The fallout over MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai’s controversial decision to elevate Nelson Chamisa and Elias Mudzuri to vice-presidents reached a head last week after the party’s leaders allegedly almost came to blows during a heated standing committee meeting.
Tsvangirai appointed Chamisa and Mudzuri, who joined elected vice-president Thokozani Khupe to ostensibly prepare the MDC-T for the crucial 2018 elections.
The MDC-T leader is battling cancer of the colon and has been flying in and out of the country to seek medical attention in neighbouring South Africa. He said the appointments were also meant to relieve him of pressure of running the party while undergoing treatment.
However, the move has backfired amid reports that divisions in the party’s top echelons have reached crisis levels.
According to impeccable sources, some of the MDC-T’s 11 standing committee members who attended the meeting in Harare on Wednesday exchanged harsh words over Tsvangirai’s decision to appoint Chamisa and Mudzuri.
Those opposed to the appointments reportedly argued that the decision was ultra vires the party’s constitution and should be reversed.
They started by quizzing Tsvangirai on why Chamisa and Mudzuri were sitting at the top table.
“Tsvangirai said he wanted them to familiarise with their new roles while he reports back to the national council of his appointments. This did not go down well with some members,” the senior official said.
“This forced Charlton Hwende to propose that those who opposed Tsvangirai’s appointments should be fired from the party.
“He even said there would be no harm if the party split. But Obert Gutu charged at him, telling him to shut up and called him an idiot.
“Hwende could not take it and there were some bitter exchanges in front of Tsvangirai.”
Those opposed to Tsvangirai’s appointments said the MDC-T leader violated the party’s constitution, which according to section 9(1)(2), he should uphold.
They also argued that according to section 6 of the party’s constitution, Tsvangirai could not appoint vice-presidents.
Instead, the vice-presidents should be appointed through congress, according to section 9(1)(2).
In the event that the national council gives Tsvangirai the power to make such appointments, it should be by way of a secret ballot and there should be consensus.
While Hwende was not reachable for comment yesterday, Gutu was evasive on the matter.
“There is nothing like that; our meetings are very private and confidential and very cordial. It was chaired by president Tsvangirai,” Gutu said.
Hwende is a staunch supporter of Chamisa in the MDC-T succession politics, while Gutu, Mwonzora and others are believed to be backing Khupe. They view Chamisa and Mudzuri’s appointments as a blow to Khupe’s ambitions to succeed Tsvangirai.
Tsvangirai, who is said to have quilled the infighting, agreed to appoint a committee led by Mwonzora to regularise the appointments.
Mwonzora, who beat Chamisa to the post of secretary general before the charismatic Kuwadzana MP was catapulted to become his new boss, said Tsvangirai’s appointment of Mudzuri and his long-time political foe was above board.
“The committee is chaired by the secretary general and it has a few members of the executive who include former senators Morgan Femai and James Makore, among others. it is a constitutional committee which looks on whether the constitution complies with the resolutions of the council,” Mwonzora said.
“It has completed its work and is satisfied that the constitution complies with the decision of the council, but a report will be tabled before the national council touching on the constitution itself as well as the president’s appointments of his two additional deputies.”
He added: “The president of the party Mr Tsvangirai has directed that the national council be summoned to deal with his report on what he has done pursuant to the directive from the council that he appoints vice-presidents.
“He is going to advise the national council and introduce the vice-presidents formally, as well as explain the procedure that was taken.
“At the same time, that meeting for members of the council will go through the constitution to satisfy themselves that everything is above board. A committee has looked at the constitution of the party and is preparing a report to table before the council.
Mwonzora said MDC-T members who took Tsvangirai to court would be dismissed from the party, saying they had not exhausted internal remedies before their court action.
“The president was given a directive by the national council, he implemented it and anyone who does not believe in it should raise their issues when the president reports back to the same organ,” he said.
Mwonzora said he was happy with Tsvangirai’s appointments and pledged to work well with Chamisa, despite reports of a feud between the two.
“I work with the president, I work with vice-president Khupe, she is my superior just like the president, I work with both. I worked less with now vice-president Chamisa because the people we were servicing were our seniors, [but] now that he is my superior, I will now work with him frequently,” he said.
“I don’t feel hurt about it at all previously Chamisa was my superior when he was the spokesperson and then he was the national organiser.
“I became his superior as a secretary general and he is now my superior again. I am not hurt at all, we have been working like that.”
There are fears the MDC-T will split on the eve of a crucial 2018 election if Tsvangirai does not handle the issue well.