Bid to oust Morgan Tsvangirai

Source: Bid to oust Morgan Tsvangirai | The Financial Gazette August 12, 2016

EMBATTLED Movement for Democratic Change (MDC-T) deputy president Thokozani Khupe took the fight to her ailing boss, Morgan Tsvangirai, at a stormy National Council meeting held at the party’s headquarters in Harare last week in what could signal an impending split of the country’s largest opposition party, the Financial Gazette can report.
Khupe has been sparring with Tsvangirai behind-closed-doors ever since the MDC-T’s heavy loss to ZANU-PF at the 2013 polls.
The tiff, over Tsvangirai’s leadership style, burst into the public glare last month after the MDC-T leader unilaterally handpicked Nelson Chamisa and Elias Mudzuri, fromhis backroom staff, and appointed them his deputies, alongside Khupe.
Things came to a head on Wednesday last week when Khupe confronted a bewildered Tsvangirai during a tense National Council meeting where a delegate from one of the MDC-T’s 12 provinces openly called for the opposition leader’s immediate resignation.
The indaba, called by Tsvangirai to quieten an uproar triggered by the two appointments, could not end the differences in the party.
If anything, the meeting confirmed Khupe’s growing influence in the MDC-T, which could be unsettling Tsvangirai.
The politician now enjoys the backing of three provinces namely Bulawayo, South Africa and Matabeleland North that are opposed to the appointments.
Khupe, who has served as Tsvangirai’s deputy for the last 12 years, is now seen leading a bid to oust her boss, buoyed by the three provinces and other MDC-T officials who include Douglas Mwonzora, the party’s secretary-general, Abednico Bhebhe, the organising secretary and Obert Gutu, its spokesperson.
Khupe’s camp is making inroads in several other provinces.
During last week’s meeting, the tipping point became Tsvangirai’s report, derived from a National Standing Committee (NSC) meeting that had been held a day earlier.
The NSC meeting had ended in drama after Khupe and her backers walked out on Tsvangirai after he had succeeded in railroading through Chamisa and Mudzuri’s elevation.
And on Wednesday last week, Khupe and her backers sat through the meeting, in which Tsvangirai sought to explain why he had to make the appointments.
After presenting his report, three provinces, led by Bulawayo, objected to the new appointments. The other two are South Africa and Matabeleland North.
Bulawayo provincial party chairman, Gift Banda, led the assault on Tsvangirai’s appointments calling them unconstitutional since the office is an electable position.
Banda was immediately opposed by Masvingo provincial chairman, James Gumbi and Chitungwiza provincial youth chairman, Jabulani Mthunsi, who argued that Tsvangirai had not violated the party’s constitution.
This resulted in a stalemate, forcing the meeting to refer to the MDC-T constitution, with Mwonzora, as secretary general, taking them through the charter.
The MDC-T constitution only states that the president shall appoint a vice president and or vice presidents without specifying the number of the appointments. It would therefore appear that Tsvangirai took advantage of the constitutional ambiguity in making the appointments.
After the reading of the constitution, MDC-T deputy national chairman, Morgan Komichi, who was moderating the meeting on behalf of Lovemore Moyo, who was absent, decided to have the matter decided by voting.
The appointments were endorsed after a vote of nine to three provinces.
The Youth Assembly also endorsed the appointments although the Women’s Assembly boss, Lynette Kore, flatly declined to declare her side.
Regardless, some officials were critical of the voting procedure, which was done through a non-secret vote.
Manicaland provincial chairman, David Chimhini, had appeared uncomfortable with the lack of secrecy in the vote. In the end, he simply said he could not oppose the actions of the president, and this was noted as an endorsement.
Khupe reportedly took to her feet soon after the vote and spent a considerable amount of time taking a swipe at Tsvangirai; accusing him of dictatorial tendencies and of mismanaging the party.
“She (Khupe) openly told Tsvangirai that his decisions were wrong and harmful to the party,” said one official who attended the meeting.
“She remarked thus: ‘We worked together at the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions. You were a good leader then, but now you have changed. What I want you to know is that what you are doing is wrong and unconstitutional. You can hate me or like me, I don’t care, but you must know that I do not agree with you on this,’”  said an MDC-T source.
