The MDC's treasurer general says there's no going back on his efforts to renew the party leadership.
Movement for Democratic Change treasurer general Elton Mangoma says he will not back off in his quest to change the leadership of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) and has thrown his name into the ring as a possible successor to the party leader Morgan Tsvangirai.
Mangoma, who was assaulted by youths who claimed to be loyal to Tsvangirai at the party's Harvest House headquarters on February 15, told the Mail & Guardian he is ready to challenge the former prime minister at the party's next congress.
He wrote to Tsvangirai recently asking him to step down. Mangoma said the assault, which he insists was planned, has strengthened his resolve.
He was leaving Harvest House when he was attacked and suffered minor facial injuries. His glasses were broken and his shirt torn.
Mangoma reported the attack to the police on Tuesday. Tsvangirai said he had nothing to do with it and says that his own security detail rescued Mangoma from the youths.
The MDC leader said disciplinary action would be taken against those responsible.
"The attack was planned and meant to intimidate me and others who believe there should be leadership renewal," Mangoma said this week. "But I am not scared of anyone and will not back down.
"The reason I wrote and signed that letter [asking Tsvangirai to step down] is because I believed it was the best way forward for the party. Nothing has been put before me to suggest otherwise, so I will continue pushing the cause.
"I will not be intimidated. I have been fighting Zanu-PF over the last 15 years, why should I now be afraid of some thugs in [the] MDC? I will fight for [the] MDC's original values, which include debate, tolerance and democracy, as opposed to violence and intimidation," he said.
Mangoma's letter asked Tsvangirai to step down or declare his intention to step aside, which would mean calling an extraordinary congress.
But, Mangoma said, the best scenario was for the MDC leader to declare his intention to leave office immediately, which would result in an interim leadership under the party's vice-president Thokozai Khupe until the congress.
Mangoma told Tsvangirai in the letter that, since last year's electoral loss, the party has been in a state of confusion, consternation and apprehension.
'Grieving from a crisis of leadership legitimacy'
He said the MDC is "grieving from a crisis of leadership legitimacy, a crisis of expectation and, above all, a crisis of confidence, externally and internally".
He said the crisis of leadership had been aggravated by the MDC leader's personal problems spilling into the public domain and affecting the party brand.
The letter was given directly to Tsvangirai but it was leaked to the press after the MDC leader made copies for standing committee members.
Since then, the party has held several crisis meetings to discuss Mangoma's suggestions, although some youths loyal to Tsvangirai have been baying for his blood.
But Tsvangirai has refused to step down and insists those who want to take over his position should challenge him at the party's congress in 2016, when it is due.
But Mangoma is pushing for an early congress so that "the leadership crisis can be solved early", to give a new administration time to come up with a programme of action well before the 2018 elections.
The MDC's constitution allows for an extraordinary congress to be held if a sitting president quits.
The national council, which is the party's highest decision-making body, can also call for an extraordinary congress by conducting a simple vote.
"The dysfunctionality ... will continue if an early congress is not held, and it means the MDC will not be prepared to assume state power in the next elections," Mangoma said.
"A congress should be held as early as possible so that the next leaders are given time to implement reforms and programmes which will make the party attractive again."
Two national executive members, who also sit on the MDC's standing committee, this week said that the tension that has been building up in the party since the elections last year has been heightened by the attack on Mangoma.
They said there are fears the ghost of 2005 could return to haunt the party — the MDC split in 2005 after a disagreement on whether to participate in senatorial elections.
Senior officials assaulted
The then secretary general Welshman Ncube and other senior officials were assaulted by youths loyal to Tsvangirai, which finally led to the split.
Mangoma said he did not believe in a split but would work to achieve his goals within the party.
He admitted, though, there were people who wanted to break away from the MDC, adding that Tsvangirai knew who they were.
"I told Tsvangirai I don't want a split. I also told him last year of the people who were working towards a split and he knows who they are. I believe there should be leadership renewal and I will work for those objectives from within," he said.
The standing committee members said the battle lines had been drawn and it was inevitable there would some big casualties.
"The people who have been working in the shadows are gradually coming out and the knives are out," a senior party official said. "It's now a foregone conclusion that if there is no split then some party heavyweights will fall.
If Tsvangirai manages to win
"It's clear that, if Tsvangirai weathers the storm and manages to win at congress, the likes of Mangoma, [Tendai] Biti, Toendepi Shone [the party's director general], [Solomon] Madzore [the youth assembly chairperson] and [former Harare mayor Elias] Mudzuri will fall.
"If Tsvangirai is defeated, some senior officials like [Nelson] Chamisa, [Theresa] Makone [the women's assembly chairperson] and [party chairman Lovemore] Moyo may fall with him."
Mangoma has been accused by some national executive members, who are backing Tsvangirai of pushing for the interests of foreigners, of working with Zanu-PF — and even the Central Intelligence Organisation.
Mangoma has dismissed the allegations. He said it was important for his critics to note that it is acceptable to challenge Tsvangirai.
"The party was formed to bring change to Zimbabwe and not for Morgan Tsvangirai to rule. There is nothing wrong with him being challenged," he said.
Mangoma said he had a lot of sympathy within the MDC but would not name those backing him.
Support of technocrats
Officials in the party said Mangoma had the support of many technocrats whereas Tsvangirai retained the support of people with a trade-union background.
Some national executive members told the M&G that most of the party's donors wanted the MDC's leadership to be changed.
The party's major link with the donor world, Roy Bennett, was the first high-profile official to call for leadership change. He could not be reached for comment.
The MDC is reportedly broke and recently retrenched staff and suspended some of its programmes.
In a rare appeal, Tsvangirai this week urged party supporters to stop relying on donors and instead to contribute to the party themselves.
It was seen as confirmation that foreign donors are indeed withholding funding from the party.