MDC-T Poised To Fire Tsvangirai

Tendai Biti speaking at the press conference at party Headquarters yersterday, Wednesday 06 March 2009, at which he issued an ultimatum to Tsvangirai and Mugabe to resolve "outstanding issues" during their scheduled routine meeting on Monday 11 May, failing which the MDC-T would refer the matter back to their National Council

Nine MDC-T members of parliament, including three cabinet ministers, have taken a hard line against their own leader Morgan Tsvangirai, giving him until Monday to confront Mugabe and get the "outstanding issues" resolved. The nine consolidated their position on Tuesday night, in the wake of Mugabe's government sending MDC-T activists back to jail.

Mugabe is aware of the moves against Tsvangirai within the MDC-T and it said he is more comfortable dealing with Tsvangirai, whom he feels he can manipulate and bully. This was the reason why he scrambled to strengthen the Prime Minister's hand by having the activists released on bail yesterday.

THe dictator feels Tsvangirai is easier to deal with than, say Biti or any other unknown quantity that may emerge from the MDC-T as a new leader.

In an escalation of the issue and an indication of how serious the rebels in MDC-T are, two senior members of the party, claiming to be acting on behalf of what they call "the majority of the National Council" (the supreme decision-making body in the MDC-T), approached a senior Zimbabwean politician yesterday (Wednesday) asking if he would be interested in leading the opposition party in the event of the MDC-T deciding to recall Tsvangirai.

This move dovetails with the statement issued by the firebrand MDC-T Secretary-General and Zimbabwe Coalition government Finance Minister, Tendai Biti on Wednesday, in which he complained of the outstanding issues that Tsvangirai and Mugabe have failed to resolve.

There is increasing frustration within the MDC-T with their leader because of what a member of staff the Prime Minister's office has called his "mellowing".

For instance, Tsvangirai's political strategist (PM's Office) has consistently told his boss that he is mistaken to buy Mugabe's excuses that there are "hardliners" in ZANU PF and the military bent on destroying the Unity Government. He is of the opinion that it is Mugabe himself who directing events, a position that this blog has consistently taken.

When Tendai Biti tabled a motion to investigate Gideon Gono during a recent cabinet meeting, for instance, he expected Tsvangirai to back him up. But the Prime Minister remained silent as Biti and Mutambara, backed by some ZANU PF ministers, pressed Mugabe on the matter.

Biti subsequently confronted Tsvangirai after that cabinet meeting to ask why his Prime Minister had "hung him out to dry".

The Prime Minister is said to have said that he preferred to raise these issues with Mugabe in the Monday meetings they hold together in order for Tsvangirai to report to Mugabe on government business.

The Finance Minister then retorted that the Monday meetings were failing to have an impact on the attitude of Mugabe and ZANU PF towards MDC-T in government.

This was just one in a long line of frustrations the senior leadership of the opposition party have had with their president.

It is reliably understood that Tsvangirai was against the press conference that Tendai Biti called on Wednesday. It was at that press conference that Biti announced his was giving an ultimatum to Tsvangirai, Mugabe and Mutambara to resolve outstanding issues by Monday.

On Monday, Tsvangirai reports to Mugabe as per their weekly routine and the leadership of the MDC-T will be waiting to hear from the Prime Minister what would have transpired.

If Tsvangirai fails to resolve matters in that meeting, Biti says the matter will be referred back to the National Council for deliberations on the way forward. Privately, it is now clear that the next option being considered is the recalling of Tsvangirai from the leadership.

During his Wednesday press conference, Biti repeated that pulling out of government is out of the question.

There is a problem with this.

The Global Political Agreement is a very personalised document. It specifies that the office of Prime Minister shall be occupied by Morgan Tsvangirai and that of president will be occupied by Robert Mugabe.

Recalling Tsvangirai would essentially mean the death of the GNU, which is a contradiction of Biti's insistence that his party will not pull out of the GNU. The MDC-T can only recall Tsvangirai from the leadership of the MDC-T, and not from the Prime Ministerial post.

But if Tsvangirai refused to vacate the PM office, who would he be representing there if his own party has recalled him and elected someone else to be their president?

It is a prickly pear.

And it strengthens Tsvangirai's argument. When he refused to be part of the "issuing of the ultimatum" yesterday, he said it was unwise to give yet another ultimatum which, if not met, would result in the MDC not doing anything but continuing in government. He said he feared the party would not be taken seriously anymore if it kept issuing these deadlines and not acting when the deadlines come up.

Personally, I do not see how the rebels can triumph against Tsvangirai. Although they claim to have the majority of the National Council on their side, this is no guarantee that they will succeed.

Tsvangirai has shown before he is capable of going against the entire National Council like he did during the split with Welshman Ncube, Gift Chimanikire, Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga and others, which resulted in the split that saw the formation of the group now led by Arthur Mutambara.

Let's wait and see. We don't have long to wait. This coming Monday, obviously, Tsvangirai will fail yet again to have these issues resolved by Mugabe and then the matter will be taken by the MDC-T to the Council on 17 May.


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