MDC opts for early congress

MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai is fighting pressure within his party to resign, embarking on public rallies to shore up support, and restructuring the provincial executives. (Reuters)

MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai is fighting pressure within his party to resign, embarking on public rallies to shore up support, and restructuring the provincial executives. (Reuters)

A divided MDC-T is heading for an early congress, possibly in March next year, after its leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, keen to quickly re-establish control and show that he enjoys popular support, agreed to move forward the party's elective congress scheduled for 2016.

MDC-T spokesperson Douglas Mwonzora confirmed to the Mail & Guardian that the party would hold its congress earlier than 2016, although he said the date had not been set but would be agreed via party processes.

However, five senior officials, three on the standing committee and two on the national executive, said March 2015 had been earmarked.

Following the MDC-T's crushing defeat by Zanu-PF in last year's general election, some officials who blame Tsvangirai for the defeat have been calling for an early congress to elect new leadership.

Discussion, however, spilled into the public domain after the party's suspended deputy treasurer-general, Elton Mangoma, wrote a letter to Tsvangirai last month asking him to resign and hand over the reigns to his deputy, Thokozani Khuphe, until a congress was held. He suggested that Tsvangirai could alternatively announce his intention to quit, thereby necessitating an ­extraordinary congress.

Leadership crisis
In his letter, Mangoma said the MDC was suffering from a leadership crisis. New leaders were needed who should be afforded time to come up with policies and a programme of action ahead of the 2018 elections.

Tsvangirai, however, refused to resign, insisting that those who seek leadership change face him at congress.
He claimed the election was rigged, and that he was not responsible for the loss.

His backers have, however, convinced him to take up the early ­congress option.

"Although the congress is constitutionally due in 2016, we have advised Tsvangirai that it will be in his best interest to hold it early because it will give him an opportunity to flex his muscles and quash the dissenting voices once and for all," said a standing committee member, who is one of Tsvangirai's key backers.

"Tsvangirai's campaign has already begun, and that's the reason he is on the ground mobilising the people. He has held rallies in Harare and Chitungwiza, and these have proved that he is still massively popular. The message has been sent to the Mangoma's and Biti's of this world that they stand no chance."

Mangoma is said by officials close to Tsvangirai to be working with party secretary general Tendai Biti, treasurer general Roy Bennett and former Harare mayor Elias Mudzuri, among other officials. They have not been attending Tsvangirai's rallies.

According to Mangoma's lawyer, Jacob Mafume, he (Mangoma) is not attending the rallies because he fears for his own safety.

Restructuring exercise
Mwonzora said the party was holding an early congress, as opposed to an extraordinary congress. An extraordinary congress would mean that elections were held using the current structures.

"It means [we will need to do] all the exercises we do before holding a congress. We will restructure the wards, districts and provinces, which will create opportunity to ­contest positions. All posts will be up for grabs, including the presidency. Elections will also be carried out for the women's and youth assembly."

He said the restructuring exercise would commence immediately.

"The secretary general [Biti] and the administration have been asked to deal with the issue of resources. Acting treasurer general Tapiwa Mashakada has also been tasked with finding resources for the congress," said Mwonzora.

'Campaign of terror'
A national council member in the Mangoma camp said that although the group had called for an early congress, it was concerned about "the campaign of terror" the Tsvangirai camp had embarked on.

"There has been a campaign to harass and intimidate anyone thought to be against Tsvangirai. The intimidation started with demonstrations against Mangoma after he wrote his confidential letter that was leaked by his [Tsvangira's] people to the press.

"They deliberately lied that Mangoma had offered Tsvangirai $3-million from foreign donor funds to resign to give the impression that the leadership renewal calls were being spearheaded by foreigners," said the national council member.

"Thereafter, Mangoma was assaulted by hired party thugs who also wanted to assault Biti and [youth assembly chairperson, Solomon] Madzore. Mangoma was also unprocedurally suspended from the party, and now they are going after provincial executive members who they think are sympathetic to us. They have suspended the Matabeleland North and Manicaland chairs, and we are aware that they will be moving on other provinces such as Harare, Masvingo and Midlands South. They want to get rid of anyone they are not sure of, and put their people in during the restructuring exercise." 

Mwonzora, however, said a restructuring exercise was normal ahead of any congress.

Meanwhile, officials in the two MDCs revealed there could be a chance that some who are at risk of being purged in MDC-T could join hands with Welshman Ncube's Movement for Democratic Change to form a new political party. But, key officials in the Mangoma camp said their strategy was to fight for change from within MDC-T, although their options remained open.

Last week, Tsvangirai asked Ncube and other officials who left the original MDC after the split in 2005 to rejoin him, but Ncube refused, citing the violence and undemocratic ­practices in Tsvangirai's party.

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