MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai has climbed down on attempts fronted by his loyalists to hand him full control of the party through a raft of constitutional changes which could have undermined democracy in the opposition party.
Under the proposed constitutional changes ahead of next month’s elective congress, Tsvangirai was set to have the sole prerogative of appointing MDC-T national executive members.
Proposals by some members to force constitutional changes in the party and give Tsvangirai powers to appoint national executive members and water down the powers of the secretary-general had created tension in the labour-backed movement.
Some members had been expressing fears that the proposed constitutional changes would turn the MDC-T into another Zanu PF where President Robert Mugabe almost single-handedly decides the fate of the ruling party.
But after a 12-hour meeting of the national executive on Thursday and a six-hour national council meeting yesterday, MDC-T spokesperson Douglas Mwonzora said Tsvangirai would no longer handpick members of the executive as had been proposed.
“Among the key resolutions made after protracted debate in line with our democratic tradition, it was agreed that the 14 standing committee members, including the president, will be directly elected at congress,” Mwonzora said.
But Tsvangirai edged closer to asserting his powers by ensuring that no meetings would be held without his approval.
There had been reports that some members of the party who were close to Tsvangirai and hoped to benefit from his benevolence were pushing for constitutional changes that would see the former Premier assume full control of the party by appointing the national executive members the same way Mugabe appoints politburo members.
The move had been fiercely resisted by some members who felt such practices were tantamount to “Zanufication” of the party. Sources told NewsDay the issue of constitutional changes took centre stage in the 12-hour meeting as Tsvangirai loyalists attempted to smuggle the constitutional changes.
But Mwonzora said: “It is not in the DNA of Morgan Tsvangirai to be a dictator. He does not aspire to be a Mugabe who handpicks his politburo.”
Following reports on proposals to strip the powers of the secretary-general to make Tsvangirai all-powerful, Mwonzora said following the constitutional changes, the office of the secretary-general remained powerful but could no longer call for meetings without the approval of the president, the national executive or national council.
“It was discovered that the abuse of office by the secretary-general was not per se by powers enshrined in the constitution, but by attitudes and vagueness of the functions of the office,” Mwonzora said.
“We had sought to redefine the reporting structure.
“The secretary-general now directly reports to the president, national executive and national council.
“Meetings will now be convened under the authority of the executive.
“The president authorises the convening of meetings.
“The current constitution generated debate on whether the secretary-general could convene a meeting without the authority of the president or national executive.
“The powers of the secretary-general remain the same, but have been specified.”
Mwonzora said the issue of two vice-presidents was also shot down in the meeting because it was seen to be a waste of national resource.
“This was introduced by Zanu PF to atone for the Gukurahundi [massacres] and when we formed the MDC, we did not have that because it was seen to be a waste of resources,” Mwonzora said.
The MDC-T will today start its provincial congresses that would also nominate members to contest for national executive posts at the congress to be held from October 29 to 31.
All elections from provincial structures to national would be by secret ballot, Mwonzora said.