HARARE – EMBATTLED MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai, smarting from a fresh “coup attempt” by party secretary general Tendai Biti, has revealed plans to slash the powers of the office as he movesÂ to tighten his weakening grip on the opposition party.
Party spokesperson and Tsvangirai ally, Douglas Mwonzora said weekend the beleaguered party was planning a constitutional amendment on the powers of the secretary general, who is a distant fifth in the party hierarchy.
Mwonzora said the secretary general’s duties were in constant friction with those of the party president and the party’s Standing Committee and there was reason to whittle them down.
“There is discussion regarding what is the cause of the constant friction between the secretary general and the rest of the standing committee, not only the president,” Mwonzora said.
The MDC-T was last month thrown into turmoil after party secretary general, Tendai Biti convened a “national council” meeting which proceeded to pronounce “suspensions” on Tsvangirai and half a dozen members of his top leadership.
Biti accused the group of violating the party’s constitution and sponsoring violence on party dissenters.
Biti has steadfastly claimed it was within his constitutional powers to convene a party national council which arrived at the controversial decision.
He has proceeded to block Tsvangirai from recalling a group of party MPs who have openly supported his moves to oust the ex-premier.
Founding MDC secretary general Welshman Ncube was first to lead a party split 2005, accusing the MDC-T leader of dictatorial tendencies.
Mwonzora, who could not indicate the specific clauses to be altered in the party’s constitution, said the secretary general was a powerful office holder in the party whose duties had to be clarified to avoid
Said Mwonzora: “It was felt that the two preceding secretary generals did draft the clauses containing the powers of the SG themselves so they were beneficiaries of the clauses that they were drafting and as a result we see the constitution creating two centres of power; the president’s office and the secretary general.
“What is simply needed is to rationalise this office not to take away any powers but to rationalise it so that you don’t have duplicated powers.
“In most constitutions, the secretary general is a full time employee of the organisation and does not move away even if the party gets into power.
” An example for that is the ANC. Mr Mantashe (Gwede) is a very powerful man within the ANC but won’t get a post in government by virtue of being secretary general. That way you have a secretary general who is so committed to the organisation and is not divided between the duties of the party and the duties of the nation. So we will give it serious thought.”
Mwonzora continued: “The secretary general’s duties in constitution are couched in ambiguous terms; in other words they are fluffy, leaving the secretary general to interpret them the way they want.
“We want the secretary general’s duties to be more specific and the duties that he may have in conflict with other office bearers have to be put either to the secretary general alone or to other office bearers and not to have the duties interacting.”
As party secretary general, Biti has been in charge of the party’s assets including its finances, and, together with party deputy treasurer general Elton Mangoma, have clung to the party’s purse, starving the rival Tsvangirai faction off any finances.
Ncube, before the 2005 split, was also the official receipient of the party’s allocation of state funds disbursed to the party under the Political Parties Finance Act, which he and his faction chose to keep.