MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai and under-fire party secretary-general Tendai Biti have stepped up efforts to close ranks after it emerged the two met on Tuesday afternoon to try to iron out their differences.
Impeccable sources told NewsDay yesterday that the two met after the MDC-T Standing Committee meeting that was also attended by Biti at the party’s Harvest House headquarters in Harare.
Biti, who has been receiving a barrage of criticism — including being labelled a traitor — by supporters loyal to Tsvangirai for “admitting on national TV that the MDC-T lost clean to Zanu PF in the past elections”, had been snubbing rallies addressed by his boss.
Although Tsvangirai’s spokesperson Luke Tamborinyoka professed ignorance on the meeting, party spokesperson Douglas Mwonzora said there was nothing unusual for the two to meet.
“There is nothing wrong in our president meeting with the secretary-general. Hon Biti is still the secretary-general of the party who has certain duties within the party,” Mwonzora said.
But Tamborinyoka said: “The only meeting I know was the Standing Committee meeting. I can confirm that Hon Biti, with the other party leaders, attended the meeting. Everything else is speculation.”
Biti was not picking calls, but sources maintained the two did meet after efforts by other party neutrals, who were miffed by the ongoing public spat in the party, facilitated for the two to find each other.
“Certainly Biti attended the Standing Committee meeting and was expected to meet Tsvangirai thereafter in a meeting facilitated by some members of the party,” the source privy to the developments said.
Biti recently attracted the wrath of Tsvangirai’s supporters when he described the suspension of party deputy treasurer Elton Mangoma a legal nullity. At all the three rallies that were addressed by Tsvangirai in Harare and snubbed by Biti, supporters labelled both Biti and Mangoma sell-outs who should be dismissed from the party.
The sources said the rift between Biti and Tsvangirai had been fuelled by people angling for the post of secretary-general as the race to succeed the former Premier unfolds in the former labour-backed party.
This followed the suspension of Mangoma, who had written two letters calling for Tsvangirai to step down. The Standing Committee meeting agreed on a three-member tribunal that would try Mangoma in the following fortnight.
The meeting also appointed Biti’s deputy Tapiwa Mashakada as the acting deputy treasurer until Mangoma’s case was finalised. Although Mwonzora refused to release the names of the tribunal members, NewsDay is reliably informed the three are prominent lawyer and former Constitutional Affairs minister Eric Matinenga, Trust Maanda, of Maanda and Maungwe Legal Practitioners, and Bulawayo-based lawyer Promise Ncube, of Coghlan and Welsh Legal Practitioners.
“I cannot tell you the names of people who form the tribunal because they are yet to be informed. But it is the party’s policy that if allegations are levelled against members, a due process before an impartial body should be conducted,” Mwonzora said.