What Happened At The MDC National Council Meeting On Sunday, May 17?

Tendai Biti and Nelson Chamisa (above) as well as Roy Bennett and other members outside cabinet, rammed through the resolution to take the "outstanding issues" back to SADC and AU, despite Tsvangirai's resistance. The Prime Minister would have lost not only the argument but even his job as head of the party is he had refused to capitulate to his Council

Morgan Tsvangirai was left all alone in the MDC-T National Council meeting held in Masvingo on Sunday as the rest of his executive argued against the continued status quo in the MDC-PF Coalition regime.

Not a single member of the National Council backed the Prime Minister's position that time was needed to bring Mugabe around. Not a single one of them thought it wise to listen to the Prime Minister's advice counselling "patience".

Tsvangirai was again in the mood to defend Mugabe, saying the dictator was "tired" but that if he were to push matters, the whole government could crumble around their ears, plunging Zimbabwe into an even deeper crisis from which neither the MDC-T nor ZANU PF would benefit.

At one time, he asked the gathering whether they thought they could achieve anything by going back to the days of running battles and harassment from the police and whether they thought they could achieve anything by abandoning everything now, before they had had a chance to put in place measures that would make a news election fairer and the playing field more level.

From the beginning of the meeting, it was clear that National Council wanted Tsvangirai to send a big signal to ZANU PF that what they continue to do is unacceptable. 

About half of those present (including Nelson Chamisa) favoured pulling out altogether, but it was Tendai Biti who argued against this, saying staying in government allowed the MDC-T to claim credit for changing the economic situation of Zimbabweans. He also agreed that they had to stay in to get a new constitution, licence new media players and influence the environment as much as possible in their favour for the next elections.

He argued it was quite possible to continue the work of government while fighting for "political space". He believes there are important areas where the MDC is proving influential and more are available.

In the end, the Council decided that it had "to be seen to be doing something" about all these violations.

One member reminded the gathering that SADC and the African Union were guarantors of the whole deal and could be appealed to to knock sense into Mugabe's head.

Tsvangirai pointed out that this would not achieve any results, reminding the gathering that these are the very same issues that he had tried to raise with the regional and continental groupings after signing, as the MDC-T refused to be sworn in.

He explained how both Jakaya Kikwete, whom he called a "friend" of the MDC (and who is Chair of the African Union) and the then South African President Motlanthe said these were issues that were out of the facilitation mandate and would have to be resolved by the Joint Implementation and Monitoring Committee set up by the three parties to the agreement.

Some members of the Zimbabwean opposition Supreme Body argued that, be that as it may, they still thought that sending the matter back to SADC would at least show their supporters that they were not taking ZANU PF violations lying down.

And that is how agreement was reached on sending the matter back to SADC and the African Union.

It is important to understand that all this is smoke and mirrors, that the MDC-T National Council knows very well that SADC and the African Union can not force Mugabe to appoint MDC-T ambassadors.

They know the regional bodies will most probably refuse to even step in and instead ask the parties to continue addressing their concerns through JOMIC.

But these are desperate times for the MDC-T and they want to give an impression of doing something about the humiliations they continue to suffer at Mugabe's hands.

Tsvangirai remained opposed to what he called "confrontation" right to the end of the meeting.

This is why he told the gathered masses at the MDC-T 10th Anniversary rally at Macheke Stadium that he was "bound" by his party's decision. He does not like it and would prefer to plod along, ignoring the violations by Mugabe.

But it became very clear during the MDC-T National Council meeting that if he insisted, he risked losing his job as President of the party. So strong was the feeling against the continued status quo that, if he had tried to steamroll his way through, he would elicited a vote of no confidence from the gathering.

As it is, Tsvangirai has saved his job. But for how long? It is clear Mugabe is not going to budge and the frustrations will continue within the opposition.

One interesting fact here is that it does not appear as though this whole thing will lead to a split. It would have done if Tsvangirai had anyone backing in the party, thereby creating two camps: Pro and Anti Tsvangirai.

But, with no one standing by his side in this fight, when the whole thing explodes, it is likely that only Tsvangirai will be the one to be sacrificed.

It is like what happened with Winston Field after the dissolution of the Rhodesia and Nyasaland Federation, when Ian Smith and other hardliners felt that he was not being confrontational enough with Britain in demanding independence for Rhodesia.

In the end, the Rhodesia Front ousted Field and elected Smith, giving themselves more than 15 years of survival as the supreme political force in Rhodesia.

So it will be with Tsvangirai. He has now been mortally wounded politically by this rebellion and it is just a matter of time. His days are definitely numbered, especially if he keeps insisting that Mugabe must be handled with kid gloves.


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