It’s now game on in Morgan Tsvangirai’s MDC after the party rejected plans to handpick members of the standing committee instead of electing them through popular vote.
The decision, taken on Saturday by the National Council, paves way for elections at the October congress.
Efforts by the party’s deputy national chairman Morgen Komichi to amend the party’s constitution to dilute powers of the secretary general hit a brick wall when the National Council voted against the proposal on Saturday
The heated National Council meeting was held a day after the National Executive held an explosive 11-hour meeting at the party’s Harvest House headquarters.Douglas Mwonzora, the MDC secretary general, told journalists that “we have been able to keep the party on its democratic path.”
“It is not part of president Tsvangirai’s DNA to be a dictator,” he said. “He is not going to handpick persons like what (President Robert) Mugabe does. Zanu PF is copying us and there is nowhere we could go where Zanu PF is coming from.”
In Zanu PF, all members of the politburo, save for those of the presidium, are appointed by the party’s leader.
Mwonzora announced an expansion of the MDC’s standing committee, which presently has 13 positions, to include the deputy secretary for information and publicity and the secretary for elections.
“The standing committee members, including the president will be directly elected by the people at congress,” Mwonzora said.
With the opposition party having cleared the initial hurdles that were threatening to foment divisions ahead of the extraordinary congress, Mwonzora said “the door is now open for all who want to contest for positions” to do so at the congress scheduled for October 29 and 31 in Harare.
The MDC has marginally trimmed the powers of the secretary general, who now has to report to the president, but his powers remain largely unchanged.
Following the departure of two secretary generals, Welshman Ncube and more recently, Tendai Biti, the Komichi camp was pushing for the removal of the post altogether but Mwonzora said the party identified that it was not the office that is at fault but the personalities of previous secretary generals.
“The source of abuse of the office of the secretary general has been a combination of personal attitudes and inclinations and the vagueness of the office. We have thus made this clear in our amendments,” he said.
The party’s congress will be conducted by an “independent commission”.