23 March 2014

Zimbabwe: Tsvangirai Snubs Party Elders

AS factional fights intensify in the MDC-T, embattled former Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai has thrown out a proposal by the party's council of elders to diffuse the leadership crisis now threatening to tear apart the labour-based movement, The Standard has learnt.

Instead, the MDC leader together with his close associates has allegedly embarked on a "scorched-earth policy" getting rid of all those calling for leadership renewal in the party.

The council of elders was established to offer guidance, wisdom and ensure party leaders stick to its founding values as espoused in the party's Constitution.

In a report entitled Guardian's Council Proposals on the Way Forward for the MDC-T, the elders advised Tsvangirai to stop his countrywide tours to drum up support until a commission to oversee verification of structures was set up in case of an early extraordinary congress.

Sources said the former premier disregarded the elders' advice because he viewed most of them as sympathetic to suspended party deputy treasurer-general, Elton Mangoma, who has been calling for his ouster.

Tsvangirai has, on the contrary, proceeded to hold countrywide rallies.

"All visits and engagements with structures be ceased forthwith until a decision has been made on these proposals to avoid discord during this delicate period," said the Elders' report dated March 4 2014.

"It is clear at this juncture, further engagements with the structures will continue to polarise and perpetuate entrenched positions and divisions."

The advice comes in the wake of increased calls for Tsvangirai to relinquish power after failing to dislodge President Robert Mugabe in three successive national elections since the formation of the party in 1999.

Secretary to the Guardian Council, Samuel Sipepa-Nkomo confirmed writing to Tsvangirai advising on the way forward.

"Our proposals were given to President Tsvangirai and we are waiting for him to allow us to speak to all members of the standing committee," he said. "We are hoping that our proposals will be taken into consideration."

But sources said Tsvangirai has crafted his own roadmap which was set into motion with the suspension of Mangoma, who had written to the Ex-Prime Minister advising him to step down to allow leadership renewal.

He has also disregarded the council of elders and embarked on countrywide tours to drum up political support. So far, Tsvangirai has addressed rallies in Harare, Marondera, Chitungwiza and Bulawayo where those supporting Mangoma and party secretary general were labelled traitors.

"They have identified all members perceived to be siding with leadership renewal callers, purging through suspensions pending expulsions, intimidations, frustration and violence," said one of the sources. "That's why he is violating his constitution and not listening to the Guardian council."

MDC-T spokesperson, Douglas Mwonzora said the party had not yet seen the proposal by the Guardian council.

"The Guardian council has not yet presented its papers to us. Ask [Luke] Tamborinyoka but I doubt it," said Mwonzora.

Tamborinyoka, who is Tsvangirai's spokesperson, could not be reached for comment as he was said to be travelling to Chipinge for a rally.

Mangoma, who was assaulted by party activists in the presence of Tsvangirai at Harvest House last month, is said to be working closely with Biti.

This view gained currency when Biti declared that Mangoma's suspension by the party's national council was "null and void", a direct challenge to Tsvangirai.

Before Mangoma, several senior party officials including treasurer general Roy Bennett, former Marondera MP Ian Kay, Warren Park MP Elias Mudzuri and Eddie Cross had publicly said the MDC-T needed to seriously consider leadership renewal.

Members of the council include Sekai Holland, James Makore and Cephas Makuyana.

I WILL NOT DIE IN OFFICE, SAYS TSVANGIRAI

MDC-T President Morgan Tsvangirai has renewed calls for an early election saying the country's dire economic situation can only be resolved by returning to the polls.

Speaking at a rally held at Tafara in Chipinge East, Tsvangirai said 2018 was too far for an election as companies continued to close, while millions remained unemployed.

"The economic situation is telling us that the election must come earlier than 2018," he said. "It is that [national] crisis that we should deal with and we are calling for dialogue of all stakeholders and not a second GNU [Government of National Unity] as misinterpreted by others."

Zimbabwe's unemployment rate is hovering well over 80% according to estimates, while investors are reluctant to bring in capital into the ailing economy.

Tsvangirai was trounced in last year's July 31 elections which brought an end to the four year old inclusive government.

Turning to strife bedeviling the MDC lately, Tsvangirai said he would hand over party leadership to a younger person at a "certain" time.

"Leadership renewal is good but it becomes an issue for the MDC and not those who are 90 years and want to die in office. I don't want to die in office.

"I will leave the party to a new generation at a certain stage but it will only happen through a congress and not a hostile takeover," he said.

His remarks come after MDC deputy treasurer Elton Mangoma and other party leaders were recently beaten up for calling for Tsvangirai's ouster.

"We will have our congress. We are bringing it forward from 2016. Everyone will be free to contest any position. It is that forum which makes and unmakes leaders in the MDC, he said.

"If you are an MDC person and you see yourself being lauded by Zanu PF, then there is something wrong with you."

Tsvangirai denounced violence and said the MDC should never be compared to Zanu PF arguing that after all "it is Mugabe who said that he has degrees in violence".

"Violence is not a part of our values," he said.

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