By Tonderai Saharo
OPPOSITION MDC leader Nelson Chamisa has effectively dumped his party long-standing Masvingo provincial chairman James Gumbi and thrown his weight behind a faction of returning rebels led by lawyer Tongai Matutu.
Matutu a former deputy Minister of Youth got Chamisa’s endorsement at a provincial council meeting on Saturday at Mucheke Hall in Masvingo.
Gumbi is reportedly linked to the MDC secretary general, Douglas Mwonzora who reports say will challenge Chamisa at the party’s congress in May for the presidency. Matutu returned to the main MDC after briefly joining former secretary general Tendai Biti’s People’s Democratic Party that was formed after the split in 2014.
Chamisa blamed Gumbi for the party’s dismal showing in last year’s general elections effectively de-campaigning the sitting provincial leader.
“In Masvingo, we lost dismally (in last year’s elections). The chairman did not do much to campaign for the party hence the poor showing.
“We want to rejuvenate the party and reclaim our seats we once won in 2008. In last elections, we only won one seat in the whole province,” Chamisa told provincial leaders as a stunned Gumbi watched helplessly.
It is the first time the opposition leader has admitted to losing last year’s plebiscite in any of the country’s provinces. The 41 year-old lawyer however publicly claims he won the presidential elections despite his case being thrown out by the Constitutional Court.
Chamisa was accompanied by Mwonzora, national organising secretary Amos Chibaya, vice president Elias Mudzuri, among other senior party leaders.
While the opposition party used the MDC Alliance name for the general elections last year, Chamisa said it was resorting to its original name since Biti and another former breakaway leader Welshman Ncube had returned to the fold.
Following their return, Biti has been appointed deputy national chairman while Ncube was installed vice president, both by Chamisa who took over following the death of founding leader Morgan Tsvangirai last year.
“We are resorting to our original name, the MDC. We are no longer MDC Alliance. The alliance addition was for the elections to distinguish ourselves,” he said.
“Like the late leader Morgan Tsvangirai said, we should unite and come back. The likes of Biti and Welshman Ncube are back and there is no longer PDP, we are now one huge family.”
In what appeared to be a subtle warning to Mwonzora and others of like mind, Chamisa suggested challenging his leadership was akin to political suicide, giving the example of former vice president Thokozani Khupe who was forced out last year after a violent leadership tussle with the former Kuwadzana MP.
“People must learn that being pig-headed does not pay. Look now Khupe is nothing more than a (President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s nickname) crocodile pawn,” Chamisa said.
The opposition leader has claimed he was anointed by Tsvangirai to take over.