The Herald (Harare)

28 April 2014

Zimbabwe: 2005 - the Last Time It Happened

editorial

THE suspension of opposition MDC-T leader Mr Morgan Tsvangirai by the national council on Saturday becomes the second such ouster bid during his stint at the helm of the main opposition party.

On both occasions, Mr Tsvangirai has been accused variously of paucity of leadership, violating the party constitution, using party youths to bash opponents and sowing division in party structures.

The latest charge sheet incorporates alleged financial impropriety and a taste for the jet-set lifestyle at the expense of the party

Ironically, successive secretaries general of the MDC have been spearheading the ouster bids with Professor Welshman Ncube spearheading the 2005 campaign while Mr Tendai Biti is at the forefront of the latest bid.

Former deputy secretary general, Gift Chimanikire, announced Mr Tsvangirai's suspension on November 27, 2005 and was expelled on December 23 the same year -- leading to the split of the original MDC into MDC-T and the MDC.

An MDC disciplinary committee chaired by the late vice president, Mr Gibson Sibanda, recommended Mr Tsvangirai's suspension and subsequent expulsion with Mr Tsvangirai being ordered to return all party property.

He was told he could appeal at congress.

The drastic measures were taken after Mr Tsvangirai lied that the national council had resolved not to participate in Senate elections that were slated for November that year, yet the party's national council had voted by a simple majority vote of 33 to 31 in favour of participation.

On October 12, 2005, the MDC-T national council resolved to participate in the Senate elections despite party leader Mr Tsvangirai insisting on boycotting the event.

They also accused Mr Tsvangirai of ordering party secretary general Prof Ncube to reinstate some rowdy youths suspended from the party for fanning violence and during some of the meetings he addressed, denigrated party officials.

According to sequence of events, in November 2005 Prof Ncube and a team of sympathisers broke away from the MDC -- running away with party funds, official name and symbols over disagreements over Senate.

Although Mr Biti has been engineering proceedings of the MDC-Team Renewal agenda, putting deputy treasurer Mr Elton Mangoma on the forefront, it emerged on Saturday that he might be the power behind MDC-Team.

Unlike the 2005 split where the leaders failed to agree on the way forward when Mr Tsvangirai and his backers were against participating in Senate polls and Prof Ncube and other members were for the idea, this time the war is for Mr Tsvangirai's resignation to allow others to lead the struggle.

In October 2005, Mr Tsvangirai dubbed Prof Ncube and his top six members, Messrs Sibanda, Isaac Matongo, Chimanikire, Fletcher Dulini Ncube and Paul Themba Nyathi who favoured participating in Senate elections "opportunists".

Mr Tsvangirai said he did not care if the party split.

In light of Prof Ncube's failure to push Tsvangirai out in 2005, questions have been raised as to whether Mr Biti and his team can succeed this time around where apart from Mr Tsvangirai, they have also suspended party deputy president Ms Thokozani Khupe, national organising secretary Mr Nelson Chamisa and his deputy Abednigo Bhebhe, national chairman Mr Lovemore Moyo, his deputy Mr Morgen Komichi, spokesperson Mr Douglas Mwonzora on allegations of using violence to silence dissenting voices within the party.

The MDC-Team said it had tied all loose ends and was confident of achieving its objectives of freeing the party from Mr Tsvangirai.

They said all questions and loopholes to be taken advantage of had been closed and this time Mr Tsvangirai was alone.

"We used section 12 of the constitution that reads that if you want to suspend a national council member, the national council must vote with a two thirds majority and once they vote, the person is automatically suspended.

"The charges were laid out to them and they decided not to come attend the meeting. We advised them, the secretary general called the national council and they decided to go on a frolic instead of attending that crucial meeting," said MDC-Team spokesperson Mr Jacob Mafume.

Mr Mafume said by the time Mr Tsvangirai was done with the legal hurdles that were set before him, the team renewal would be pursuing its grand plan "that I will not disclose now."

However, speaking for the Tsvangirai camp, suspended party spokesperson Mr Douglas Mwonzora dismissed the Mandel declaration as a legal nullity saying Mr Biti had no locus standi to convene the meeting.

"A large number of the attendees were non-portfolio-holding youths specifically hired and paid to make up the numbers.

"It is absurd that in this meeting, people who were expelled/or suspended from the party sat in the meeting that purported to uplift their suspension and/or expulsion.

"It therefore follows that the purported national council meeting fundamentally violated the provisions of the MDC Constitution.

"The fact that this could happen with the blessing of the secretary-general who is a senior lawyer in his own right shows that this was an attempt at an awkward coup de tat by people who are apparently afraid to face the electorate at congress," he said.

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