Civic groups reject MDC-T proposal

THE MDC-T’s major allies, the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU), Zimbabwe National Students Union (Zinasu) and National Constitutional Assembly (NCA), have rejected offhand the party’s proposal to hold a national people’s convention aimed at reconnecting with its founders.

Paidamoyo Muzulu

MDC-T spokesperson Douglas Mwonzora said his party has invited its founding members, who include civic organisations, labour, constitutional and students movements for a second people’s convention, which will be held in December.

The purpose of the meeting is to go back to the drawing board and to the basics as the MDC-T seeks to close ranks and reorganise itself after its crushing defeat amid accusations that it was disorganised during the controversial general elections in July.

However, ZCTU secretary-general Japhet Moyo told the Zimbabwe Independent this week that MDC-T had no mandate to call for such a meeting, adding that it is only his organisation which has the sole prerogative to do so.

Moyo said: “MDC-T cannot call for a convention –– they are a player. It is the ZCTU’s responsibility to convene such a meeting to review its project that was born from the first people’s convention.

“It should not be forgotten who the convener of the first meeting was in the first place and it is that union which still has that mandate.”

The NCA, which transformed itself from a civil society organisation into a political party at its congress held in September, said it will not participate at the MDC-T meeting.

The ZCTU and NCA were the main incubators for the MDC-T which was formed in 1999, mainly as a result of deteriorating political and socio-economic conditions in the later parts of the second decade of Independence following failed leadership and policies in the aftermath of the International Monetary Fund’s economic structural adjustment programmes.

NCA spokesperson Blessing Vava said his party would not participate in the MDC-T meeting because they are now both national political players.
“That’s a big no,” Vava said. “It would be like Zanu PF attending an MDC-T meeting –– that’s unheard of. We are a political party just like them so the issue is that simple and plain.”

Zinasu said it no longer supports the MDC-T or any political party for that matter but its members were free to participate in their individual capacities if they so wish.

Zinasu spokesperson Avoid Masiraha said: “Individual members can attend in their personal capacities but the organisation is now divorced from national and partisan politics.

“We might agree with certain political parties on some policies but as a principle we don’t support any political party.”

Political commentator Jonathan Gandari said that these developments should push the MDC-T into self-introspection.

“The MDC-T should engage in a real soul searching exercise to find out why friends of the good old days are reluctant to be identified with them,” Gandari said.

The MDC-T leadership, including its president Morgan Tsvangirai, has been holding meetings with party members in districts across the country to reorganise and map the way forward amid growing calls that the party president must go.

Since Tsvangirai and the MDC-T’s defeat in the elections, senior party officials, Ian Kay, Roy Bennett and Elias Mudzuri, have openly spoken out on the need for leadership renewal, indicating the party leader must quit and give others a chance.

The MDC, as an idea whose time had come, was endorsed on February 26 1999 by over 700 men and women from all walks of life who converged at the women’s bureau in Hillside, Harare, for two days.

They set up various committees and sub-committees to examine a whole gamut of Zimbabwean issues and eventually resolved the only way out was the need to form a political party to challenge Zanu PF hegemony and save the country from failure.

During the convention key resolutions were adopted and their implementation continued when the party was officials launched in September 1999 after the working people’s convention seven months later at Rufaro stadium in Harare.

According to the party itself, “the MDC was formed on the basis of carrying on the struggle of the people; the struggle for food and jobs; peace; dignity, decency and democracy; equal distribution of resources; and justice, transparency and equality of all Zimbabweans.”

On January 26 2000 the party had its inaugural congress at the Chitungwiza Aquatic Complex. Tsvangirai, who was ZCTU secretary-general, was elected president ahead of the labour federation’s president Gibson Sibanda who became his deputy.

A constitution for the party was adopted. After the NCA had helped to defeat the Zanu PF-backed constitutional commission process to write a new national constitution, general elections were held on June 26 2000 and the MDC nearly defeated Zanu PF in elected seats as it won 57 seats against the ruling party’s 63 constituencies.

In the aftermath of Zanu PF’s narrow escape, violence and intimidation, which would become a grisly feature of Zimbabwean politics throughout the subsequent decade, erupted and engulfed the country, resulting in people being harassed, beaten, maimed and killed.