via MDC in crisis | The Zimbabwean by Staff Reporter
MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai has summoned his troops to an emergency strategic retreat this weekend in a desperate attempt to hold his party together in the face of widespread frustration, anger and despair following the fraudulent July 31 elections.
“The main message is that the struggle continues as the elections were stolen and the people should stand up and resist the daylight robbery. The (MDC-T) president will also be meeting with strategic partners such as civil society organisations,” said an inside source. The party is reeling from Zanu (PF)’s monumental electoral fraud and SADC’s shocking announcement in Lilongwe at the weekend that Mugabe would succeed Malawi’s Joyce Banda as the chairperson of the regional body next year.
Party members are devastated by what they see as a lack of leadership and have lashed out at those at the top – especially those who they perceive to have missed the golden opportunity to effect change while sitting in Parliament for the past five years. The party’s long-standing treasurer, Roy Bennett, resigned last week saying he was utterly frustrated at the arrogance of those in leadership.
Social networks are awash with calls for an armed struggle or some form of passive resistance to provide a focus for people’s frustrations.
Tsvangirai is said to have launched a nation-wide grassroots outreach campaign to fortify his supporters in the wake of the shocking failure by regional and African bodies to conduct an audit into the mountain of rigging evidence amassed by opposition parties and civil society organisations.
“Tsvangirai considers the outreach offensive a crucial strategy that will not only bring faith back into the party but also give a rude awakening to Mugabe and Zanu (PF) that they stole the election and cannot get away with that,” said the source on condition of anonymity.
The national spokesperson, Douglas Mwonzora confirmed the emergency meeting, saying “We will be reviewing our position at a special retreat of the National Executive. We are going to be re-strategising regarding how we can carry forward with the struggle but I would like to assure you that we are not going to tire in fighting tyranny.”
Tsvangirai’s spokesperson, Luke Tamborinyoka, insisted to The Zimbabwean that the party still had options to revitalise itself in the post-election period, maintaining that they had not yet exhausted the diplomatic route.
“Of course, what happened at the SADC summit dampens spirits but we remain positive. SADC is still to issue its final report on the elections and we are engaging all the countries in the region,” he said.
Both SADC and African Union observer teams, whose assessments are considered key, are yet to issue their final reports on the elections, which in their preliminary reports they described as free and credible, but held back from declaring fair.
Our contact acknowledged that there were hawks within the National Executive Council who wanted to use the election disaster to dislodge Tsvangirai, saying they were not coming out in the open yet “because they fear political suicide”.
“The reality is that these people know that it will be an uphill task because, unlike Tsvangirai, they don’t have grassroots support. They cannot win against him,” said the source, adding that a small number in the youth and women’s wings also wanted Tsvangirai to go.
There have been reports of Tendai Biti, the Secretary General, gunning for Tsvangirai’s position and mobilising a faction in the nationwide structures to achieve that, but he has dismissed that.
Tamborinyoka dismissed talk of jostling for his boss’s post as unfounded.
“It is hogwash. Leadership is an issue for congress. The party’s national council, which is the supreme body outside of congress, met recently and affirmed Tsvangirai as the party leader. We are a democratic party and congress is the only platform for leadership challenges. Anything else is just bar talk or emanating from Zanu (PF).
“Tsvangirai is a victim of (electoral) fraud and there is no way that we can be tempted to victimise the victim,” he said.
Other highly placed sources confirmed that Tsvangirai had resolved to go back to the grassroots to engage the people because his lieutenants were letting him down.
“He (Tsvangirai) does not trust some of the key leaders anymore because he has discovered that they have hidden agendas and misrepresent facts to him. He is taking more responsibilities to be with the people and assess the situation on his own,” said another contact at Harvest House.
Official results released by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission claim that President Robert Mugabe got 61 percent of the votes in the presidential race, against Tsvangirai’s 34 percent, while Zanu (PF) garnered 160 seats in Parliament and MDC-T 49. Several dossiers of incidents of rigging have been compiled by both wings of the MDC as well as local and regional NGOs.