MDC Deputies’ appointments divide opinion as more details emerge

HARARE – The appointments of Nelson Chamisa and Elias Mudzuri last week as MDC vice presidents to add to Thokozani Khupe has created a lot of debate among political and social commentators with some who view it as the best way to strengthen the party ahead of the 2018 elections while others feel they (the appointments) were contrary to the party’s constitution.

Political commentator Mcdonald Lewanika said the two additions are great organisers in their own rights and ordinarily that should bode well for the parties’ abilities to get organised and organise on the ground.

“It is however, a top heavy structure triplicating the role of deputising one president. The challenge is that when the same or similar responsibilities are given to too many people, it is possible that no one eventually takes responsibility.”

Lewanika said a lot depends on role allocation within this expanded MDC presidency and also how this new leadership will reconcile disgruntled elements also within the leadership who may feel that the elevation of Chamisa and Mudzuri is a statement to them on their own ability. “So instead of galvanising the party and strengthening it structurally there is a danger that some leaders and their supporters may “resign” and say the president felt we couldn’t get the job done, so let’s see what those he has confidence in can do, or they may resist.

“Both scenarios are bad for the party’s 2018 preparations and made worse by the seemingly undemocratic nature within which the senior appointments were made. So a lot depends on how the MDC explains this move to the outside world and how they manage it for their inside world.”

Media practitioner Rashweat Mukundu believes the MDC is managing internal succession issues and this is pragmatic move by Tsvangirai as it ensures leadership sustainability. “This is clear statement that the party is not a one man project.

“The power struggles are inevitable in politics and the hope is that the strong candidate emerges as leader or as the most efficient deputy.”

Playwright Silvanos Mudzvova said: “I am very positive the three VPs will be able to work together using the seniority system and the party clearly pointing out their roles in the presidium. However, if not correctly spelt out it might prove to become a disaster as they will be so many centres of power.”

Media practitioner Tabani Moyo said the appointment can be seen in three main strategic angles. “That Tsvangirai was hoping to contain the levels of rivalry intensity in the party by elevating the influential players in that factional jockeying race for the presidency.

“That the MDC leader has ditched the faction he initially had a latent endorsement for ahead of congress.

“That he has outlined his succession plan and grooming the next president (consciously or otherwise).”

Moyo said in aggregated analysis, “whether the methodology was correct or wrong, this will definitely scale up attrition between the contesting interests. However, one will equally be quick to point out that when making such a decision, his health concerns had a strong bearing on the final decision as he seems to have come up with a campaign team ahead of the elections. What he has done is to select people with the same ambitions as his and hinged their prospective success or failure to his own.”

Human rights activist Dewa Mavhinga said the appointment of Chamisa and Mudzuri to be VPs to join elected VP Khupe is a complex and problematic affair.

“I understand president Tsvangirai’s spokesperson later issued a press statement explaining circumstances and the basis of those appointments, but such a statement should have come before the appointments to reassure party members and the public that the action was both constitutional and democratic.

“Now the party risks yet another split over the appointments. It is problematic to have some people derive authority as appointees and have the same powers with people directly voted into office at Congress, and I am sure both Chamisa and Mudzuri would have felt better deriving their authority directly from elections and not from appointments.”

Mavhinga wondered if these three VPs would be at the same level. “If so, then there could be tensions because Khupe was voted for directly, and Chamisa and Mudzuri were appointed. “So there is a risk that the appointments could be challenged in court as unconstitutional and already the surprise appointments have attracted significant criticism from different quarters.”

He added that even if it can be established that the National Council and party president Tsvangirai had the powers to make the appointments, “it would have been prudent to consider the implications for members elected at congress and for perceptions of democracy and constitutionalism in the party.

“The MDC leadership should ask themselves whether a direct election of the two additional VPs at a Special Congress would have strengthened the party more ahead of 2018 instead of going to appointments route which appears to have generated much controversy.”

Social commentator Rejoice Ngwenya said at a time when the world is moving towards empowering women, Tsvangirai dilutes their power. “

He seems not to appreciate the use of power. Power and position must be used to unite people, not divide or neutralise them.

“A political party needs only one VP and so far Khupe is there. I am sure the constitutional provisions can be applied to replace Khupe if she had been elevated to ‘acting’ president.”

He said the MDC is broke, “so why worsen its fiscal space when the party is facing a more competitive election in 2018? There will be confusion, duplication and rivalry and I’m afraid, he has just thrown the sand into MDC’s 2018 electoral engine.”

Political commentator Blessing Ivan Vava said: “It is an awkward setup in the first place and it seems it is just the politics of accommodation, and says a lot about flawed internal democratic practices in our political parties. It seems Tsvangirai is trying to manage his succession by anointing his preferred candidates without subjecting them to the electoral processes within the MDC.

“And this poses a danger in managing the internal rifts looking at people like Mwoznora for example who defeated Chamisa at the congress and now Chamisa is now Mwonzora’s senior in the party hierarchy.

“It would be interesting how Tsvangirai will manage the disgruntled lot and bring cohesion in his party to avoid another split.”

Media practitioner Nigel Nyamutumbu said Tsvangirai’s appointment of additional VPs to the MDC in a way confirms media reports of a frosty relationship between himself and his long time deputy, Khupe as well as substantiates allegations of growing factionalism within his party.

