THE conflict-ridden MDC-T has called for crunch national executive and national council meetings to deal with clashes over plans to centralise power in the hands of former prime minister Morgan Tsvangirai, which is being resisted by influential senior party officials, including deputy president Thokozani Khupe, who are equating the move to Zanufication of the party.
Owen Gagare/Elias Mambo
The differences come at a time the party is still smarting from a heavy electoral defeat in last year’s general elections. The loss triggered massive infighting which culminated in some officials, led by secretary-general Tendai Biti and treasurer general Elton Mangoma, breaking away.
Biti and Mangoma are now leading the MDC Renewal Team.
The MDC-T meetings to be held on Thursday and Friday next week come as a constitutional review committee headed by deputy chairperson Morgen Komichi has finished an outreach programme to collect the views of party members on the proposed constitutional changes.
If adopted, the amendments would result in the erosion of the secretary-general’s powers with most functions being put in the hands of the party president.
In addition the party would also have two vice-presidents while the party’s provinces would be reduced from 12 to 10.
The constitutional changes also seek to empower Tsvangirai to be able to appoint standing committee members.
The standing committee is chaired by the president and is responsible for the day-to-day administration of the party.
It consists of the president, deputy president, national chairperson, national vice-chairperson, secretary-general and his or her deputy, treasurer-general and deputy, national organising secretary and deputy, secretary for information and publicity, and the chairpersons of the women and youth assemblies.
While both the national executive and the national council are likely to approve the change from 12 to 10 provinces and the party having two vice-presidents, manoeuvres to centralise power in Tsvangirai’s hands are likely to be resisted, as they are being seen as undemocratic.
Officials believe Tsvangirai is sponsoring the constitutional amendments and is using his loyalists to push them through.
However, Tsvangirai’s spokesperson Luke Tamborinyoka dismissed such allegations claiming MDC-T is a democratic party.
“Tsvangirai has spent half of his life fighting dictatorship and one dictator in the form of (President) Robert Mugabe is enough,” Tamborinyoka said. “Zimbabwe has had a bad experience of autocracy and we cannot allow this process to degenerate into creation of an all-powerful individual in the party.”
Party spokesperson Douglas Mwonzora confirmed the proposed amendments would be scrutinised next week.
“We will discuss all the proposals next week on Thursday and Friday and only then will we be in a position to say which amendments would have sailed through. Right now what we have are mere proposals from individuals,” Mwonzora said.
Mwonzora, together with other senior party officials such as Nelson Chamisa who are said to be against the amendments, denied the proposals were meant to concentrate power in the hands of Tsvangirai.
“How do we judge that before the amendments are tabled and deliberated on by the national executive and the national council,” he said.
A standing committee member opposed to the move said there was a danger the party would create another “dictator in the mould of Mugabe” if Tsvangirai is given sweeping powers.
“Allowing him to appoint members of the standing committee would be a betrayal of the democratic struggle. We are supposed to be a democratic movement, as our name suggests, but there is an attempt to move us towards dictatorship and autocracy. We are calling it the Zanufication of MDC,” said the official.
“In any organisation, administrative power is in the hands of the secretary-general; so attempts to usurp the SG’s powers are unfortunate and should be resisted.”
Tsvangirai’s backers, among them Komichi who are vigorously pushing for the constitutional changes, are arguing that the party constitution gives too much power to the secretary-general.
Tsvangirai has faced rebellion from two of his former secretaries-general in Welshman Ncube, who led a breakaway group in 2005, and Biti who was “expelled” from the party earlier this year and leads a splinter formation.
MDC-T sources said those pushing for the amendments argue that there would be greater stability in the party if power was concentrated in the presidency. Party officials said most people who were interviewed by the constitutional review committee supported the move for Tsvangirai to consolidate power. But some MDC-T officials believe Tsvangirai’s backers coached party members and in some cases doctored the reports.
Tsvangirai’s backers also insist the constitutional review is important as it will realign the party constitution with the national constitution. The national constitution has two vice-presidents while the country has 10 administrative provinces.
“Any party that is ready to rule should align its constitution to that of the country and we are just doing the same before our congress,” said an official.
“Zimbabwe’s constitution has provision for two vice-presidents and this is the constitution which the MDC championed during the coalition government era. There is nothing Zanu PF about this; the MDC was the driver of the country’s new constitution and we cannot be seen doing the opposite of what we created.”