By Prince Tongogara
Morgan Tsvangirai and his lieutenants have learnt nothing and forgotten nothing in the manner in which they handle party splits and eventually drive themselves into legal cul de sac which effectively does not change their position or fortunes but gives them a semblance of movement like a rocking chair.
The MDC-T in March this year split for the second time in less than a decade under the leadership of Tsvangirai in near similar circumstances with allegations of dictatorial and undemocratic tendencies of their leader.
In 2005, the party split after Tsvangirai refused to be bound by the collective decisions of the standing committee and national council that had overwhelmingly voted to participate in the reintroduced senatorial elections.
Tsvangirai’s autocratic decision forced the then secretary general Welshman Ncube and others to form a splinter party (pro-senate MDC) that went on to contest the senatorial elections. The party went into an acrimonious divorce that played out in the courts but was finally resolved outside the courts.
The factions then went on to host independent congresses that sealed the split.
Fast forward to 2014, the MDC now MDC-T splits again after a disputed but resounding trouncing in the July 2013 general elections. There were recriminations in the party with Tsvangirai standing accused of having significantly caused the defeat because of his sexual transgressions.
Some senior leaders in the party started calling for an early congress to elect a successor to Tsvangirai on the template of ‘renewal’. This fueled intra-party violence and subsequent suspensions and counter suspensions.
Like in 2005, the factions were accusing each other of being illegitimate and therefore the true leadership of the party legally speaking has been in doubt ever since.
However, Tsvangirai like in 2005 emerged with the largest support base and tried to use it to recall his opponents from parliament. The party wrote to the speaker of National Assembly in March but the matter was said to be subjudice and the courts should first rule who were the authentic leaders of the party.
Two weeks after holding a congress that re-elected Tsvangirai uncontested, MDC-T for the second time unsuccessfully tried to recall the 18 MPs.
Parliament in response through the speaker said, “I wish to advise you that the alleged resolution made at your MDC-T party congress does not constitute a judicial decision,” it wrote, “In the result, I hereby inform you that I cannot accede to your purported instructions to the Speaker as per your interpretation of section 129 (1) (k) of the Constitution.”
It added, “This was clearly an issue of legitimacy in the administration of the MDC-T Party and that neither the Honourable President of the senate nor the speaker of the National Assembly has any authority to make a determination as to who within the MDC-T party has the right to recall MPs in terms of section 129 (1) (k) of the constitution.”
However, assuming that the MDC-T wins its battle to recall in the Constitutional Court and trigger by-elections in the 13 National Assembly seats it would still be a hallow victory. The party at its congress resolved that it would not participate in any future elections without any electoral reforms.
Party spokesman Obert Gutu was at pains to reconcile the two positions of recalling and participating in the subsequent by-elections.
“We will cross the bridge when we get there,” he tersely responded.
For the second time in a decade the party has failed to manage and control splits and ends up on the wrong end of the law. It shows the party has failed to learn from its past mistakes neither has it forgotten how to come up with bungled decisions.
Whichever way the case will be finally settled, we learn that the MDC-T acts in haste and more often without a plan B or C on how to handle the aftermath of its decisions if they backfire. ‘Insurance’ or ‘fall back plans’ seem to be words that are not in their political lexicon.
For the second time the party finds itself driving into a political and legal cul de sac which neither helps it move forward nor strengthens it but unfortunately dissipates its energy and estimation in the court public opinion.