“Legally, the repercussions of the appointments could potentially be catastrophic and if Tsvangirai does not properly manage the dissenting voices, the party might be headed for a gruesome court battle, which at best could stain the legitimacy of the newly- appointed officials or at worst further spilt the party.

“In a way, Tsvangirai has weighed-in himself in the purported succession race and it possibly will be difficult for Khupe to make any significant contribution in the party’s presidium,” said Nyamutumbu.

He added that as it may, “the appointments could turn out to be strategic politically, especially in the context of reviving the party and vesting such huge responsibility in a young leader like Nelson Chamisa, Tsvangirai could potentially be casting the nets wider for new or otherwise neutral voters come 2018.”

Details have emerged on how MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai defied recommendations by his party’s national council (NC) on the appointment of two vice-presidents as he imposed Nelson Chamisa and Elias Mudzuri.

Tsvangirai announced the appointment of Chamisa and Mudzuri as new VPs along with the elected Thokozani Khuphe on July 15 amid murmurs in the party that he had not consulted widely before the far-reaching decision to reconfigure the party.

The former prime minister defended his decision, saying he was only following recommendations of an NC meeting, but senior party officials accused the MDC-T leader of lying.
Senior party leaders this week revealed the NC meeting held the day before the shock announcement discussed a proposal for only one additional VP and not two, and did not agree on the issue before deferring the matter for further debate in a follow-up meeting
At the meeting, sources said, the names of Chamisa and Mudzuri were not even brought up as there was no agreement on an additional VP with those against the proposal basing their argument on a 2014 party congress resolution that rejected the issue of two VPs.

However, Tsvangirai unilaterally went ahead and appointed Chamisa and Mudzuri as co-VPs after tossing away NC recommendations to defer the matter for further discussion, in what senior party officials argued demonstrated that the former trade unionist “cannot be trusted with keys to State House”.

“He has shown that he is not fit to run this country. At least President Robert Mugabe is better because he first whips party members into line to amend his Zanu PF party constitution to allow or ensure that whatever decision he makes is in line with the party constitution,” a senior party official said yesterday.

“With these appointments, Tsvangirai has shown that he is a danger to the MDC-T and is also a mirror of what he will do when he gets keys to State House.
“He has shown that he will not hesitate to veto the decisions of the people.

“The issue of having a second VP was raised from the floor, discussed but no agreement was reached.

“The discussion was on having only one additional VP and not two as Tsvangirai announced.

“The NC did not give him any mandate to appoint two VPs but recommended that the matter be deferred for further discussion in a follow-up meeting but alas, and to the surprise of everyone, Tsvangirai went ahead to announce not one but two VPs of his choice the following day flanked by his wife [Elizabeth], in complete disregard of recommendations of the NC.”

Khupe, organising secretary Abednico Bhebhe, secretary-general Douglas Mwonzora and party spokesperson Obert Gutu did not attend the meeting, amid allegations that another meeting was held at Harvest House on Friday to block or even assault them for reportedly pushing ordinary party members to sue Tsvangirai over the co-VP appointments.
Bhebhe, Khupe, Gutu and Mwonzora have refused to talk about the appointments, referring all questions to Tsvangirai.

George Rice, a provincial executive member and Patson Murimoga, an ordinary party member from Masvingo in their High Court application insist Tsvangirai violated the MDC-T constitution.

“The NC is provided for in Article 6.4.1 of the 5th respondent’s constitution and nowhere does it empower the NC or the president of the 5th respondent to appoint deputy president.

“Congress has powers provided for in Article 6.2.3 of the 5th respondent’s constitution while the national council is provided for in Article 6.4.7,” Murimoga said in his founding affidavit.

In the court challenge, Tsvangirai is cited as first respondent, while Chamisa and Mudzuri are second and third.

MDC-T national chairperson Lovemore Moyo is fourth, with the MDC-T as a party also cited as the fifth respondent.

Murimoga added: “I have also read the agenda of the national council and I noticed that there was never an agenda to appoint a deputy president and I am reliably advised there was never a resolution to appoint a deputy president as what 1st respondent purported to do.

“Even if there was ever such an agenda, such resolution, both would be in violation of 5th respondent’s constitution and therefore null and void.”

The appointments have left the party deeply divided amid fears this could also cause another split.

Other sources say Tsvangirai met Khupe three days before the big announcement.

“After getting wind of the impending appointments, Khupe drove to Tsvangirai’s house and confronted him over the issue in Elizabeth’s presence,” the source said.

“Khupe told Tsvangirai that he was being influenced by his wife and that Elizabeth was increasingly becoming a source of internal discohesion.”

However, Tsvangirai’s spoesperson Luke Tamborinyoka said although he had heard of the rumour, it was not true.

“We have heard that rumour but it has no substance,” he said.

“Tsvangirai only met Khupe hours before the appointments and told her he had been directed by the national council to make the appointments.”

Tamborinyoka dismissed the claims that Tsvangirai’s wife had influenced the appointments.

“That is hogwash and contemptuous of the president to claim that he has been influenced by his wife or anyone else,” he said.

“All those who attended the press briefing will tell you that Mrs Tsvangirai attended the briefing by invitation and at the very last minute. It is not like her attendance was pre-planned because we had only set two chairs at the top table.”

Tsvangirai last month announced he had colon cancer. Since then, he has been in and out of the country for treatment in South Africa.

There is speculation the appointments of Chamisa and Mudzuri were meant to manage the long-serving MDC-T leader’s succession.
-Daily News & The Standard

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