THE Morgan Tsvangirai-led MDC-T —— a key member of the inclusive government —— will tomorrow hold its ninth national conference at a time when the party is facing internal problems and is on a collision course with its former allies in civic society on constitutional reforms, national healing and how to handle fresh farm invasions.
According to the MDC-T, 1 000 delegates to the conference will “review and update the party policies as well as taking stock of the hopes and impediments” of the unity government with President Robert Mugabe and the leader of the smaller formation of the MDC, Arthur Mutambara.
There have been serious clashes between the MDC-T and civic society on how best to drive the constitution-making process with the latter accusing the party of having agreed during negotiations of the global political agreement (GPA) to have a parliament-led process instead of a “people-driven” one.
Civic society, led by the National Constitutional Assembly (NCA), has vowed to de-campaign the constitution-making process to be spearheaded by a 25-member parliamentary select committee co-chaired by the parties to the GPA.
The NCA was also opposed to the use of the Kariba draft constitution – drawn up by negotiators of the two MDC formations and Zanu PF in September 2007 – as the reference point in the current process arguing that it lacked constitutionalism because Zimbabweans were not consulted on its contents.
Eric Matinenga, a member of the MDC-T national executive and also Constitutional and Parliamentary Affairs minister, insists that the constitution-making process will be people-driven and that civic organisations and other stakeholders will be involved in the crafting of the supreme law in various sub-committees of the parliamentary select committee.
He said people would be allowed to air their views during all-stakeholders conferences to be held during the 18-month constitution-making process, but the NCA was adamant the process would still be flawed.
The MDC-T also stands accused of failing to deal effectively with reported renewed farm invasions, with the Commercial Farmers Union (CFU) this week saying it was disturbed by recent statements “made by the powers that be stating that all is fine on the farms, yet this is far from the truth”.
This was in apparent reference to Tsvangirai’s pronouncement in an interview with the international press at the weekend that: “There are incidents in which it is reported that there are invasions on one or two farms but it’s all blown out of proportion.”
The CFU was short of saying it had lost faith in the inclusive government because it was taking too long to implement provisions of the GPA, especially working “together for the restoration of full productivity on all agricultural land” and ensuring “security of tenure to all land holders”.
“Unfortunately, none of these has been forthcoming so many of our farmers have been unable to produce much at all during the summer season just finished and very little has been planted for the winter cereal cropping season which has just started,” the CFU said.
The union lamented the prosecution of about 140 white farmers, adding this had undermined confidence and hence production in the entire sector.
The party also stands accused by students and teachers of failing to influence the government on the need for educational reforms.
Teachers returned to work in February, ending a strike that had persisted since September 2008. However, the state of the education system remains plagued by serious problems —— school fees are unaffordable for the vast majority; lack of equipment and teaching materials; and the issue of teachers’ salaries all remain unresolved.
Teachers in rural areas have also reported harassment and intimidation by supporters of Zanu PF, who were responsible for politically motivated violence in the run up to the June 2008 presidential election run-off.
Though hospitals and clinics reopened in February, serious shortages of equipment and drugs remained.
On the media front, Tsvangirai and Media, Information and Publicity ministry permanent secretary George Charamba have issued conflicting statements on whether or not journalists and media houses should get accreditation after the outlawing of the Media and Information Commission (MIC) in January 2008. The MIC was replaced by the Zimbabwe Media Commission (ZMC) which is yet to be constituted.
Tsvangirai said there was no need for accreditation, while Charamba said there was no legal vacuum on the issue as the government was still mandated to accredit journalists and media organisations.
Yesterday, the Media Institute of Southern Africa (Misa) backed Tsvangirai’s interpretation of the law.
“Although the functions of the ZMC are largely similar to those of the former MIC as set out in Section 39 (of Aippa), there is no clause or provision in the Act which presupposes that the MIC shall be transformed into the ZMC, nor is there any intimation that the former may execute the duties expressly mandated to the latter,” Misa said. “In fact the wording of the Act clearly anticipates the formation of the ZMC and sets out the manner of appointment of the new office bearers. The interpretation clause of the same Act explicitly defines the word ‘commission’ as referring to the ZMC. Therefore legally the ZMC is deemed to exist pending its constitution.”
There is also infighting in the MDC-T after the party leadership ordered its MPs to return vehicles allocated to them by the central bank a month ago. Most of the legislators have refused to return the cars arguing that party leaders in cabinet were driving vehicles bought by the same central bank.
Apart from the cars, the MPs also want to be allocated farms.
Three weeks ago at the party’s parliamentary caucus a row erupted over the issue of the cars and farms, with secretary-general Tendai Biti accusing legislators of defying MDC-T leaders’ orders.
The party is also torn apart on how national healing and reconciliation should be pursued with MDC-T victims of the bloody Zanu PF campaign for the June 27 2008 presidential election runoff insisting on the establishment of a truth and reconciliation commission, while the party recently said it would mobilise resources to compensate them.
The party is yet to come up with a position on whether perpetrators of the June 2008 violence should be prosecuted or pardoned.
Recent reports were that some victims of the violence had taken matters into their own hands in an attempt to recover their property looted by suspected Zanu PF supporters.
Despite Tsvangirai insisting that the principals have resolved 95% of the issues concerning the GPA, the party’s national council about a fortnight ago resolved to refer the matter to Sadc.
Four days after the resolution, Tsvangirai made an announcement that the unity government had struck agreement on the bulk of the outstanding issues, but had asked regional leaders to break a deadlock over the appointment by Mugabe of central bank chief Gideon Gono and attorney-general Johannes Tomana.
BY CONSTANTINE CHIMAKURE