In 1991, the late great Morgan Tsvangirai, then leading a Secretariat of Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions, travelled to the University of Zimbabwe. He headed for the Law Faculty where he requested to meet the brightest student at that time. The lecturers brought forth a young man, his name was Douglas Togaraseyi Mwonzora.
Douglas Mwonzora already had a huge history at the University of Zimbabwe but let us leave that for another day. At that time, the fourth-year student was offered a position by Morgan Tsvangirai. On completion of his studies, Dougie, as he was fondly called by his many friends, would have a position waiting for him at ZCTU as a Legal Advisor. It was in this capacity that he met Tapiwa Mashakada, who was in the Economics Department of the ZCTU in 1992.
As a Legal Advisor, the young legal eagle was tasked with equipping seasoned Trade Unionists with the basics of the law. Dougie also worked with Justice Sansole and Kempton Makamure (both deceased) at that time. Together they drafted the proposed New Constitution of Zimbabwe. The document was however rejected by President Mugabe and his government.
1997 was to be a great year for all aspiring and existing small political parties in Zimbabwe. Way back in 1992, the Political Parties (Finance) Act had been passed and it stated that only political parties who had 15 seats in Parliament qualified for state funding. In 1997, United Parties led by Abel Muzorewa engaged Dougie to represent them in a case seeking to change the Act so that any party represented in Parliament would get state funding.
Eventually, the Supreme Court ruled that the then Section 3(3) of Act was unconstitutional because it abridged the freedom of expression of political parties through lack of funding. In the new Act, any political party that received more than 5% of the vote was eligible for state funding. Dougie changed the texture of our democracy in that single fight and gave hope to many new political parties. In fact, in 2000, the MDC went on tot win almost 50% of the vote and received more than 20 million dollars from the government as part of PPA funds, of which 2.6 million was used to purchase Harvest House.
As the ZCTU grew in strength, Morgan Tsvangirai saw the need for an organisation that would champion Constitutionalism in Zimbabwe. He proceeded to found the National Constitutional Assembly (NCA) in 1997 and the other founder member was Douglas Mwonzora, amongst other members. Dougie was instantly drafted into the Task Force that was focusing on a constitution for Zimbabwe.
In 1999, Tsvangirai with other doyens of the democracy movement in Zimbabwe, again moved up and founded the Movement for Democratic Change. The party had three initial pillars: Labour, Student and Constitutional bodies. Mr Tsvangirai requested Dougie to continue heading the NCA constitutional arm where he proceeded to work with Prof Lovemore Madhuku. In the year 2000, Dougie was also appointed MDC Treasurer for Nyanga, his home area.
In the same year, another topical event rocked Zimbabwe. President Mugabe called for a Constitutional Referendum that would have strengthened his grip on power and grabbed land from white farmers without compensation. The opposition called on the nation to “Vote NO”. Dougie led the campaign in Manicaland and the region had the highest No Vote in the country. The nation rejected the draft Constitution, greatly embarrassing and weakening Mugabe.
The state oppressive machinery went into overdrive, harassing and arresting members of the MDC as well activists. Dougie was asked to join a Legal Team set to defend MDC activists and members in the Masvingo and Midlands area, a task which he took up heartily and executed with great success. His services extended to Manicaland and Matabeleland.
Responding to the constitutionalist in his inner self, Dougie was working in the background with Lovemore Madhuku and others on a draft NCA Constitution of Zimbabwe. The draft was finished in 2001 and presented to Zanu PF and President Mugabe, who promptly rejected it as they were still smarting from the rejection of their own draft by the nation.
While doing all this, Dougie was lecturing at the University of Zimbabwe as well as Great Zimbabwe University in Masvingo. He was also representing university and college student activists who would have been expelled for political activism as well as for being MDC members. In 2003, Dougie was suspended from Great Zimbabwe University for insulting President Mugabe. In the same year, he was elevated in the party to MDC Secretary for Local Government in Manicaland.
It was in 2005 that Douglas Mwonzora became very visible in the MDC. He contested as a member of Parliament for Nyanga in the election just after the rapture of the MDC. In a dispute over contesting in Senatorial elections, Welshman Ncube had left the MDC to form him own party that appointed Prof Arthur Mutambara as president. In his first bid, Douglas Mwonzora lost to Paul Kadzima of Zanu PF by 3000 votes.
Dougie eventually won the seat in 2008. The common misconception to many is that Douglas Mwonzora joined the MDC in 2005. This cannot be further from the truth. Mwonzora is in fact a founding member of the MDC in every sense of the word and has been a faithful cadre of the party. His journey for Zimbabwe is an inspiration to every citizen who desires peace and prosperity for this great nation. The phrase “No Retreat No Surrender” is embodied in the character of this humble, yet resolute leader.