The MDC-T national congress roared into life Thursday with about 5 000 delegates converging in the City of Kings for the party’s third congress.
The party is expected to amend the constitution to create a council of elders, among other proposals.
MDC-T secretary-general Tendai Biti told delegates at the official opening of the party’s Women Assembly congress the proposed structure was crucial for the party.
“We propose to create a council of elders or veterans. These are elderly people who can no longer contest for any positions in the party and have been loyal to the party since its formation.”
Biti said the council of elders would help the party by engaging traditional leaders and the elderly in rural areas whom he alleged had been corrupted by Zanu PF.
He said the council of elders would be composed of 24 members, two from each province.
He said members to the council should be 60 years old and older or with more than 10 years in the party.
Although the start of the congress was marred by confusion in the accreditation of delegates attending the youth and women’s congresses as well as journalists, dust finally settled around midday.
MDC-T leader, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, officially opened the congresses of the women and youth wings at Barbourfields Stadium in Mzilikazi and the Bulawayo Ampitheatre respectively.
Some of the party cadres took time to campaign by distributing flyers and posters for their favoured candidates.
Several cars were plastered with campaign posters for some of the candidates.
Addressing youths, ahead of the official opening of the congress by Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga today (Friday), Tsvangirai criticised the last-minute canvassing for votes, saying it was a divisive move.
“There are some of you who are going around holding papers campaigning for your people. That is influencing votes. Thursday, I told people in the council to stop the distribution of these leaflets. It is divisive,” he said.
Tsvangirai paid tribute to hundreds of party women and youths killed in politically-related violence since the formation of the movement 11 years ago and pledged to honour them by expelling all members implicated in violent activities in the run-up to this year’s congress.
“Yesterday (Wednesday) we took a resolution as an executive, a resolution that says, at each province we know by record the people who have perpetrated violence. We have pictures. We are going to table a resolution at the congress on Friday (today) to expel those who were involved in violence.
“We know that behind violent youths, there are those who were manipulating them (youths) and they will not survive expulsion. We will set up a commission of inquiry to get to the bottom of this,” he said.
Tsvangirai paid tribute to the youths who helped him through the pain of March 11 2007 when he was beaten by police and left for dead during a peace prayer meeting in Highfield, Harare.
“I remember that on March 11 2007 when we were beaten like dogs, the people who helped me have now since passed on,” he said.
Meanwhile, MDC-T secretary-general Biti said plans were afoot to increase the size of the executive of the Women’s Assembly from the current eight to 30.
“Provincial women councils will elect two people from each province to sit in the national leadership council and the rest will be elected to national congress as had been happening all along,” he said.
Biti also said there was a proposal to create a management committee which would control the party’s day-to-day activities and a new post of secretary for recruitment.
He also mooted the creation of the post of secretary for gender and children’s rights.
“There are also women who do not have a chance to sit in the Women’s Assembly and leadership meetings and the party proposes to have annual consultative forums where those who have no opportunity to enter in the meetings will have a chance to discuss issues,” said Biti.
He said these forums would be conducted once a year before national conferences.
Biti said under the new proposals, prospective candidates for provincial posts would be expected to have served at least two years at district level while those vying for national posts should have held provincial posts for five years.
“All party members from the president downwards must be active members at branch level,” he said.