BY BLESSED MHLANGA / Brenna Matendere

THE battle for political survival in the opposition MDC went a notch up on Sunday when party heavyweights nominated for positions in the executive council unveiled their manifestos before the Harare provincial delegates for the elective congress scheduled for later this month.

Party leader Nelson Chamisa, who was nominated unopposed, sat and watched candidates charm-voting delegates as campaign season officially opened.

Tendai Biti, Morgen Komichi, Elias Mudzuri and Welshman Ncube face each other for the two slots to deputise Chamisa, while the other slot has been reserved for a female member.
The post drew the most interest as the party heavyweights put their best foot forward.

Biti told delegates that he had a strategic plan to win the rural vote, saying congress presented the MDC faithful an opportunity to chart a new direction and declare an end to years of opposition politics.

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“The 2019 congress of the MDC, the fifth congress, is going to be very important for the party. It is an opportunity for starting new dialogue with the people of Zimbabwe. It is an opportunity for the people of the MDC to show to the people of Zimbabwe that we are tired of being an opposition,’ Biti said.

“The party must focus on rural areas and in order to gain State power, we need to go to the village in Humanikwa, in Chiendambuya, in Dotito, so we need to change strategy.”

Komichi, who was a conduit to the rise of Chamisa to power in the MDC following the death of founding president Morgan Tsvangirai last year, banked on his years of loyalty and stay in the party as his ticket to power.

“I have stayed with the party, and I have gained two names, General Mao and Abrahama. What does General Mao mean? It means the greatest strategist; Abrahama means good leader. A good leader is a good follower,” he said.

Underfire Mudzuri, who at one time was eyeing the presidency, but only got nominated for the post of vice-president by a single province, stood in space to defend his position, saying he was a pillar of the opposition.

“I believe that I am a massive pillar of the party, which has never been shaken. The corner of the house does not get removed for no reason,” he said.

Ncube also described himself as a strategic think-tank, whose main purpose would be to help Chamisa in giving the party direction.

“I will do all I can, all in my power to render all assistance to president Chamisa. One of the tasks of the president, which has not been spoken to a lot, is the task of providing strategic direction; in short, the task of thinking, Mr president, I will think with you, if necessary to think until it hurts,” he said.

Other contestants, including secretary-general Douglas Mwonzora, hoping to pull a Houdini act again to follow his stunning 2014 win, also pitched his manifesto at the closed-door meeting before taking questions from delegates.

David Coltart was back at the MDC headquarters following years of absence to also pitch his manifesto against Tapiwa Mashakada, who has also been nominated for the post of treasurer-general.

The party will take its next meeting to Gweru on May 10, where candidates will meet delegates and defend their bid to be part of the standing committee.

MDC Midlands provincial party spokesperson Takavafira Zhou confirmed that the province will be having its caucus this Friday.

“All the national members nominated for posts in the standing committee have confirmed that they will be coming for the provincial caucus. On our part as a province we are done with inviting members in the province who will be delegates at the congress. So it will be all systems out on the day,” he said.

The provincial caucuses are a new campaign strategy introduced by the MDC, where all candidates who have been nominated for various posts ahead of the congress will be subjected to public debate and space to articulate what they offer.