Emboldened by her courage, Khupe’s backers went for the kill.
As soon as she ended her remarks, a delegate from South Africa province stood up and stunned members when he said Tsvangirai must step down. He said the MDC-T leader had overstayed as president of the party against the provisions of the constitution, which says a leader must serve two five-year terms.
According to MDC-T insiders, all hell broke loose at this point as Tsvangirai’s supporters broke into song and dance in defence of their leader.
“Some youths took it upon themselves to charge at the South African province delegate and started manhandling and harassing him. They were led by Chitungwiza provincial youth secretary, Blessing Tangwara. The South African delegate was then rescued by Harvest House (MDC-T national headquarters where the meeting took place), security people who had been called in to intervene.”
After the situation had calmed down, Khupe reportedly rose again and told Tsvangirai that she now feared for her life.
“You see the wrath of these people? It’s wrong. I don’t even know if I am safe. Am I safe Mr president,” Khupe reportedly pleaded with Tsvangirai, who did not respond.
The new VPs, Chamisa and Mudzuri, were reportedly silent throughout the entire meeting.
Following Khupe’s outbursts, a remorseful Tsvangirai, who occasionally flies to South Africa to undergo chemotherapy to treat his colon cancer condition, pleaded with Khupe to bear with him.
“The president did not say much in response. He said: ‘I am sick, please bear with me’ and that was the end,” said a party official, who chose to remain anonymous.
Contacted for comment Gutu declined to comment saying: “National Council issues are not for public discussion.”
Persistent efforts to get Khupe’s comment bore no fruit as she could not be reached on her mobile phone, which was not available while attempts to use other avenues hit a dead end.
Her personal assistant, who begged not to be mentioned by name, said on Wednesday: “She (Khupe) doesn’t like commenting on negative developments because she likes focusing on politics that builds the nation. I will keep trying to engage her so that you can talk to her, but chances are high that she will continue to decline.”
Other party officials engaged by the Financial Gazette to get her to speak to this publication, came back saying she had declined to give an interview.
Mwonzora, also refused to comment on the matter saying: “I do not want to be involved. Talk to the party spokesman or the president’s spokesman.”
Tsvangirai spokesperson, Luke Tamborinyoka, said there was now a tendency to over dramatise things happening in the MDC-T to create confrontation that does not exist.
“There was no such confrontation at the National Council meeting. There is a malicious intent to create confrontation and to dramatise issues. I am sure you saw what happened in Masvingo. The leadership was all there, holding hands; so as far as I am concerned there was no such confrontation.”
Reports have been awash in recent times of a major rift between Tsvangirai and Khupe, with some alleging the opposition leader wanted her out.
His shock appointments are seen by many in and outside the party as a move meant to checkmate Khupe.
But MDC-T hawks are also unhappy with the way Tsvangirai is handling matters, and they want him out as well.
Calls for Tsvangirai to quit first came to the fore ahead of the 2011 congress when some party members raised the question of the expiry of the two terms, but he stayed on arguing that a messy split five years earlier had disfigured the MDC-T so much that it needed to start afresh altogether.
The party would, three years later, alter the constitution to give Tsvangirai a prolonged stay, coupled with additional powers.
There are now fears that the party might split for the third time in about 11 years.
Two years ago, the MDC-T was plunged into turmoil after Tendai Biti — its secretary-general then — led a section of the party to rebel against Tsvangirai.
Biti now leads the People’s Democratic Party.
This was the second split following the 2005 breakaway when the then party secretary-general, Welshman Ncube fomented the fragmentation of the MDC after expressing unhappiness with Tsvangirai’s style of leadership.


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    TJINGABABILI 6 years ago