In what sources in the party said was an unconstitutional move, the MDC removed clause 6.1.3, which said the president shall serve for a maximum of two terms.
The sources said no amendment was brought before the party’s last congress in 2006 to remove the limit.
Also missing from the constitution is clause 6.2.2, which also limited the terms of the vice-presidents.
According to the MDC constitution, any amendment to the constitution requires approval by at least two-thirds of delegates present and voting at congress.
The Zimbabwe Independent is in possession of the two versions of the constitution, the 2000 one and the other printed in May this year, which is being distributed to party organs.
According to the 2000 constitution, Tsvangirai was supposed to step down in 2011, paving way for his successor to take over.
What the new amendment means is that Tsvangirai will decide when he wants to step down.
Constitutional lawyer, who was co-author of the 2000 MDC constitution, and a close MDC ally, Lovemore Madhuku, said Tsvangirai would remain in office until he chooses to step down.
“There is no chance of Morgan Tsvangirai being replaced in the MDC unless he steps down. Don’t expect anyone in the MDC to challenge him,” Madhuku said.
“The MDC will not have a change of leadership any time soon. We will have no leadership change in Zanu PF and no leadership change in MDC, but might have a scenario of disillusioned members from both forming their own party.”
While Madhuku was criticised for extending his term as chairperson of the National Constitutional Assembly by amending the assembly’s constitution, he said at least it was done before their congress not like what happened in the MDC which never brought it before the people.
An MDC top official, who preferred not to be named, confirmed that the amendment was not brought before the 2006 congress.
He said some people proposed at an executive council meeting before the congress that the clause be brought before the people for amendment but Tsvangirai said it should be left as is.
“Tsvangirai didn’t want to come out as if he is trying to hold on to power. Bringing it before the congress would have raised a lot of debate and they were worried that it might attract negative debate,” the official said. “However, the president now no longer has terms. It was not amended by the congress. This is complete thuggery. There is a current constitution which they are distributing and that clause was simply left out. It was simply chopped off — it was a matter of ‘highlighting, copying and deleting’ the clause. Unless you have a copy of the 2000 constitution with the clause 6.1.3 stating that the president shall serve for a maximum two terms, it’s as if it never existed.”
The sources alleged that MDC secretary general Tendai Biti printed the current constitution “under duress”.
Biti and party spokesperson Nelson Chamisa could not be reached for comment last night as they were out of the country on government business.
The MDC has been hit by reports of infighting with some alleging that Biti is trying to upstage Tsvangirai.
The source said Biti and his people want Tsvangirai to take them into government first and then take over from him as head of a party in power.
The sources said a recent document on the party’s positions on the constitution-making was also doctored after a pro-Tsvangirai camp in the MDC executive rejected a proposal by Biti that the state president should be elected by parliament. This, the sources said, was changed to say the state president should be in office through popular vote.
The document was circulated to MDC MPs a fortnight ago who fumed and questioned who the author was because they were not consulted to make their submissions.
While Chamisa admitted to an online publication recently that the president’s term was no longer limited, he seemed to contradict himself.
He said the constitution speaks of two-five-year terms without necessarily speaking of limiting people in terms of their offices.
“We insist that the terms of office in the party are supposed to be five years, then you go back to elections. But in terms of government, we have said those who should serve government, they should serve a maximum of two terms,” Chamisa was quoted as saying. “Meaning to say that if someone gets into office as president, like President Tsvangirai, he will serve a maximum of two five year-terms each to have the 10 years as president. It’s the same thing for all cadres. That is the position that is clear in the constitution of the MDC.”
At the second MDC congress in 2006, Tsvangirai promised to hand over power once Zimbabwe was restored to full democracy.
“It has never been my intention to hold on to power after the people liberated themselves from this dictatorship. My contract with the people does not extend beyond a certain time-frame,” said Tsvangirai. “A new Zimbabwe, a new beginning has no room for life presidents. My wish is to execute our mandate in an honest and vigorous manner: preside over a transition to full democracy and pass on the baton to another Zimbabwean. I believe there must be an exciting life for a pensioner — whether that pensioner is a peasant, former factory cleaner or a former president. I pledge to honour my word.”