The party plans to go back to the people to re-establish contact and seek a mandate on the way forward after its heavy defeat in Zimbabwe's polls.
Former prime minister Morgan Tsvangirai and his Movement for Democratic Change are heading back to the drawing board following a heavy defeat in Zimbabwe’s July 31 elections.
Sources said that the party, after intensive soul-searching, during which leaders held a series of highly charged meetings aimed at establishing the reasons for their losses, has decided to restructure.
The party has also decided to mend bridges with civil society, student unions, trade unions, pressure groups and human rights organisations, which have traditionally supported it. But relations between the party and most of its traditional partners deteriorated when it was part of the government, with some accusing the party leadership of enjoying the trappings of power while ignoring the MDC’s founding principles.
The National Constitutional Assembly (NCA), one of the organisations that played an important role in the MDC’s formation, accused it of reneging on a promise to fight for a people-driven constitution. The NCA charged that the MDC had settled for a politically-driven one and the assembly has since formed a political party of its own.
The MDC hired University of Western Cape Professor Brian Raftopoulos to analyse the election results.
Sources who were at a national executive meeting in September at which Raftopoulos disclosed his findings, said he had suggested that the party reorganise its structures. He said Zanu-PF had won the elections because it was better organised.
Raftopolous said the MDC needed to reassess the needs of Zimbabweans.
Trying to correct a mistake
An MDC national executive member said: “After that presentation, we realised we made mistakes along the way, although Zanu-PF also played dirty during the elections. This is what we are trying to correct.”
MDC-T spokesperson Douglas Mwonzora said the party was “back at the drawing board”.
“We are restructuring from the branches, [and] wards, coming up to the districts. We want to establish an MDC which is strong structurally.
“We are mainly using the co-option method, where we are filling the gaps in our structures, because some of our members were displaced in the run-up to the elections,” he said.
“The restructuring exercise will continue as we prepare for our congress in 2016.
“We are also reconnecting with our supporters and stakeholders and we are going to have two major conferences, the national working people’s convention, after which we will hold an all-stakeholders’ conference”, he said. “The conferences are meant to discuss the way forward for the party with a cross-section of Zimbabweans.”
The rebirth of the party
Mwonzora said it was hoped that the convention, scheduled to be held before the end of the year, would be attended by the same organisations that were at the convention in February 1999 that led to the formation of MDC.
Organisations such as the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions, the Zimbabwe National Students’ Union, the NCA and members of the civil society attended it.
“It’s the rebirth of the party. We are going into this conference with a lot of lessons, from the time the party was formed until we became part of the inclusive government,” Mwonzora said.
He said the all-stakeholders’ conference would invite a broad cross-section of Zimbabwean society to make an input in the direction the party should take. It will be held early next year.
Besides restructuring and engaging stakeholders, Mwonzora said the party would also seek to build up support in the local authorities that it controls.
“In addition, we will make a difference in Parliament by standing against Zanu-PF’s ruinous policies. We may not have adequate numbers but we have enough intellect and debating power to be a real force,” he said.
Calls for change
Despite some calling for a change in leadership, Mwonzora said the national executive, standing committee and national council had resolved the current leadership would remain in place until the 2016 congress.
But MDC members were free to discuss the issue, provided the debate took place within party structures, he said.
Prominent members of the party, among them treasurer general Roy Bennett and former Marondera legislator Ian Kay, have publicly called for Tsvangirai’s resignation. They accuse him of failing to provide leadership to steer the party to victory.
He has failed to dislodge President Robert Mugabe from power in three consecutive elections, although he managed to win the first round of elections in 2008, before Mugabe won the run-off with the help of a brutal campaign waged by the military.