By Richard Chidza in Gweru
THE Midlands capital of Gweru seems oblivious as the opposition MDC congress rolled into town for what is basically going to be an endorsement of the party’s first leadership change following the death of founding father Morgan Tsvangirai last year.
Former party youth leader Nelson Chamisa wrestled power hours after Tsvangirai died in South Africa but despite a cloud hanging over his legitimacy, the 41 year-old lawyer has ploughed ahead.
Chamisa has emerged uncontested from a nomination process plugged by claims of vote rigging, ballot stuffing and intimidation.
As if that was not enough plans for the congress were almost upstaged after High Court Judge Edith Mushore ruled Chamisa’s rise to power as illegitimate but a last minute appeal notice rescued the situation.
Away from the legal problems, there are more vendors than active members at the venue.
With elections for the women’s assembly and youth wings expected Friday, the mood in Gweru in the early hours of the day was as cold as the weather.
By early afternoon, tents and podiums were being pitched at Ascot Stadium and groups of supporters sang praises for some leaders and denigrated others in equal measure, setting the tone for some bruising battles this weekend.
However, party organising secretary Amos Chibaya said all was in order and the elections would start “as soon as everyone has arrived”.
“We are happy with progress. We should be getting underway with the youth and women’s assembly soon. Accreditation is already done, we have a voter’s register and an independent commission that includes Rashid Mahiya and Mfundo Mlilo just to name a few. Everything is set,” said Chibaya.
Outside the venue, most notable were rival supporters of vice presidential aspirants Lynette Karenyi-Kore and Lillian Timveos.
The main congress, according to a programme released by the party, is only expected Sunday with fireworks set to explode in the battle for the position of secretary general between incumbent Douglas Mwonzora and current deputy treasure Charlton Hwende as well as Daniel Malokele.
Tendai Biti, Welshman Ncube, Elias Mudzuri and Morgen Komichi will clash in their individual bid to fill up two vice presidential slots.