The Herald (Harare)

1 February 2014

Zimbabwe: Tsvangirai Refuses to Step Down

MDC-T leader Mr Morgan Tsvangirai is prepared to see the party split again rather than step down from his position.

Mr Tsvangirai is facing growing calls to resign from the MDC-T presidency after losing elections to Zanu-PF and President Mugabe in 2000, 2002, 2005, 2008 and 2013.

There are presently two MDCs, one led by Mr Tsvangirai and another by his former secretary-general, Professor Welshman Ncube. Mr Job Sikhala led another formation until he joined Prof Lovemore Madhuku's National Constitutional Assembly last year.

Yesterday, the MDC-T national executive met in Harare to deliberate on the most recent calls by party deputy treasurer Mr Elton Mangoma for Mr Tsvangirai to call it quits.

Mr Mangoma wrote to Mr Tsvangirai last week telling him to step down.

Sources who attended the meeting said Mr Mangoma was nearly prevented from entering the meeting venue by Mr Tsvangirai's allies.

"The situation was tense with some people aligned to Tsvangirai against Mr Mangoma's presence in the meeting. However, Mangoma and his allies insisted on his position as contained in the letter (to Mr Tsvangirai).

"A number of people also agreed that following the loss suffered in the July 31 (2013) elections there was need for self-introspection and reflection on the leadership of the party.

"Mr Tsvangirai refused to budge saying he was the legitimate leader and threatened that if his opponents do not change their position then another split, like the one that occurred in 2005, was inevitable," said a member of the national executive.

Another official said the meeting ended in a deadlock.

MDC split in 2005 with disagreements over participation in that year's Senate elections.

At that time, the majority of the national executive supported participation in the polls, while Mr Tsvangirai opposed it. Mr Tsvangirai declared then, as now, that he would rather see the party split than have his decision opposed.

This saw Prof Ncube and other high-ranking officials leaving.

On yesterday's meeting, a source said: "At the end all the camps maintained their positions and nothing was resolved."

After the meeting, Mr Mangoma was escorted out under tight security to ensure a mob of Mr Tsvangirai's supporters, who were baying for his blood, did not get their hands on him. That did not stop the mob from singing songs denigrating Mr Mangoma.

Last week, Mr Mangoma said Mr Tsvangirai must resign as he had lost credibility because of his conduct as leader of the party and in his personal life.

Treasurer-general Mr Roy Bennett, former MP Mr Ian Kay, commercial farmer Mr Ben Freeth and former Harare mayor Engineer Elias Mudzuri have all made similar calls.

Party spokesperson Mr Douglas Mwonzora yesterday tried to down-play the issues Mr Mangoma raised.

"That issue was discussed under 'any other business', because the substance of the document is a non-issue to the party. It represents the opinion of one person. As a party we do not suppress our members to express their opinions but at the same time we do not allow them to take their debates to the media.

"While we do not suppress people from expressing their opinions what is important is the decision of the majority and in this case the majority said they still have confidence in the leadership of the party and that we will have congress when it is due in 2016," Mr Mwonzora said.

Mr Mangoma refused to comment.

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