THE increasingly acrimonious intra-party fight over the MDC-T's confirmation of sitting MPs reached boiling point at a lengthy and stormy national executive meeting on Tuesday as the powerful standing committee railroaded the party into adopting the controversial procedure.
High-level sources told the Zimbabwe Independent the criteria to select the party's election candidates dominated the national executive meeting at the party's headquarters, Harvest House, with heated debate raging on for more than two hours.
The issue further generated intense heated debate at Wednesday's four-hour national council meeting, although officials eventually adopted the confirmation resolution despite growing discontent among party supporters.
Under the confirmation process, MPs have to get a two thirds approval rating by party members in their respective constituencies for them to stand on the party's ticket.
Failure to garner the two thirds approval would condemn affected legislators to open primary elections.
The tense, no-holds-barred Tuesday meeting, chaired by party leader Morgan Tsvangirai, heated up after the party's top 11 who make up the 12 member standing committee declared the door for open primaries was fairly closed, in a move seen as a ploy by MDC-T bigwigs to ring-fence their seats in the face of challenge from ambitious upstarts.
This immediately drew the ire of the MDC-T Supporters' Forum, a loose union of MDC-T district executives disgruntled over their party's selection process for the forthcoming polls which is demanding open primaries. The Forum has pledged to campaign for independent candidates if the party does not reverse its decision.
However, Biti said the national council unanimously adopted the candidate selection procedure.
He defended the confirmation process saying it was democratic as party members in a constituency have to confirm sitting MPs by two thirds to avoid primary elections.
"The confirmation process is not a new thing; it has been in the constitution since 2000," Biti told a press conference on Wednesday. "It's a democratic process where district assemblies will be checking on the performance of sitting MPs."
Sources said there were also fears of intra-party violence in constituencies the MDC-T has no sitting MPs as prospective candidates slug it out in open primaries.
The national council resolved members with less than five years in the party are not eligible to contest primary polls -- a move seen as further protecting incumbent MPs.
There was also a suggestion MPs who received vehicles from the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe should not be eligible to stand, but this was hastily quashed.
The MDC-T Supporters' Forum has warned the party's attitude regarding primary elections was undemocratic and would be fiercely resisted.
The Forum is set to hold its first consultative meeting mid-January in 2013 in Harare with representatives from Bulawayo, Masvingo, Mutare, Chitungwiza and Harare.
MDC-T leaders are accused of insisting on the confirmation process to shrug-off fierce competition from young turks vying for parliamentary seats.
Cabinet ministers likely to face a bruising fight from young aspirants include Finance minister Tendai Biti, Tapiwa Mashakada (Economic Planning), Theresa Makone (Home Affairs), Joel Gabbuza Gabuza (Public Works) and Heneri Dzinotyiwei (Science and Technology), among others.
Youth assembly deputy chairperson Costa Machingauta wants to challenge Dzinotyiwei in Budiriro while secretary-general Promise Mkwananzi is likely to lock horns with Felix Magalela Sibanda in Magwegwe.
Youth treasurer Mukombwe Dube has reportedly set his sights on the Binga South seat currently held by Gabuza, while youth organising secretary Mpumelelo Ndlovu and his deputy Happymore Chidziva are eyeing the Insiza South and Redcliff seats currently under MDC and Zanu PF respectively.
"The consultative meeting will discuss strategies to resist the undemocratic move of confirming sitting MPs, councillors and senators of the party," read a statement by the Forum. "The structures which the party says select the candidates comprise people chosen by sitting MPs, councillors and senators."
"The system will never be accepted by voters. They crafted the (MDC-T) constitution to protect their positions. How can 200 people have a mandate to choose a candidate among themselves to represent a constituency with thousands of voters?"
The Forum has called for a review of the party's constitution saying it should be reviewed to tally with the current thinking of supporters. It insists people should be free to elect a candidate of their choice at all times.
The supporters lashed out at Tsvangirai for failing to defend the people's interests for which he claims to stand for.
"In 2005 when Professor Welshman Ncube pulled out of the MDC over the disagreement on whether to have a senate or not, he (Tsvangirai) stood firm with the people saying the economy was too weak to sustain the senate. He said he would remain alone as long as he was doing what the people wanted. The people supported him through and through. But this time he will have to choose between what the people want and the so-called confirmation of sitting MPs which the people do not want."
With Zimbabwe's unemployment rate reportedly hovering above 80%, MDC-T supporters fear sitting MPs are going to use corrupt means to retain their positions.
The Supporters' Forum claims vote-buying is rampant in Harare, Bulawayo, Masvingo and Chitungwiza.