After losing the battle within the national executive (NE) and national council (NC) two weeks ago to consolidate power in his office while weakening the secretary- general (SG)’s position and aiding his close ally, deputy chairperson Morgen Komichi to become co-vice-president, MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai is picking up the pieces to remain at the helm despite growing signs of insecurity.
Tsvangirai is headed for re-election as MDC-T leader — after the second party split following the departure of former SG Tendai Biti and his MDC Renewal Team colleagues — unopposed.
This will come after Tsvangirai was recently blocked by NE and NC from fortifying his position, while weakening the post of SG which has been a rival centre of power within the party since its formation in 1999.
Besides Biti, founding MDC SG Welshman Ncube and his allies broke away from the party in 2005 complaining about Tsvangirai’s leadership style after he refused to concede defeat in an internal vote over senate elections.
In the aftermath of NE and NC meetings on September 18 and 19 respectively, Tsvangirai has been on the roll and is heading for unopposed re-election.
The NC resolved, a day after an NE meeting which lasted eleven-and-a-half hours until midnight, on September 19 that proposals by a constitutional reform committee led by Komichi to fortify Tsvangirai’s position, while weakening the SG’s office and introducing two vice-presidents were objectionable.
However, Tsvangirai and his allies managed to salvage something from the NE and NC meetings after some recommendations of the institutional reform committee were adopted. The committees were set up to gather views of MDC-T members on how the party can further adopt constitutional and institutional reforms in the aftermath of a second split ahead of congress at the end of this month.
Among the key resolutions made after protracted debate are that the 14 standing committee members, including Tsvangirai, will be directly elected at congress, the standing committee has been expanded to include the position of deputy secretary for information and publicity and secretary for elections who, once the selection criteria is finalised, will also sit in the standing committee and the party will respect gender parity in line with its constitution and ensure this in its structures.
While some of these resolutions helped to strengthen Tsvangirai’s grip on the party, others weakened him, for instance ensuring all standing committee members will be elected is not a gain for him, while expanding the committee might help him to include more loyalists in it.
Despite the NE and NC reversals, Tsvangirai is almost assured of retaining the MDC-T presidency without a challenge amid indications the party’s 15 provinces will nominate him for the position.
MDC-T now has 15 provinces after the NC approved recommendations that the party embraces structures in the diaspora resulting in the South Africa, United Kingdom and United States branches being upgraded to provinces.
So far six provinces — Masvingo, Chitungwiza, Harare, Mashonaland Central and Mashonaland West and Midlands North — have made their nominations and all have nominated Tsvangirai.
Indications are that all provinces are likely to nominate him for the presidency, more so because no one is challenging him.
The most interesting battle will be the fight between organising secretary Nelson Chamisa, secretary for information and publicity Douglas Mwonzora and deputy SG Tapiwa Mashakada who are vying for the powerful SG position.
Relations between Mwonzora and Chamisa have rapidly deteriorated with Mwonzora accusing the organising department, headed by Chamisa, of manipulating results in Harare and Mashonaland East, while there were allegations of vote-buying in Masvingo.
Chamisa has so far been nominated by all six provinces, while Mwonzora is leading the nominations for the information and publicity office, which could be his fallback position if he is defeated.
Chamisa is confident of victory and has already promised to “chlorinate” the position, giving the impression that Mwonzora and Mashakada have no chance.
“I also want to thank my brothers and comrades Dr T Mashakada and D Mwonzora for making our democracy work and proving that we are the genuine alternative people yearn and deserve,” wrote Chamisa on his Facebook page this week. “Saying this, I am not unconscious of the full meaning of the onerous task ahead of us and before us. I am not unmindful of the controversies and anxieties the post has in the past incited.”
Mwonzora told the Zimbabwe Independent this week he was still confident of landing the post despite falling behind in nominations.
“All one needs is a single nomination to be involved in elections at congress and I am confident I will be nominated by several provinces. As you know the organising department handled the nominations and, naturally, if there is an interested party, they start with where they think they are strong, but watch what will happen in the next few days,” Mwonzora said.
“So far only five (now six) of the 15 provinces have done their nominations, but even then, there were some irregularities.”