HARARE, WASHINGTONDC —
Feuding MDC-T camps closed ranks Tuesday ending speculation that the labour-backed party was on the verge of a second major split.
Party leader Morgan Tsvangirai told the media at his party’s Harvest House headquarters that differences with some of the party’s senior members, who were calling for him to step down and pave way for the renewal of the opposition party ahead of the country’s next elections expected in 2018, had been buried.
He described the move as significant. Intra-party divisions had threatened the survival of the opposition party with two distinct groups differing on the way forward following the MDC’s loss at the July 2013 national elections.
One group, said to be led by secretary general Tendai Biti, deputy treasurer general Elton Mangoma and Elias Mudzuri, was calling on Tsvangirai to resign while another stood firmly with the former trade unionist, labeling anyone else not supporting him as traitors.
Biti and Mudzuri were at the press conference but did not speak but Tsvangirai said the truce is a result of a ‘frank heart-to heart session’ Friday and another meeting Monday in the capital.
“The meeting was long. It was honest and frank discussion on developments in the party and in the country," Tsvangirai said. “After that frank heart-to heart session, we all unanimously agreed that our disagreements in the cockpit, while confirming our credentials as a democratic party, had needlessly diverted attention from the key issues affecting the people of Zimbabwe.”
He continued: “But we had realized it was important for us to sit down as the party leadership to openly discuss and sort out our issues. I am proud to announce today that we have discussed our issues and there is now unprecedented harmony and unity of purpose in the MDC cockpit. We all agreed that we owed it to the members of the party and to the nation at large to discuss and resolve our matters so that we would be more effective in providing hope and a credible alternative to Zanu PF.”
Other senior members also in the leadership renewal camp were party treasurer general Roy Bennett, former Marondera Central lawmaker Ian Kay and youth assembly secretary general Promise Mkwananzi. They were not at Tuesday’s press conference.
Tsvangirai said the meeting agreed that the opposition party should focus on the broader picture, challenging Zanu PF and its failure to address socio-economic issues affecting ordinary Zimbabweans.
He said problems afflicting the nations were a direct result of last year’s elections he insists were rigged by President Robert Mugabe and his Zanu PF party. Tsvangirai said no-one in his party has the right to pass a vote of no confidence in officials elected at congress.
This follows a vote of no confidence in the opposition party's Harare provincial leadership led by Paul Madzore that had been replaced by an executive led by Highfield legislator Eric Murai.
Singling out Biti, the former prime minister said the party’s secretary general should not behave in a manner that undermines the party. This was in reference to Biti’s actions when Mangoma was suspended by the MDC-T's supreme decision-making body between congresses, the national council, last month for allegedly fomenting divisions in the party.
Biti called a press conference where he described Mangoma's suspension as unconstitutional.
Tsvangirai urged supporters to refrain from engaging in acts of violence.
He also renewed his call for national dialogue with President Mugabe's administration to address problems affecting the nation. Tsvangirai said the negotiations he’s calling for are not meant to create another government of national unity. He dismissed a report carried in the Newsday newspaper Monday saying he had been offered the post of deputy president by Mr. Mugabe, which he rejected.
Meanwhile, Zanu PF has dismissed Tsvangirai’s assertions that only dialogue between his MDC and the ruling party can address problems currently afflicting the nation.
Zanu PF spokesman Rugare Gumbo says Tsvangirai and his party have nothing to offer Zimbabwe.
Political analyst Nkululeko Sibanda of the Huddersfield University in Britain doubts the so-called MDC-T reconcilliation will hold.
"In political terms, statements and machinations indicating reunification or the pushing of maters into the back-burner does not usually work," said Sibanda. "It is a temporary fix. It won't solve the questions surrounding Tsvangirai's leadership."