The MDC-T’s acrimonious power struggle, which has seen party leader Morgan Tsvangirai battling a revolt engineered by senior party officials seeking leadership renewal after the party’s dismal July 31 elections loss, has spilled over into the donor community putting the party in a precarious position as it seeks to regroup to challenge Zanu PF.
Elias Mambo/Owen Gagare
Since Tsvangirai’s controversial and crushing defeat to President Robert Mugabe and Zanu PF in the July 31 polls, senior MDC-T officials have been calling for the former premier to step down after conceding three consecutive defeats to Mugabe.
They accuse Tsvangirai of failing to provide leadership and being hoodwinked by Mugabe during the inclusive government era “when he seemed to trust (President Robert) Mugabe more than party officials”.
Those after Tsvangirai’s ouster also argue his personal indiscretions negatively affected the image of the party leading to the loss of supporters from both within and outside the country, including the donor community.
Some senior party members are campaigning for an early congress to push Tsvangirai out as the MDC-T power tussle increasingly becomes a public affair.
The MDC-T constitution empowers the National Council — the highest decision making body outside congress — to call for an extra-ordinary congress.
A section on the role of the national council on the party’s website reads: “Where necessary (the National Council) can suspend or dissolve any organ and conduct elections and may rectify or reverse any decisions of the national executive. The body can also elect, reappoint and reassign party secretaries in accordance with the party’s constitution and monitors and evaluates the performances and execution of duties of all members of the national executive.”
Officials demanding leadership renewal have been responsible for sourcing donors to fund all party activities but they have since stopped doing so because of Tsvangirai’s refusal to step down.
Lately Tsvangirai has also failed to access funds for his countrywide trips, which he is using to quash calls for leadership renewal, with the finance department arguing the trips were not budgeted for.
Exiled MDC-T treasurer-general Roy Bennett, who has openly called for Tsvangirai’s resignation, has been the major link between MDC-T and the donor community. Through him the party was pampered with money to bankroll its activities in the hope it would form the next government.
Sources in the party said the donor community is in a quandary and is divided on whether to support the push for leadership renewal or support Tsvangirai’s continued leadership.
“The donor community is aware Tsvangirai commands grassroots support,” said a senior party official. “No one in the party appeals to Zimbabweans like Tsvangirai and this has put them in a fix as to whom to support and fund as the next MDC leader.
“On the other hand the donor community has grown tired of MDC’s apparent inability to defeat Zanu PF. They believe despite Tsvangirai’s popularity he lacks strategic thinking hence the need for a robust and intelligent leader able to match Mugabe and Zanu PF.Britain, Germany, Sweden and France want Biti to take over the presidency while Canada, US, Australia and Norway believe Elias Mudzuri is a better successor.”
Tsvangirai, however, still has the backing from the likes of deputy national chairperson Morgen Komichi, organising secretary Nelson Chamisa and close associates like Ian Makone.
Komichi said Tsvangirai deserved support from all structures of the party, adding it was important for unity to prevail if the party is to mount a serious challenge in the 2018 elections.
He said it was unfair to blame the electoral loss on Tsvangirai.
“We must be united at this moment because the loss to Zanu PF and Mugabe was not because the leadership has failed,” Komichi said. “I now understand the Zanu PF rigging machinery better than before and it will take a collective effort from labour movements, students’ unions and the majority of Zimbabweans to unite in order to unseat Zanu PF.”
Komichi also said: “Tsvangirai is a God-given leader like David whose time is nigh to take over Zimbabwe’s presidency. We have a leader who is God-fearing and time will come for him to be the leader of this country.”
The MDC-T is pushing for a conference which would be attended by delegates and organisations who were at the 1999 National Working People’s Convention which led to the formation of the party.
Among the groups which attended the convention were the National Constitutional Assembly, which has since transformed itself into a political party as well as labour and student unions, some of which have since bitterly fallen out with the party.
The party is trying to engage its former partners and founding members to increase its support base as it prepares to tackle Zanu PF yet again, but the internal party wrangles threaten to derail efforts to reinvigorate the formation.