By Lance Guma
12th October is not a good day in the MDC diary. On that same day in 2005 the formerly united MDC party split into two factions over a dispute on whether to participate in Senate elections. On Wednesday a national executive meeting of the MDC led by Morgan Tsvangirai degenerated into near fistfights as officials debated various thorny issues, including leaked US diplomatic cables.
SW Radio Africa is reliably informed that National Organising Secretary Nelson Chamisa and former Harare Province chairperson Morgan Femai had to be separated, following a heated debate on the WikiLeaks saga. Leaked diplomatic cables claimed Chamisa told US Ambassador Charles Ray that Tsvangirai “is weak and has failed to play a co-ordinating role for Government ministries”.
With the National Executive debating this and other issues, Femai is alleged to have called Chamisa a ‘sell out’, to which the former student leader took great exception. Femai and former youth chair Thamsanqa Mahlangu then tried to block former student leader Charlton Hwende from contributing to the debate. Both derided Hwende as a ‘new comer’ and this also did not go down well with Chamisa.
The debate degenerated further after Femai threatened to get Chamisa ‘struck down by lightning’. Chamisa objected to the language arguing it was an ‘archaic’ way of conducting debate. He also told Femai he was a ‘child of God’ and would not be fazed by such threats. The exchanges continued and it was then that Tsvangirai, who was chairing the meeting, called for a ten minute tea break.
Although the meeting continued after the tea break, sources told SW Radio Africa it was clear that was party officials who lost MDC-T elections at the last congress were the ones mainly baying for blood over the WikiLeaks saga. Officials like Femai, Mahlangu and the new Public Service Minister Lucia Matibenga, all lost elections but were accommodated into an expanded national executive.
It is these officials who owe their political lifeline to Tsvangirai, who were accused of trying to get Chamisa and Harare Province spokesman Obert Gutu censured for allegedly criticising Tsvangirai. According to the cables Gutu told US Ambassador Charles Ray that although Tsvangirai was “humble and tolerant, not vindictive like Robert Mugabe” he had a “tendency to listen to the wrong people.”
Gutu referred to Ian Makone, Tsvangirai’s chief of staff, and Makone’s wife, Theresa, who at the time was Minister of Public Works. He said neither was a good strategist, and that the office of the Prime Minister was weak, due to Ian Makone’s “lack of leadership.”
On Wednesday, during the MDC-T meeting, Gutu was cleared of any wrongdoing, much to the annoyance of Femai and his camp.
SW Radio Africa is also informed that Tsvangirai told the meeting he was not bothered by the WikiLeaks revelations. Despite this position Femai and his colleagues are said to have continued pushing for action. At the end of the meeting it was resolved that party members needed to be taken for ‘grooming’ on how to “discuss issues and not personalities.”
Another thorny issue brewing in the party is the treatment of exiled Treasurer General Roy Bennett. On Monday Seiso Moyo replaced Bennett as Deputy Agriculture Minister, although apparently no one in the party bothered to inform Bennett himself.
Bennett even met Deputy Prime Minister Thokozani Khupe and Energy Minister Elton Mangoma in Johannesburg last week, but no one said anything to him.
Mugabe has been refusing to swear Bennett into the position while hiding behind the excuse that Bennett was facing criminal charges. Bennett was eventually cleared of the cooked-up charges but Mugabe always refused to swear him in and the regime has persisted in persecuting him. His sympathisers feel Tsvangirai has once again allowed Mugabe to win another major political standoff.
SW Radio Africa also understands that Ian Makone has been trying to persuade Bennett to resign his seat as Senator. A letter written to Bennett by Makone asking him to give us his senatorial seat is said to have infuriated party members, who argue that only the standing committee or other qualified bodies can make such a decision.
A party insider has meanwhile alleged that Home Affairs Minister Theresa Makone and her husband Ian have a poisonous influence on Tsvangirai, and warns that this has the potential to rupture the party. “Too many of these sort of decisions are being made without consultation and you now have a situation where supporters are calling the party MDC-Theresa in place of MDC-T.” SW Radio Africa
To help maintain editorial independence Nehanda Radio relies on donations from readers like you. No donation is too small or too big. Help by donating to fund our operations.