Cracks within the MDC-T widened yesterday as secretary-general, Tendai Biti snubbed a rally addressed by party president, Morgan Tsvangirai in Chitungwiza.
BY OUR STAFF
Biti’s rebuff came a day after he came out in defence of deputy treasurer-general, Elton Mangoma after his suspension by the MDC-T national council on allegations of bringing the party into disrepute for publicly calling for Tsvangirai to resign.
MDC-T national council on allegations of bringing the party into disrepute for publicly calling for Tsvangirai to resign.
Biti, who could not be reached for comment yesterday, declared Mangoma’s purported suspension null and void saying as secretary general of the party, it was him who was supposed to have laid charges against the deputy treasurer-general in the first place – which he had not done.
Although there was no direct reference to Biti and Mangoma at the Chitungwiza rally, speaker after speaker denounced so-called party rebels, while at the same time endorsing Tsvangirai’s leadership.
The only speaker to make direct reference to Mangoma was women’s assembly boss and former co-Home Affairs minister, Theresa Makone.
She said with pride that it was the women’s assembly which initiated the suspension of Mangoma at its meeting on January 27.
“Women are very clear. We were the first ones to pass a resolution that Mangoma must go,” Makone said.
She said that rebels in the party were going to break from MDC-T to form their own party.
Makone said Mangoma’s case had set precedence, adding that MDC-T officials who discussed party issues in public should meet similar fate.
She said there was need to investigate the real person behind Mangoma.
However, Tsvangirai skirted the issue of Mangoma, but said he was opposed to party officials and supporters who made inciting slogans against others.
“Whatever problems happening in the party, these will be resolved,” he said. “The MDC-T is united with me as leader and you [supporters and officials] following behind. If you do not want to follow, get out of the line.”
Tsvangirai said unlike President Robert Mugabe, he would one day pass on the baton to a new leader of the party.
“I am not Mugabe who personalised the struggle. Zanu PF will die with Mugabe,” he said.
Tsvangirai dismissed reports that the MDC-T was now broke after donors withdrew funding because of the leadership squabbles in the party. He said the party would never go broke because it still enjoyed widespread grassroots support.
He reiterated calls for MDC 99 leader Job Sikhala, Lovemore Madhuku’s National Constitutional Assembly and other opposition parties, to unite with his MDC-T in order to confront Zanu PF as a united front.
“I have not run out of manpower, but if you want to deliver change, let’s come together,” he said.
Hundreds of party supporters attended the rally where Tsvangirai was accompanied by his deputy Thokozani Khupe. Several other officials, among them deputy secretary-general Tapiwa Mashakada, organising secretary, Nelson Chamisa and deputy chairperson Morgan Komichi, who again likened Tsvangirai to the biblical Jacob, were present.
MDC-T spokesperson, Douglas Mwonzora said the national council meeting made its decision to suspend Mangoma based on the information made available by party national chairman, Lovemore Moyo in his report.
“Nobody including the secretary general [Biti] raised any objections on the charges themselves,” Mwonzora told The Standard. “The MDC members and officials must give the justice process a chance. In this regard, nobody must interfere with the justice process in the MDC.”
Mwonzora said Biti was free to assist Mangoma when his case comes before the disciplinary committee comprising three independent lawyers.
“During the disciplinary proceedings Mangoma can raise any defence on the substance of the charges or on any technical issues that may be beneficial to the defence,” he said.
“What is not acceptable is for some people to try to stop the disciplinary process because that is not democratic.”
Mwonzora said his party stood for the rule of law, transparency, justice, fairness and democracy.
He said leaders should subject themselves to due process once allegations are raised against them.
“It will be wrong for any person to try to stop the law from taking its course where a senior member has been accused of serious charges,” he said.
MDC-T BATTLE GENERATES DEBATE ON SOCIAL MEDIA
Elton Mangoma yesterday referred questions to his lawyer, Jacob Mafume who could not be reached for comment as he was said to be in church the whole day.
But on his Facebook page, Mafume insisted that Mangoma should not have been suspended without being afforded the right to be heard.
“This is an elementary rule of natural justice which a party of trade unionists and student leaders should well be aware of,” he said.
He said Article 12 of the MDC-T constitution provides that a two thirds majority must be obtained for disciplinary measures to be recommended for a Standing Committee Member.
Mafume said there was no record of the composition of the council and no results of the voting had been announced.
”There is a dubious claim of a Stalinist 100% unanimity. Even Zanu PF no longer records those,” he said. “Why are democrats afraid of a secret ballot on such important matters or even the elementary counting of hands. The decision is thus null and void from the start and cannot stand no matter how often it is repeated or cheered.”
The case of Mangoma and Biti’s statement generated intense debate on social media networks. Harare province spokesperson, Obert Gutu questioned the decision by Biti to hold a press conference at his law firm offices.
“When a very senior party official nicodemously addresses a press conference behind the backs of his colleagues and lacks the courage of his conviction to speak out his mind in a national council meeting,” he wrote on his Facebook page. “He has actually committed a very serious and punishable breach of the party constitution.”