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MDC leaders trade blows at party retreat

Fissures in the MDC came to the fore last week at the party’s strategic retreat that was called by party leader Morgan Tsvangirai to address the crisis brewing in the party following its trouncing in the July 31 elections.

Although party officials publicly said the retreat was cordial, sources who attended the national executive meeting at Mendel Training Centre in Harare’s Marlborough suburb told the Mail & Guardian that national executive members were furious and openly accused standing committee members of being responsible for the party’s loss.

The standing committee is chaired by Tsvangirai and is responsible for the day-to-day administration of the party. It reports to the national executive.

It also consists of Tsvangirai’s deputy Thokozani Khupe, Lovemore Moyo (national chairperson), Tendai Biti (secretary general), Tapiwa Mashakada (deputy secretary general) Morgan Komichi (deputy national chairperson), Nelson Chamisa (organising secretary), Abednico Bhebhe (deputy organising secretary), Elton Mangoma (deputy treasurer general), party spokesperson Douglas Mwonzora, women’s assembly chairperson Theresa Makone and youth chairperson Solomon Madzore.

Sources said most daggers were aimed at Chamisa, whose duty they said it was to ensure party structures remained intact during the polls.

Chamisa was accused of imposing candidates and manipulating the internal voting system to ensure that Tsvangirai’s preferred candidates won.

Defending Chamisa
Tsvangirai came out strongly in Chamisa’s defence during the meeting. The MDC-T leader said all leaders should take responsibility for the election results and not point fingers at individuals.

However, two senior party officials who spoke to the M&G in confidence believe that the party’s candidates were not necessarily the best it had in all cases and cited the example of Dangamvura-Chikanga constituency, where Tsvangirai allegedly insisted on former minister Giles Mutsekwa being the candidate even though human rights lawyer Arnold Tsunga was more popular.

Tsvangirai, they said, ordered Tsunga to withdraw from the race but he refused and won the constituency.

He may face disciplinary action for defying Tsvangirai.

“There are many cases of imposition but perhaps the most prominent is in Makoni Central where Simba Makoni was imposed after his party, Mavambo Kusile Dawn, reached an electoral union with Tsvangirai. While it was good to have such a pact, neither Tsvangirai nor Chamisa sought to explain to the provincial executive and people in the constituency about their decision until it was too late,” said a national executive member.

“As a result, the provincial executive supported Patrick Sagandira, who had won the party’s primaries, instead of Makoni. The vote was split, resulting in Zanu-PF’s Patrick Chinamasa winning.”

Resorting to social media
After being roasted in the meeting Chamisa on August 31 took to social media to vent his frustration.

“I have been harassed, attacked, imprisoned, blackmailed by competitors, unjustly criticised, betrayed and undermined by friends and comrades, poked, prodded, and stuck like a prize pork roast. But, in the end, I know that He who is in me is greater than the one in the world,” he wrote on his Facebook page.

In a phone interview, Chamisa denied that he had been grilled, saying his Facebook posting had nothing to do with the retreat. He referred all questions to Mwonzora, who said his party was united and still solidly behind Tsvangirai and other leaders.

“It was not a stormy meeting. It was cordial and frank because people spoke their minds but there were no daggers pointed at Chamisa or anyone,” said Mwonzora.

“We agree with our leader [Tsvangirai] that there should not be finger pointing.”

But informants who attended the meeting said although all national executive members agreed that although Zanu-PF did not play by the book there was a general consensus that there were serious inadequacies on the part of the MDC leadership, particularly the national executive, which contributed to the loss.

“The truth of the matter is that we were outwitted by Zanu-PF and we will not be taken seriously if we keep complaining without highlighting where we were found wanting as a party,” said a senior party official.

“It’s clear that this time around Zanu-PF was better prepared. Their structures were intact and they made sure that their supporters were registered. Zanu-PF prepared for the elections since 2009, while we were enjoying the trappings of power in government.”

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