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MDC-T congress: Tsvangirai faces stern test

Analysts said while competition for posts was healthy in any democracy, it has to be managed in such a way that it does not become a destructive force.
Others, however, said the perceived factionalism was good for democracy.

One camp, said sources, is led by the party’s women’s assembly chairlady Theresa Makone and her husband Ian while the other one is headed by Finance minister Tendai Biti, who is also MDC-T secretary general.

Party spokesperson Nelson Cha-misa has always denied the existence of factions in MDC-T but increasing intra-party skirmishes and violence, especially during election time, reflect deeper and widening divisions among senior members.

This rivalry has become open and brutal as the MDC-T gears for its national congress slated for April 29 to May 1. Sources said Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, who will retain his position at the congress, fears this gulf among factions could widen to levels similar to Zanu PF’s Solomon Mujuru and Emmerson Mnangagwa factions.

The two factions are fighting to succeed President Robert Mugabe, who has been ruling the country for the past three decades.

Political analyst Charles Mangongera urged the MDC-T leadership to nip factionalism in the bud to avoid a repeat of the 2005 split that resulted in the formation of the faction led by Welshman Ncube.

He said while leadership renewal was the hallmark of any democracy, the process has to be well-managed.

“It’s natural in politics for competition for power and positions,” Mangongera said.

“But the leadership has to manage that competition so that we do not witness the implosion that we saw in 2005.”

 

Mangongera said it was worrying to read regularly of bloody clashes of “youth vigilante groups” belonging to the two camps at Harvest House.
The clashes, which started in 2004, seem not to end.

Other party members last week accused senior  MDC-T officials of deploying provincial campaign managers for their camps on the pretext of organising party structures.

“The party leadership must deal with this in a decisive manner,” he said.

Another analyst said if the MDC-T leadership fails to address the issue of internal violence and factionalism, that would give its critics enough ammunition to label it a violent party.

“I think it will result in some people accusing the MDC-T of mimicking Zanu PF,” said the analyst who requested anonymity.

Zanu PF, whose political symbol is a fist, has over the past decades been labelled as a violent party.

President Mugabe has openly claimed to have “degrees in violence.”

But Pedzisai Ruhanya, a Harare-based analyst believes that the factionalism in the MDC-T is healthy.

“There is no negative factionalism in the MDC-T,” declared Ruhanya, a senior programmes manager with Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition. “What is there (in MDC-T) is benign factionalism Factionalism is taken negatively here in Zimbabwe because it is usually associated with Zanu PF, a party which spills blood.”

Quoting one of America’s most influential founding fathers James Madison, Ruhanya said in any case “benign” factionalism was healthy as it prevented concentration of power on one group.

It remains to be seen if the MDC-T leadership would be able to control the effects of factionalism as the dates for the party’s congress draw near.

Ironically, the congress, expected to draw about 5 000 delegates in Bulawayo, will be running under the theme “United, Winning — The People’s Covenant for Change.”

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