SENIOR MDC-T officials pushing for leadership renewal in the party are planning to suspend party leader Morgan Tsvangirai in a daring and dramatic move likely to escalate infighting and plunge the embattled movement into turmoil.
While the plot against Tsvangirai is taking shape, the faction led by secretary-general Tendai Biti is also reportedly moving to drag him and his faction members to court for unconstitutionally suspending deputy treasurer-general Elton Mangoma for writing a letter to him demanding he should step down due to his leadership failures and private life indiscretions.
Party officials said the move to suspend Tsvangirai is aimed at forcing him out before the next congress likely to be held by March next year, instead of 2016 when it is due. The move is likely to prove abortive given that Tsvangirai still enjoys strong internal grassroots support and is taking charge of the structures through ruthless purges of Biti’s allies.
“The Tsvangirai camp is already preparing for congress, hence the suspensions and intimidation of those suspected of pushing the leadership renewal agenda. The constitution is being violated left, right and centre as members are being purged unlawfully,” said a senior MDC-T official in Biti’s camp. “However, we believe we can mobilise enough numbers in the national executive and national council to suspend Tsvangirai for willfully violating the party’s constitution and putting the party’s image into disrepute.”
Before the MDC split in 2005, the faction led by Welshman Ncube also tried but failed to oust Tsvangirai through a suspension.
Apart from fighting the plot to force him out, Tsvangirai will also have to battle the Biti camp in court after Mangoma’s lawyer, Jacob Mafume, indicated he would file an application in the High Court today challenging his client’s suspension.
Tensions between Biti and Tsvangirai have been building up over the years, but Mangoma’s letter precipitated open political warfare after the MDC-T controversially lost general elections last July.
“In fact, the fight exploded after Tsvangirai called Biti early January and asked him why Mangoma was lobbying for leadership renewal. Biti then arranged a meeting between the two,” said an official.
“The meeting was held at Tsvangirai’s house in the presence of (deputy party leader) Thokozani Khupe. Tsvangirai asked Mangoma about the issue and state of the party’s finances, to which Mangoma responded by presenting him with his letter.
“Tensions heightened further after Mangoma was assaulted by youths loyal to Tsvangirai at Harvest House last month, culminating in a fierce clash between Tsvangirai and Biti at a national executive meeting on January 31. Tsvangirai had accused Biti of holding unsanctioned meetings and suggested that an inquiry be held. In reaction, Biti stood up while Tsvangirai was speaking and furiously confronted him asking why an inquiry was needed if he had already concluded that he was guilty. There was a fierce stand-off,” said a national executive member.
MDC-T officials say that marked a serious escalation of the party’s internal strife. — Staff Writer.