by Staff reporter
07 June 2014
THE Movement for Democratic Change (MDC-T) renewal team headed by Tendai Biti, the party’s secretary-general, has set June 18 as the date on which embattled opposition leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, would appear before a disciplinary hearing following his controversial suspension from the party in April.
But, Tsvangirai has scoffed at attempts to haul him before a hearing constituted by his rivals, with MDC-T spokesperson, Douglas Mwonzora, saying those convening the disciplinary tribunal were no longer members of the main opposition party.
“First of all, Tendai Biti, Jacob Mafume (spokesperson of the renewal team) and others have formed their own party, which they are failing to find a name for,” he said. “Being people who have formed their own party, they have authority over members of their party not members who don’t belong to that party,” added Mwonzora.
On April 26, some of the MDC-T’s national executive council members met in Harare and suspended Tsvangirai along with five other senior members namely Mwonzora; deputy president, Thokozani Khupe; national organising secretary, Nelson Chamisa; national chairman, Lovemore Moyo and his deputy Morgan Komichi. A few days later Tsvangirai’s faction responded by expelling the leadership renewal team members who included Biti, Lobengula Member of Parliament Samuel Sipepa-Nkomo, the interim chairperson of the group and others.
The dispute spilled into Parliament where Tsvangirai’s group sought the recall of all legislators backing Biti. But, Speaker of the National Assembly Jacob Mudenda told the feuding factions to take their fight to the courts. With the battle of legitimacy still raging between the two factions, last month the Biti-led group disclosed that it would this month summon Tsvangirai to a disciplinary hearing, a move dismissed with derision by a party faction backing the former premier.
Mafume said a panel of three lawyers, one of them qualified to be a judge, had been identified to conduct the hearing, in line with Article 12 of their party’s constitution. While he could not be drawn into revealing the identities of the lawyers, Mafume said should the MDC-T leader fail to appear, the judges would look at the reasons given for failure such as ill health and others before deciding his fate.
“If Tsvangirai does not come then he has to have a good reason. If it’s a matter of ill health, that is one thing. If it’s a matter of ignoring processes then in his absence a binding decision might be made,” Mafume said.
The MDC renewal team spokesperson said the hearings for the other suspended senior members will be staggered this month to give the judges ample time to deal with their cases. Mafume said the delay in setting up the date and calling for the hearing has been due to a number of reasons, including the ill-heath last week of Tsvangirai; and the need to synchronise dates for the three lawyers who will sit on the disciplinary panel.
“We wanted to serve the letters to notify of hearing date last week, but we couldn’t do that when Tsvangirai was not in good health. Also we needed to synchronise dates of the lawyers who will conduct the hearing,” Mafume said. According to Mafume, charges against the six fall under acting contrary to the party’s constitution and these include specific items such as factionalism, violence, abuse of party funds, among others. “Specific charges vary according to person to person,” Mafume said. At the time of going to Press, Mafume had not yet shared the charge sheets with the Financial Gazette. Political analyst, Anglistone Sibanda said: “Tsvangirai will not attend that (hearing). It is an open secret and the organisers know it. I think their plan is to try and follow the constitution.” Sibanda said the renewal team was simply trying to outsmart Tsvangirai in resolving the leadership crisis by playing the legality card. He added that this was pointing to the collapse of the MDC-T as a political party.