ZIMBABWE – MDC-T leader Mr Morgan Tsvangirai is under fire for centralising power during the just-ended, low-key opposition party’s elective congress by railroading constitutional amendments that consolidated his grip on the party.
Mr Tsvangirai has also been criticised for meddling in the election process to ensure that it produced a result that would thrust his cronies and hangers on into office. During the congress, amendments of the party’s constitution that weakened the post of secretary-general were forced through without debate.
In terms of the new resolution, Mr Tsvangirai is now the custodian of party assets and the chief fundraiser and can dismiss national executive members, a development that legal and political analysts said attested to his personalisation of the main opposition that now bears his surname as a suffix.
Analysts have said Mr Tsvangirai created a false impression that the splits of the party in 2005 and this year lay with the post of secretary-general when it was known that he was the culprit as he has always been fingered in fanning violence and dictatorship in the party.
The congress amended the party’s constitution to allow the president to be the custodian of the party name, custodian of all party assets, to supervise all in the leadership, to be the party’s chief fundraiser and to suspend National Standing Committee members through the National Council for breach of the party constitution.
This means that the secretary general has been reduced to a virtual clerk as he shall no longer be responsible ‘for all party affairs in the National Secretariat’ and shall report to the president.
The congress resolved to ratify the recommendation of national council to expand the members of the National Standing Committee to include the secretary for elections who shall be appointed by the president.
It resolved that deputies of officers of congress except the vice president and the vice chairperson shall not be elected from the next congress, but will be appointed by the party president from a pool of national executive members elected from the provinces.
The party’s resolutions placed all national standing committee members to work under the supervision and the authority of the president. In an interview yesterday, former MDC-T secretary general Mr Tendai Biti said the problem was that Mr Tsvangirai was not a democrat like what he wanted people to believe.
“He has been a secretary general himself for several years for the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions and he never saw anything wrong with the post,” he said. “Why has it suddenly become a problem?”
Mr Biti has formed the MDC Renewal Team together with deputy national treasurer Mr Elton Mangoma after being fed up with Mr Tsvangirai’s dictatorial tendencies and refusal to pass the baton in the wake of successive defeats by Zanu-PF. Mr Biti described Mr Tsvangirai as a common barrier to democracy.
MDC secretary general Ms Priscilla Misihairabwi castigated Mr Tsvangirai, saying what he was doing was embarrassing. “Tsvangirai should know that power is about ensuring that everybody has a responsibility,” she said. “It is not about centralising it in one individual.”
Lawyer Mr Terrence Hussein said by making such constitutional amendments aimed at centralising power, Mr Tsvangirai demonstrated that he was not amenable to democracy and the rule of law. “It exposes his credentials whether he is a democrat, he is the opposite,” he said.
“The bigger question that comes is: What if he is entrusted with national responsibility, can he share power, what will he do with that power?” However, newly elected party spokesperson Mr Obert Gutu defended the amendments.
“There were four thematic committees to look at the constitutional amendments of which I was in one of them,” he said. “There was robust debate during committee meetings. The amendments were not meant to centralise power, but to achieve role clarity.”