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Tsvangirai, MDC: Deepening democracy

Before its conclusion on Friday September 19 2014, which conclusion confounded skeptics and naysayers inside and outside the party, the constitutional review exercise of the MDC had been a subject of frenzied debate and media speculation.

Luke Tamborinyoka

The speculation provided media fodder, with some saying Morgan Tsvangirai was becoming a dictator who would centralise all power in his office and appoint leaders in the party.

It is this convenient and false media speculation about the process that led to The Standard (September 21 to 27 2014) editorial entitled, Absolute power for Tsvangirai was ill-advised.

It was self-fulfilling prophecy for the media to speculate that the MDC had ever considered giving Tsvangirai absolute power.

Constitutional review has been the business of every one of our previous congresses as it is only congress that has the power to amend the MDC constitution.

After 15 years in existence, guided by history and experience, it is always important to look at the constitution and to look at those areas that needed review in order to cut bureaucracy, remove vagueness and increase accountability.

As such, there is nothing criminal or mischievous about a constitutional review exercise ahead of a congress.

In any case, when the media began speculating that this exercise, which we have always done ahead of every congress, was meant to arrogate too much power on Tsvangirai, his office had issued a statement clarifying his position on the matter.

“Zimbabwe has had a bad experience of dictatorships and the abuse of Constitutions. The MDC and President Morgan Tsvangirai pledge to the people of this country that the exercise will be a truly objective process; a process that will not be abused to constitutionally anoint a tin-pot dictator in the MDC leadership, as has been wrongly peddled by others,” the statement said.

“As the current leader of a democratic party, president Tsvangirai will not allow the process to degenerate into the creation of all-powerful individuals, especially in the Presidency. Zimbabwe has sad stories to tell on the abuse of the powers of an executive President to the extent that we have learnt it to be a monumental vice that cannot be mimicked, even in a party constitution.

“We pledge to safeguard the democratic credentials of the MDC and to ensure that every office bearer, including and especially the party Presidency, or any other office for that matter, is vaccinated from the whims of individuals. President Tsvangirai has spent half his life fighting all-powerful individuals and he certainly will not be a cheerleader to the creation of dictators.

“One dictator in a country is enough, in the name of a President, First Secretary of the party and Commander-In-Chief of the armed forces and chancellor of all State universities. Contrary to mischievous press reports, the MDC as a democratic party has no intention whatsoever to mimic and parrot such arrant nonsense.”
And indeed, the outcome of last week’s national executive and national council meetings vindicated the above position of the party president that this was always going to be an objective process.

With Tsvangirai in charge, all fears of dictatorship and an all-powerful leader are grossly misplaced.
If anything, I have sat in meetings where the president has been accused of being too lenient, too tolerant and too magnanimous.
I have heard him respond that magnanimity and tolerance are not signs of weakness but of strength.
I sat through the 11-and-half hours of intense debate in the national executive on September 18 2014, a meeting that only ended just before midnight.
For me, the robust debate and the diverse opinions in that meeting showed that our democracy was not only widening but deepening as well.
Even after the national council meeting the following day, I saw people who had held diverse opinions in the meeting hugging and laughing together.
It was a sign of a maturing democratic party where all those who differed had the party at heart, even in the diversity of their opinions.
But in the end, one collective position had to emerge and it was a position that reinforced the democratic tenets of this great people’s party.
And now our congress is in full swing, with the party structures exercising their right to elect a president and the team that the president will work with.
That has always been the democratic culture of this great party; that leaders come from the people and I know for a fact that at no point did Tsvangirai ever consider becoming the dictator that he has fought for half of his adult life.
If there was anyone who had thought of arrogating too much power to this man, as you insinuated in your editorial, then those people do not know this man well enough.
The Tsvangirai people know and have fallen in love with is a man of courage and a democrat.
That man and the party he leads are not about to change. If anything, judging by the way he handled the two meetings 10 days ago, he is deepening and widening the democratic culture in the MDC.
Luke Tamborinyoka doubles up as spokesperson to MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai and the Director of Information in the party.

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