MDC-T battle rages on

THE raging battle for the heart and soul of MDC-T continues behind the scenes despite an announcement by party leader Morgan Tsvangirai this week that the warring parties had found each other after frank talks aimed at solving the crisis threatening to cause yet another split.

Owen Gagare

Officials in the party say tensions in the party remain high, while the camps that existed prior to Tsvangirai’s announcement on Tuesday still remain actively plotting their next moves.

In what passed off as a show of unity, Tsvangirai made the reconciliation announcement in the presence of MDC-T secretary general Tendai Biti, who has been snubbing Tsvangirai’s press conferences and rallies giving credence to reports the feuding officials were working towards unity, although curiously Biti did not speak at the conference.

Party officials pushing for leadership change and renewal told the Zimbabwe Independent the battle lines in the party were still drawn and there were no prospects of a truce.

They maintained Biti and Elias Mudzuri were coerced into attending the press conference after attending a national executive meeting to discuss proposals by acting treasurer general Tapuwa Mashakada for party members to fund the party.

“The issue of unity was not on the agenda and when one official proposed that we unify the party first instead of asking people to contribute while the party was divided, Tsvangirai quashed the debate. Towards the end of the meeting he said he had a press conference and asked those present to accompany him, hence the presence of Biti and Mudzuri,” said an official.

“There was however no agreement and that is the reason why neither Biti nor Mudzuri spoke. When Tsvangirai paraded Job Sikhala and Joubert Mudzumwe, he addressed the media and afterwards Sikhala and Mudzumwe did the same. That showed there was an agreement, but in this case he addressed the media alone.

“There is absolutely no unity of purpose and that is the reason why the sixth floor of Harvest House where the secretary general of the party works is locked. The people who work in the SG’s office, including the party’s director, are not being allowed to go to work.”

MDC-T officials also say Tsvangirai’s faction is continuing to purge those perceived to be supporting calls for leadership change in the party. They say calls for unity were hollow as long as the officials who were purged had not been allowed back unconditionally.

Problems in the MDC-T, which have been simmering for a long time, came into the public domain after the party controversially lost last year’s general elections. The loss resulted in demands for leadership renewal and the calls gradually grew louder until the party’s deputy treasurer general Elton Mangoma wrote a letter to Tsvangirai asking him to quit arguing he had failed to provide effective leadership.

Mangoma was subsequently suspended after writing a second letter in which he repeated his calls, but he insists the decision was unlawful. His lawyer Jacob Mafume said Mangoma would contest his suspension in court as it was unprocedurally done. He also said the warring parties in the MDC had not reached a consensus, contrary to Tsvangirai’s assertions.

“We don’t know which hatchet he (Tsvangirai) has buried because the issues of concern still remain. We hoped they would deal with the issue of the illegal suspension but they have not. We were hoping they would deal with issues to do with violence but they have not, so what hatchet has been buried?” asked Mafume.

“The provincial executives remain suspended, so there is no unity to talk about.”

Mangoma was quoted in a local daily yesterday, insisting on leadership renewal. He said Tsvangirai does not have the capacity to lead the MDC-T and the country and should therefore step down.
MDC-T spokesman Douglas Mwonzora however said the presence of all leaders was an indication that the party was in agreement. He however said the unity call would not mean that suspended officials would be allowed to claim back their positions without being cleared of wrongdoing.

“Each organisation has its own rules which must be adhered to. Even at Dynamos, if a player fails to attend training he can be censured one way or another. This applies to everyone including Mangoma,” he said.

“If Mangoma is clean he will be cleared by an independent disciplinary tribunal made up of three senior lawyers outside the party to ensure fairness and impartiality. Those saying there can be no unity unless suspended officials are reinstated are lawless people who don’t respect the rules of the party.”

A senior party official said problems bedeviling the party would not be easy to resolve because they were structural and had to do with issues such as the dearth of internal democracy and abandoning of the the party’s founding values.

“Reconciliation can only take place if Tsvangirai realises he is not the alpha and the omega of the party.

“It is clear to us that he hates the renewal team particularly Mangoma, and can’t imagine working with them again. He may want to keep us in but his intention is to destroy from close range,” said the official.

Members asked to fund party

THE cash-strapped MDC-T has put in place a proposal for party officials and members to contribute US$100 to fund its operations following recommendations from acting treasurer-general Tapiwa Mashakada.

The move is in line with party leader Morgan Tsvangirai’s call for party members to “fund the struggle”, instead of relying on donors.

Tsvangirai recently lashed out at some diplomats from donor countries for meddling in the affairs of the party, as it emerged some of them were supporting calls for leadership renewal.

The party’s national executive met at Harvest House on Tuesday to deliberate on Mashakada’s recommendations that the party leadership, across all structures, pay an underwriting fee which would be used to sustain the party’s activities.

The MDC-T has been experiencing financial problems for some time, but the dire straits deepened after the party controversial lost in last year’s general elections.

The loss resulted in most of the party’s traditional donors freezing funding as the outfit plunged into turmoil following calls by some officials for leadership renewal.

MDC-T spokesman Douglas Mwonzora said the party was forced to come up with innovative ways of funding itself after realising government was not keen to release money due to the party in terms of the Political Parties Finance Act. He said MDC-T was owed about US$3 million by government.

“The underwriting fee is meant to ensure that we sponsor ourselves as a party as government is refusing to fund us. The national executive received and deliberated the recommendations by our acting treasurer-general and it was agreed that legislators would contribute a certain sum,” he said.

“Similarly the party leadership from national to provincial and district levels will also contribute towards the party.

“The amounts will vary according to seniority. The membership is also being asked to contribute.”

An MDC-T legislator told the Zimbabwe Independent the party had asked them to contribute US$100 each. Mwonzora said government’s refusal to fund the MDC-T was meant to ensure the party crumbles, but he said the membership would not allow that to happen.

The Political Parties Finance Act as enacted in 2001 provides for the financing of political parties by the state in a move to prohibit foreign donations to political parties and candidates. The act was introduced after Zanu PF accused MDC of receiving foreign funding to effect regime change.

The MDC has been forced to retrench some of its workers as a result of the financial problems. The party has also been taken to court by some Bulawayo companies for failing or refusing to pay a R5 million debt accrued over election campaign materials.