Constantine Chimakure/ Lucia Makamure
MORGAN Tsvangirai’s future at the helm of the opposition MDC hangs in the balance after it emerged that he has lost favour among
party structures over his “dictatorial” style of leadership.
Tsvangirai, impeccable sources said, was accused of being a “serial violator” of the party constitution and relying on a clique of party members — referred to as the kitchen cabinet — to make far-reaching decisions on the MDC.
He is also accused of failing to stem violence in the MDC’s ranks and not briefing or consulting the party on the on-going Sadc-initiated talks with Zanu PF.
The sources said as a result of Tsvangirai’s leadership, the MDC was on a verge of another split after he three weeks ago allegedly masterminded the “unconstitutional” dissolution of the women’s assembly executive headed by Lucia Matibenga.
Matibenga’s executive was replaced last Sunday by another one led by Theresa Makone, the wife of Tsvangirai’s advisor, Ian.
The sources said senior party officials, among them organising secretary Elias Mudzuri, spokesperson Nelson Chamisa, youths chairperson Thamsanga Mahlangu, deputy secretary-general Tapiwa Mashakada, health secretary Blessing Chebundo, transport secretary Murisi Zwizwai and Budiriro lawmaker Emmanuel Chisvuure, have opposed the dissolution of Matibenga’s executive as unconstitutional.
Those against Tsvangirai’s move, the sources added, were prepared to part ways with the MDC leader and were reportedly planning to oust the former firebrand trade unionist if he declines to reverse the women’s assembly decision.
Mashakada is being tipped to lead the MDC in the interim until a special congress is held to elect a substantive leadership.
Tsvangirai reportedly enjoys the support of secretary-general Tendai Biti, national chairperson Lovemore Moyo, and his kitchen cabinet made up of Theresa and Ian Makone, Professor Elphas Mukonoweshuro, businessman Jameson Timba, and lawyer Selby Hwacha, among others.
Documents in the possession of the Zimbabwe Independent reveal that Mudzuri last week wrote to Tsvangirai telling him that the dissolution of the Matibenga-led executive was unconstitutional.
“The process (dissolution of the assembly) can only be done by the national executive committee, national council or the national assembly of women,” Mudzuri warned Tsvangirai. “It is unacceptable for us in particular, the president and the secretary-general as the custodians of the constitution to breach our party constitution to this level. It is also my considered view that you must re-look at this and respect the constitution which is the supreme document governing our party.”
The former Harare mayor urged Tsvangirai to reverse the dissolution and follow procedures that conform to the constitution to ensure that the impasse in the women’s assembly was resolved without “creating new conflicts”.
Mudzuri’s advice was not listened to and a special women’s congress was convened in Bulawayo on Sunday, which turned into a farce.
Matibenga’s group met at Emakhandeni Hall, while another faction rooting for Makone assembled at MDC vice-president Thokozani Khupe’s restaurant.
However, this week Tsvangirai endorsed the outcome of the congress held at Khupe’s restaurant that saw the “election” of Makone as the women’s assembly chairperson.
In a statement, Lovemore Moyo said the assembly had held a “successful” congress “where a new team of leaders was elected by the women themselves”.
“The event itself was marred by bussed people who came to disrupt the event, even though the High Court had ruled on Friday that the extra-ordinary congress could proceed as long as the women themselves were in favour of dissolution,” Moyo said.
“Due process took place in arriving at the decision to dissolve the women’s assembly executive. The decision taken by the standing committee on Tuesday, 2 October 2007, was a constitutional decision, which was in the best interests of the party and the women themselves.”
This, MDC sources said, was unacceptable to senior party officials who felt Tsvangirai was now abusing his power. On Tuesday, Tsvangirai met the MDC parliamentary caucus at the party’s headquarters in the capital, Harvest House, where lawmakers reportedly voiced their “deep” concern on his alleged continuation to “flagrantly violate the constitution”.
“It was made clear to him that he cannot continue to violate the party constitution. He was warned that this time around there will be no split in the party, but he will be expelled,” one of the sources said.
After the meeting, Chisvuure and Mkoba MP Amos Chibaya were allegedly beaten up at the party headquarters by youths aligned to Makone after they were accused of bussing people to Bulawayo to disrupt the women congress.
So serious are divisions in the MDC that Tsvangirai had since Tuesday convened provincial assembly meetings to discuss “party hygiene issues and the way forward”.
Tomorrow, the MDC’s national executive will hold a crucial meeting to discuss “critical issues affecting the party and the nation”.
Chamisa said high on the agenda will be the women’s assembly issue, the dialogue process between the MDC and Zanu PF and the alleged escalation of violence against opposition members.
“The MDC as a democratic institution has sufficient mechanisms to deal with both the internal and external challenges that are fairly inevitable in such a mass-based organisation,” Chamisa said. “Saturday will provide the party leadership from all the provinces with the perfect platform to reflect and debate these critical issues affecting the party and the country.”
However, sources said the meeting would most probably decide the fate of Tsvangirai in the party.