The race for secretary-general for the Movement for Democratic Change is on as the party prepares for its congress this month. It pits current organising secretary Nelson Chamisa against party spokesman Douglas Mwonzora. Both are lawyers, Chamisa having graduated last month.
The question is: Can MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai afford to have another lawyer as his secretary-general?
He has little choice this time as the party decided to go for direct elections rather than nominations by the party leader.
The MDC has had a lawyer as secretary-general since its formation but both lawyers left after leading a party split.
Welshman Ncube was the first secretary-general but left in 2005 after Tsvangirai refused to participate in the resuscitated Senate elections of that year.
He led a formal split the following year though he surrendered the leadership of the party to Arthur Mutambara. But he is now at the helm.
Tendai Biti, who was secretary-general from 2006, led to another split this year when he joined those calling for a leadership renewal. The split led to the congress that Tsvangirai is holding this month. Biti has not declared himself leader allowing Sekai Holland to lead the splinter group.
On both occasions, the secretary-generals left with the “brains” of the party. Tsvangirai remained with the masses. Though he continued to command more support his support has been declining ever since.
In 2002, Tsvangirai polled 1 258 401 votes. This declined to 1 195 562 votes in 2008 and to 1 172 349 last year.
Biti almost swept the carpet from under Tsvangirai’s feet because the sponsors abandoned Tsvangirai at first but they have since realised that people are still with Tsvangirai.
With reports that Chamisa is eyeing the top post in 2018, people must be wondering whether Tsvangirai will be able to stop him if he succeeds to become secretary-general.
This is not to imply that Mwonzora is a safe candidate. No one is safe.
Welshman Ncube was a close buddy if Tsvangirai from the days Tsvangirai was secretary-general of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions. Biti too was a close buddy of Tsvangirai from the days of the ZCTU when he won several important cases for the labour movement.
As they say, politics is a dirty game. Anything can happen.