Infighting in Tsvangirai Party Intensifies As Biti and Mudzuri Are Sidelined
Morgan Tsvangirai, president of the MDC-T and Prime Minister of Zimbabwe, addresses a press conference at his party HQ in Harare on May 16 2010. Tsvangirai is frantically trying to contain a looming threat from two factions in his party that have now joined forces and are pushing for a Congress to be held so that they can challenge his position. Tsvangirai has reacted by stripping Secretary General and Minister of Finance Tendai Biti of the majority of his powers, as well as effectively suspending Elias Mudzuri from the position of National Organising Secretary, a post effectively now held by a Tsvangirai loyalist, Morgan Komichi. The MDC-T Congress, postponed time and again, is now, according to Komichi, only to be held after a General Election in Zimbabwe, whenever that may be.
Harare, Zimbabwe, 25 May 2010Some time back, I was accused of being a nay-sayer, a hater of the MDC etc for pointing out facts that are now emerging to be true.
Last week, Tendai Biti, the most potent and credible challenger to Morgan Tsvangirai in the MDC-T, was cut down to size by the Prime Minister and an executive packed with Tsvangirai loyalists.
Most of Biti's powers as Secretary General of the MDC were transferred to his deputy, Tapiwa Mashakada.
This comes almost a year after the same Morgan Tsvangirai moved silently and swiftly to clip the wings of one other contender, Energy Minister Elias Mudzuri. Mudzuri, although continuing to hold the title of Organising Secretary, is nothing of the sort now, as I report a few months ago.
Instead, Tsvangirai has inserted Morgan Komichi as DeputyOrganising Secretary and has asked him to in effect become the Organising Secretary.
Curiously, the same excuse used for clipping Mudzuri's wings is the one being proffered for the emaciation of Tendai Biti's powers.
The MDC-Tsvangirai says Biti should be given room to concentrate on being Finance Minister. When Mudzuri was told by Morgan Tsvangirai in a face to face meeting that he should step aside from the day to day responsibilities of being Organising Secretary, he was also told that he had concentrate on being Minister of Energy.
Of course, the truth of the matter is that Mudzuri and Biti are the two strongest contenders for Tsvangirai's post and they had to be neutralised by the Prime Minister and his side-kicks.
Mudzuri held sway (and some say still does) as organising secretary because he oversaw the elections for MDC grassroots structures and could move to nullify appointments and elections at the lower levels. He is, in effect, a kingmaker in the party as far as the ambitious foot-soldiers are concerned.
Mudzuri has a formidable base and is said to have joined forces with another group whose leader was denied a leadership position by Morgan Tsvangirai even after she had been voted into office by an MDC-Tsvangirai Congress.
Biti, meantime, believes that Morgan Tsvangirai's time has come and gone, that the Prime Minister has reached the apex of his capabilities as leader of the opposition movement in Zimbabwe.
Biti and Mudzuri have forged an alliance designed specifically to dislodge Morgan Tsvangirai from the leadership and talk of "leadership renewal" now fills the corridors of Harvest House, the MDC-Tsvangirai Head Office in downtown Harare.
Tsvangirai refuses to take any of this lying down and has reverted to type. The youths that the MDC leader relies on to intimidate internal perceived "enemies"have now come out of the woodwork. Violence, which was reported on by the independent media, erupted at the MDC HQ three weeks ago and it is now emerging that the violence was instigated by the Prime Minister's youths.
The reason for this is as follows:
Tsvangirai says he has gotten wind of plans by the Secretary General and Finance Minister, Tendai Biti, together with Minister Mudzuri, to compel the party to hold a Congress of the MDC (which has been put off for some time now).
At this Congress, Biti was to be nominated to challenge Morgan Tsvangirai, with Elias Mudzuri as Deputy President.
The truth of this widespread talk (which is now so common in Harare that you hear it discussed in public transport vehicles), was betrayed by a statement made by Deputy Organising Secretary (and de facto Organising Secretary of the MDC-T), Morgan Komichi over the weekend.
Komichi told reporters that the MDC-T has now resolved to postpone the holding of a Congress even further:
"We have resolved as a party that we will only hold our Congress after General Elections and that decision was agreed on by the standing committee, national executive and national council."
These undercurrents betray deep divisions with in the MDC-T, which have been made worse by the naked attempts from Tsvangirai to enshrine himself at the head of the party indefinitely.
Having once campaigned on the platform of term limits, Morgan Tsvangirai now says openly that in a true democracy, term limits are not imposed by constitutions but by elections, at which failing leaders get booted out.
Of course, following in the footsteps of Mugabe, he refuses to accept that despotic leadership using violence as a crutch, as he himself is now doing to stay at the top of the MDC-T food chain, will always ensure that unpopular and failing leaders stay in power long past their sell-by date.
One interesting side story to this is the blacklisting of Nelson Chamisa, the MDC Spokesman, by Morgan Tsvangirai, on the basis that he is seen as being too close to Tendai Biti and would help him vault to the leadership position using his position as Publicity Guru for the MDC-Tsvangirai.
Chamisa complained about this at the last meeting of the leadership of the MDC (this past week) but was apparently quickly silenced.
The history of the violence unleashed by Morgan Tsvangirai goes back to 2005, during the time when the MDC was about to split, resulting in the formation of the MDC led by Arthur Mutambara.
A public report compiled by a Commission of Inquiry led by Morgan Tsvangirai (it was published in December 2005 and is freely available in public) states that youths who threatened to beat up then Secretary General Welshman Ncube and sought to confiscate his party vehicle accused him of "wanting to depose the president (Tsvangirai)".
Tsvangirai never disputed this assertion and made no moves to deny the facts in that violent episode. In fact, one of the youths named in the report as having supplied money and support to the youths loyal to Tsvangirai is now a senior official in the Prime Minister's office, part of the group whose meagre government salaries are boosted by donor funds so that they each earn around US$7 000 a month when all other civil servants are on barely US$200 per month.
Of course, the usual refrain from Tsvangirai apologists are to heard: the infighting is either a figment of MDC opponents' imaginations or sowed by ZANU PF!
Naturally, some of us are immune to that sort of nonsense, because we also experienced the very same praise-singing during teh heydays of Mugabe's rule. When Mugabe was at the height of his popularity, even as he sent thugs into townships to force people to attend ZANU PF meeting, even as trampled on rights and rewarded corruption at the expense of competence, Mugabe apologists and supporters, including even some gullible neutral observers, insisted that Mugabe himself was the model of reason and that it was his functionaries and underlings who were destroying his good name.
All warnings from opponents were dismissed with contempt.
It was only around 1999, when Mugabe's power was directly being assaulted, that he dropped all pretence and climbed down from the ivory tower to mingle with the corruption in public and to come straight out to endorse some questionable policies and antics of his supporters, officials and ministers.
The signs that Tsvangirai is a Mugabe mini-me have been around for some time, but some people choose to want to shout others down and keep the truth from getting out. They are failing, mostly because Tsvangirai is proving to be his own worst enemy.
The Prime Minister , in fact, told a group of his friends and confidantes on his return from a trip to Korea and the USA last week that his position is so secure within the MDC that "We can get away with anything".
His supporters and apologists make this astonishing boast a reality.
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