Alex Magaisa, in a blog post titled The day after Tsvangirai, rightly pointed out that what is currently obtaining in the MDC-T is purely politics.
I share the same view.
by Whitlaw Mugwiji
I believe these MDC-T succession wrangles are an example of politics 101.
People must not expect the MDC-T to behave like a church.
It is a political party and by nature, power within political parties is contested.
The political debate
Most people will agree that Nelson Chamisa has won the political debate in the MDC-T succession wrangle.
First, because he has managed to secure the backing of the national council, the highest decision-making body outside congress.
Second, because he seems to have the support of the party structures across the country.
Third, although this might seem trivial to some, Chamisa controls Harvest House.
In power struggles, the control of the party headquarters and party machinery is quite significant.
It is difficult to fathom how deputy president Thokozani Khupe plans to wrest power from Chamisa, when she is not participating in party functions.
In my view, her failure to attend party meetings was a big blunder.
If she had accepted the party decision and kept her dissent in her heart, the late MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai would not have appointed Chamisa and Nelson Mudzuri as co-vice presidents.
Now, I agree with Bulawayo South MP Eddie Cross when he said “she is fighting a lost battle”.
She must bear in mind that even her supporters have self-interests too.
With the general elections pending, many of her supporters will stick with Chamisa because he controls the keys to Parliament and council.
The legal debate
With the political battle seemingly concluded, the new battle frontier is the debate on the legality of Chamisa’s appointment.
Interestingly, both parties are using the party constitution, one to question and the other to defend his appointment.
It is, therefore, imperative for us to take a look at the MDC-T constitution.
Article 9.21.1 of the MDC-T constitution reads: “The deputy president assumes the role of acting president, pending the holding of an extraordinary congress, which must be held within a year of the death or resignation of the president.”
Here, the constitution is not clear on who should take over, since the party has three deputy presidents.
Any debate on this point, is frivolous and a sheer waste of time.
Article 16.1 reads: “The national council, not withstanding anything contained herein, shall have absolute discretion of determining the manner and process of any selection and including the power and making any appointment for any position.”
Therefore, the national council, armed with article 16.1, cleared the ambiguity arising from article 9.21.1.
Thus, anyone claiming that the party acted against its own constitution is not only trying to mislead, but is attempting to discredit Chamisa’s appointment.
And that my friends, is an exercise in futility.
It is hard to envisage, how else this MDC-T succession wrangle could have been ironed out, at least in the short term.
Now, Khupe is only left with moral arguments.
Unfortunately, as strong as they maybe, they are not strong enough to tilt power in her favour.
Personally, I like her moral arguments.
Surely, no one can dispute that she is an elected official, whereas Chamisa and Mudzuri are mere appointees.
If natural justice was the arbiter, I am sure, she would be acting president as we speak.
Regrettably, that argument has been overtaken by events.
If she has serious ambitions, then she must develop real political strategy.
I do feel her frustrations though.
Last year, I wrote an article decrying her sidelining within the MDC-T.
But whining and complaining will only earn her our sympathies.
This MDC-T succession wrangle is not a moral contest and the sooner she understands this, the better.
Her second moral argument is quite interesting and perhaps even more persuasive.
She argues that the succession debate must be resolved by a special elective congress.
Some of my friends have ventured to ask even further: “If Chamisa is as popular as many want us to believe, why not settle the matter at congress?”
Let us remember that during the last MDC-T congress, Chamisa was endorsed by all MDC-T provinces except one, but he still went on to lose the secretary general post.
I am not saying there is a disconnect between the provincial leadership across the country endorsing Chamisa and the party branches.
I am saying there is a legitimate claim for the party to hold a special elective congress.
Special elective congress
However, that said, I strongly believe it will be unwise to hold a special elective congress, and here is why I believe so.
To begin with, I am sure this is public knowledge that the MDC-T is broke.
Do not be fooled by suspended MDC-T spokesperson Obert Gutu when he says the party can easily raise money to hold a special elective congress.
If that is so, why was the party unable to raise money to pay its own workers last year?
Under such financial handicap, I strongly believe that it would be erroneous to focus the scarce resources internally rather than on campaigning in the forthcoming elections.
Furthermore, the party and the MDC Alliance have less than six months to prepare for the forthcoming national elections.
I am not sure if the party has enough time to hold a credible elective congress and still have enough time to campaign effectively.
We must bear in mind that a congress can be quite divisive.
Will the party be able to heal and come together before the general election?
In my humble view, the risks are just too much.
The party cannot place the interest of those seeking office above the collective interest.
To the MDC-T family
It is, therefore, important for all members, to abide by collective party decisions.
No party can survive without discipline.
As Hegel says in his anti-individualist theory: “Everything must depend upon the unity of the universal and the particular.”
Individual interest must play a subordinate role to the collective interest.
I am happy that the party chose engagement rather than confrontation.
But, inasmuch as we appreciate engagement and persuasion, this matter must be brought to finality sooner rather than later.
The longer this matter drags on, the more the party will witness embarrassing incidents like the violence we saw in Bulawayo.
It is totally unacceptable in this day and age for party members to settle disputes using violence.
But like in any other relationship, violence is evidence that the relationship is not working.
We must not force matters.
In closing, I would like to urge Khupe and company, to reconsider the path they have chosen.
Yes, they might feel aggrieved but confrontation, indiscipline and anarchy at this juncture leave the party with no other choice but to expel them.
Chamisa has both control and support of the party.
A good general must know when to retreat. And retreat does not mean surrender.
If she strongly feels that she deserves to be the party president, she must mobilise and contest Chamisa at next year’s congress.
With or without her, the red army will march forward, the choice is hers.
Whitlaw Mugwiji is a political analyst and social commentator. He writes in his personal capacity.