By Tererai Karimakwenda
SW Radio Africa
28 April 2014
The chaos that has engulfed Zimbabwe’s opposition MDC-T party reached a new peak this weekend as a faction that has been calling for leadership renewal held a meeting and voted to “suspend” party leader Morgan Tsvangirai and several other top party officials.
Led by secretary general Tendai Biti, who has been at the forefront of calls to replace Tsvangirai, the meeting was held Saturday at the Mandel Training Centre in Harare and attended by many party officials, including Elton Mangoma, Solomon Madzore and Sam Sipepa Nkomo, who chaired the meeting.
The MDC-T spokesperson Douglas Mwonzora wasted no time responding to the ‘rebels’ actions, dismissing the meeting itself as “unconstitutional” and nullifying the resolutions made. Mwonzora immediately announced that they would notify parliament to remove all ‘rebel’ MPs who had attended the ‘unconstitutional and illegal meeting.’
But Sipepa Nkomo told SW Radio Africa that the meeting was legally constituted and Biti had the power to convene such a gathering. He said the meeting was attended by chairpersons from 9 out of the 12 provinces, as well 138 out of 176 National Council members who qualified to vote. This was enough to provide a quorum.
Sipepa Nkomo explained that the agenda was to discuss the current situation in the party, especially the violence, suspensions, abuse of power by top leaders and the economic crisis that has gripped the country.
The delegates voted to suspend party president Morgan Tsvangirai, vice president Thokozani Khupe, national chairman Lovemore Moyo, deputy national chairman Morgen Komichi and spokesperson Douglas Mwonzora. Organising Secretary Nelson Chamisa and his deputy Abednico Bhebhe were also suspended.
Sekai Holland, who served as Minister for Healing and Reconciliation in the unity government, was appointed the interim president.
MDC-T spokesman Douglas Mwonzora provided conflicting figures on the ‘illegal’ meeting, insisting in a statement that only 33 out of 195 members of the National Council had attended Biti’s meeting. He described the gathering as “an attempt at an awkward coup d’état by people who are apparently afraid to face the electorate at congress”.
The statement also alleged that the meeting was part of “a sustained programme of both overt and covert operations involving ZANU PF, state security agents, Welshman Ncube and the Zimbabwe Institute”. As such “no lawful and binding resolutions can derive from it.” (The Zimbabwe Institute is a donor funded, political think tank that “seeks to facilitate dialogue between the political parties in Zimbabwe, and thereby support a culture of multi-partyism in the country.”)
Sipepa Nkomo dismissed the allegations, saying: “Mwonzora has stooped down too low. During the liberation war Ian Smith saw communists behind every bush. Now they are seeing Welshman Ncube everywhere and it’s a cover-up for their own failings.”
Zimbabweans following these events were left with much confusion as the two camps both used the party constitution to defend their actions. Both have threatened legal action and insist their MPs in parliament are safe from removal.
The National Standing Committee of the Tsvangirai camp met on Monday to try to map a way forward. Meetings of the national executive and council were scheduled for Tuesday.
Meanwhile, the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Union (ZCTU), the labour group that was key to the formation of the MDC-T and Tsvangirai’s strongest ally, moved to support him and to dismiss the rebels, saying they had “taken the road to political oblivion”.
Despite many attempts we were unable to contact Tendai Biti for comment.
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