Chairman Lovemore Moyo could face a strong challenge from Lucia Matibenga. She was the former women’s chairperson, elbowed from that post by Theresa Makone.

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The co-Home Affairs Minister is to battle it out with Evelyn Masaiti and former trade unionist and Kadoma central MP Editor Matamisa for control of the Women’s Assembly.

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Roy Bennett, as in the previous congress, is expected to be overwhelmingly re-elected the Treasurer-General in absentia, after the military junta hounded him out of the country. The popular former Chimanimani commercial farmer has been deployed by the party as the new MDC chief representative to the UK.

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Energy Minister Elton Mangoma, Bennett’s deputy, is to slag it out with Sekai Holland and Sam Sipepa Nkomo for the deputy Treasure-General’s position.

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