Under the MDC constitution, an elective congress is due next year, but a cabal aligned to the party president wants it delayed arguing it would cause further divisions.
Insiders said Tsvangirai’s faction is pitted against another led by party secretary-general Tendai Biti. Both Tsvangirai and Biti have denied the divisions.
Tsvangirai on June 2 summoned Biti and other senior officials to a meeting at the party’s headquarters in the capital to deal with the deteriorating situation.
MDC spokesperson Nelson Chamisa yesterday said the party’s last national council meeting agreed that a congress would be held when due, but they had to get their priorities right and go for national elections first.
“We are not foolish as to our priorities. The congress is going to be held as per the (party) constitution when scheduled and that is after we have finished the business of elections,” said Chamisa. “The constitution says we should hold a congress after five years and we have a whole year after May within which to hold the congress.”
Chamisa said this position was explained to national council members at its last meeting.
Under the Global Political Agreement, fresh elections would only be held under a new constitution. However, under the current constitution, elections could only be held in 2013, five years after the last plebiscite.
On June 2 Tsvangirai called a surprise emergency meeting and summoned Biti and top party officials to the MDC-T Harvest House headquarters to tackle factionalism and their deteriorating political relationship.
The meeting was held in the boardroom on the fifth floor of Harvest House. It started at 10am, although it was supposed to have begun an hour earlier. Tsvangirai chaired the meeting which was attended by Biti, Eliphas Mukonoweshuro, MDC-T Chitungwiza provincial chairman Martin Magaya, MP for Zengeza East and former Chitungwiza provincial chairman Alexio Musundire, Chitungwiza provincial youth chairman Thabani Mlambo, and Chitungwiza representative for youth in the National Youth Assembly, Shorai Zavare.
Two national executive members, party director-general Toendepi Shonhe and three councilors were also present but two other councillors who were invited did not attend.
“Tsvangirai opened the meeting by saying he wanted to find out if allegations that Biti and his faction in the party were trying to undermine him were true. Tsvangirai started by presenting a report which he claimed was done by the MDC-T security department on the goings-on in the party,” a senior party official who attended the meeting said.
“He read the report which claimed Biti and his faction which included most of the officials in the meeting were going around re-organising party structures and telling donors to stop funding to the party until there is a change of leadership. The report claimed Biti had told donors overseas to freeze funding to the MDC-T due to the recent violent clashes at the party headquarters.”
Tsvangirai and Biti last month clashed in public over civil servants’ salary increases. Mukonoweshuro, Public Service minister and a Tsvangirai loyalist, attacked Biti saying he was behaving like a “super minister”.
The relationship between Tsvangirai and Biti also further deteriorated after violent clashes at the party headquarters in which Shonhe, Biti’s key ally, was reportedly attacked by Tsvangirai’s militant youth supporters.
The youths were eventually dismissed after an investigation into the violence. Following a series of clashes in public, Tsvangirai and Biti were forced last month to call a press conference to try to limit the damage caused by their rivalry.
Another official said several officials in the meeting, who symphathised with Biti, demanded to know who had done the report. Insiders said Tsvangirai said the report was done by the party’s security department.
“Tsvangirai refused to identify the authors of the report, except saying it was done by the security department,” one official said.
Insiders said during the discussion Tsvangirai did not confront Biti directly but kept on asking if the contents of the report were true.
Biti did not talk much except turning to those in the meeting and asking if they had ever met to undermine Tsvangirai as claimed. Biti said he did not even know some of the officials personally and wondered how he could plot with strangers.
“Biti said he had never met some of the officials and wondered where that was coming from. Last week Biti is convinced Tsvangirai’s loyalists – the so-called Kitcken Cabinet (the small circle of top party officials supporting Tsvangirai) — are targeting him,” an MDC-T official said.
“He even thinks it’s a regional and tribal issue because those targeting him appear to be an organised ethnic clique mainly from Masvingo and Midlands provinces.”
Insiders said during that tense meeting, it emerged that Tsvangirai was apparently afraid that Biti could be seriously organising against him, especially in Chitungwiza where there was simmering discontent against him.
They said Tsvangirai seemed to think Biti was working with disgruntled members of the dissolved Chitungwiza provincial executive to organise against him. The Chitungwiza executive was dissolved after internal fights in the province. The Chitungwiza municipality was also dissolved amid claims of infighting and allegations of corruption.
“Tsvangirai thinks Biti is using those dissolved structures to prepare for congress. But the fact is Biti won’t challenge Tsvangirai because he will lose but it appears he wants to gradually weaken him until it becomes clear that he must go and leave the party leadership to him.”
Despite problems around him at the moment, Tsvangirai still has the majority of the top 10 senior party officials on his side.
The MDC-T top 10 in the pecking order include Tsvangirai, Thokozani Khuphe, Lovemore Moyo, Biti, Tapiwa Mashakada, Roy Bennett, Elton Mangoma, Elias Mudzuri, Morgan Komichi and Chamisa.