Infighting deepened in the MDC-T party yesterday as the leader Morgan Tsvangirai was said to have been suspended in a boardroom coup.
The MDC Team, a group of people calling for leadership renewal in the MDC-T, yesterday announced in Harare that the party's national council members had voted for the suspension of the former premier and other party leaders who have been seen to be sympathising with him.
Other members, who were shown the exit door were Tsvangirai's deputy, Thokozani Khupe, national chairman Lovemore Moyo and his deputy Morgan Komichi, national organising secretary Nelson Chamisa and his deputy Abednico Bhebhe and national spokesperson Douglas Mwonzora.
The meeting that was attended by several party officials and sitting MPs, lifted the suspensions imposed on party deputy
treasurer-general Elton Mangoma, youth assembly secretary Promise Mkwananzi, national executive member Last Maengahama and lawyer Jacob Mafume.
Speaking on behalf of the renewal team, former Water minister in the inclusive government, Samuel Sipepa-Nkomo who chaired the meeting yesterday and is also secretary of the party's Guardian Council said they had decided to suspend the seven top leaders because they had proved to be undemocratic.
"The national executive has decided to suspend the seven pending a tribunal. The suspensions will be formalized. Their charge sheets are being prepared and they will appear before a tribunal to answer their charges," Nkomo said, amid cheers from the crowd of about 300 people who attended the meeting.
"We have decided to reverse the so called suspension of Mangoma, Maengahama, Mafume and Mkwananzi. They are full of the party now. All these suspensions meant to put their cronies ahead of congress have been reversed."
Tsvangirai had suspended Mangoma and expelled Maengahama, Mafume and Mkwananzi for discussing party issues in the media.
This followed the attack on Mangoma at the party's headquarters in Harare after a meeting to discuss his letter calling for Tsvangirai to step down. Mangoma wrote to Tsvangirai asking him to step down claiming the former premier was no longer an asset to the party.
Mangoma's call that came after the MDC-T's heavy electoral loss to President Robert Mugabe and his Zanu PF party in last July's general elections, triggered serious infighting.
Tsvangirai's spokesperson Luke Tamborinyoka yesterday referred questions to Mwonzora who described the move as a clumsy attempt by "spineless" people who feared to contest for positions at congress.
"This is not an MDC national council. This meeting is a culmination of an elaborate progamme of covert operations by State security agents, Zanu PF, Mugabe and a few malcontents from the MDC led by Welshman Ncube to destabilize the party. Their resolutions are meaningless and impotent. Tsvangirai and his leadership will remain in office," Mwonzora said.
He said the party's critical organs would meet in the following two days to strategise and resolve the infighting once and for all.
But Nkomo claimed about 138 national council members out of the party's 178 attended yesterday's meeting and voted for the suspension of the seven.
He said for the party to avoid a leadership vacuum after the ouster of the top leadership, the party's guardian council which is led by Sekai Holland would take charge until the next elections.
Party secretary-general Tendai Biti, who had kept the party guessing about his involvement in a team opposed to Tsvangirai's leadership, came out in the open yesterday declaring that they were practicing their "constitutional right of disassociation" not to deal with the seven because they had violated the founding principles of the party.
He said the party had diverted from the core values that influenced its formation because of people who were keen to stifle people's democratic right to express their views freely.
"The party had been hijacked by a dangerous fascist clique bent on destroying the same and totally working against the working people of Zimbabwe," Biti said.
Biti said his team was made up of true democrats who denounce the use of violence, a patronage system, intimidation, privatization of the party, wanton disregard of the party's constitution, dishonesty, absence of personal accountability, and factionalism and use of informal channels such as a kitchen cabinet, among an array of problems.
They also accused Tsvangirai's team of disregarding women and children, with the team's supporters describing the former premier as "Gumbura", due to his flirtation with several women.
RMG Independent End Time Message church leader, Robert Martin Gumbura was recently sentenced to 40 years for rape.
Biti said the inclusive government openly exposed Tsvangirai, accusing his former boss of being out-smitten by Mugabe during the period and stampeding the party into elections without reforms. He also claimed that Tsvangirai abused party money running into millions of dollars.
Zimbabwe, Biti said, was facing a legitimacy crisis that was affecting the country's economy. He said there was need for fresh elections to be held after reforms were made to the electoral process. The former Finance minister also called for Zimbabwe to go back to the curatorship of Sadc for reforms to be implemented ahead of elections.
He said the new establishment would move around the country reinvigorating structures and forging an alliance with students, churches, civil society organizations and other parties to unseat Zanu PF in the forthcoming elections.
Former Energy Minister Mangoma, Kambuzuma MP Willias Madzimure, former Bikita West MP Heya Shoko, former Youth and Indigenization deputy minister Tongai Mathuthu, Evelyn Masaiti, former Marondera MP Ian Kay and his wife, Paul and Solomon Madzore, former director in Tsvangirai's office, Charles Mangongera, Edwin Mushonga and Costa Muguti attended the meeting.
Several party provincial chairpersons also attended the meeting. They include Paul Madzore (Harare), Wachi Sibanda (Matabeleland South), Wilfstus Sitemere (Masvingo), Costin Muguti (Midlands North), Julius Magarangoma (Manicaland), Sengezo Tshabangu (Matabeleland North). Other officials who attended are Bulawayo provincial secretary Regie Moyo as well as Evelyn Masaiti from the Women's Assembly, while other leaders reportedly gave apologies.
Biti said he would write to the Speaker of Parliament, Jacob Mudenda and Local Government Minister Ignatius Chombo to seek the protection of sitting MPs and councilors from being recalled.
He said he was aware Tsvangirai's team would not go down without fighting, "using violence, as they are used to." He however said contingency plans had been put in place to protect the officials from the violence.
"We are committed to put the struggle forward," Biti said. "The struggle had become sterile and there is need for renewal and return to democracy."