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Party of Zimbabwe PM, External Structures Square Off Over Downgrade

A showdown is looming between the MDC formation of Zimbabwean Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and its diaspora structures after it downgraded the troubled external assemblies to mere coordinating committees.

Party officials say the changes were necessitated by political bickering, financial irregularities and power struggles.

National Organizing Secretary Nelson Chamisa told VOA that not much has really changed in terms of the functions of the external assemblies.

But representatives of the diaspora community, who have been in the forefront of fund-raising for the party outside Zimbabwe, disagree.

They say the effects of those changes mean the external executives have been stripped of some certain powers.

They add the latest developments send the wrong message to the international community, especially as the MDC is currently fighting with President Robert Mugabe's ZANU-PF on the need to recognize the diaspora community in the new constitution.

The activists charge the MDC is treating its structures outside the country as "second class citizens."

MDC-UK secretary general, Owen Muganda, said the bickering in the external assemblies is also caused by the lack of recognition from Harare.

“We are still seeking direction from the national organizing secretary because the effects of those changes means there has to be a transitional period on our part.”

He added: “Because we have just been given a program that covers ten key areas for the external assemblies to do, and those areas were based on the expanded executives that we had. We don’t want a situation where our members are going to be affected because of the new changes.”

Muganda said the new developments meant the external structures will have to be invited to participate at the party's congresses, unlike in the past where they had voting rights.

“This sends a very wrong message especially if, as a party, we support the issue of the Diaspora vote and we are seen to be making our external structures to be like second class Zimbabweans.

“Because it says participation to congress is by invitation for individuals and their structures so I don’t think it’s a progressive move,” Muganda said.

MDC-USA chairman Dan Moyo said his committee is still waiting for official confirmation of the new changes from Harare.

“We understood the concerns of the party regarding the squabbles and issues that might have led to a proposal to downgrade the external assemblies but the finality of the discussions (at last congress) was that we were to remain members of the National Council, members of congress and members of the national conference," said Moyo.

Commenting on the squabbles in his assembly, Moyo said: “People don’t want to understand democracy. When they lose in an election they don’t want to accept and move forward.”

“Instead they continue as if they are still campaigning and therefore they try to de-campaign the structures that would have been elected into position,” he added.

Chamisa said his party still values the external assemblies, adding not much has changed in terms of the structures but terminology only.

“We value these external structures because they have contributed meaningfully and profitably to our struggle at home.

“There has been a bit of bickering and side-showing which has not been helpful to the struggle but I am glad to say it is no longer a big problem at least in the UK and South Africa where the structures are working perfectly well.”

Chamisa said the MDC leadership is yet to visit the U.S. committee which in the past has been hit by serious reports of factionalism.