“MR Tsvangirai may have turned 65 (sic) years today but his behaviour and deeds are infantile. His problem is that he has been young for a long time in the mindset… We shudder to think what path Mr Tsvangirai will have led Zimbabwe if, at any time, he had managed to become the President of this country…”

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By Cyril Zenda

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Jacob Mafume

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Talk of pent-up bile enough to float a battleship! More often than not, divorces by their nature tend to be bitterly acrimonious affairs, be they matrimonial, corporate, religious or political, so the case of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) is not unexpected.  As can be read from the above excerpts from a statement released last week by Jacob Mafume, the spokesperson for a splinter group calling itself MDC Renewal Team, on the occasion of Morgan Tsvangirai’s birthday, there is certainly no love lost between the two versions of the MDC.

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Such fire-eating statements have become standard exchanges between the two warring camps, both of which seem to have inexhaustible funds of deep-seated animus towards each other.

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The charcoals of hatred seem to have been fanned by the move by Tsvangirai’s faction to recall from Parliament 21 of its 91 legislators who have openly sided with those who have challenged Tsvangirai’s continued barren leadership of the once vibrant opposition movement.

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Last April, the party’s (former) secretary general Tendai Biti — a pit-bull lawyer in his own right — ganged up with deputy treasurer general Elton Mangoma and other members who had suddenly found themselves on the wrong side of Tsvangirai’s fast-moving revolving door of favour and convened what they argued was a national council (whose mandate is subject to acrimonious debate) meeting at Mandel Training Centre in Harare where a bull-headed plunge resolution was passed to suspend the lionised opposition leader and his top six placemen from the party, on allegations of “fascist” tendencies.

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Tsvangirai’s side responded in kind by announcing that it had dismissed Biti and his sidekicks. Since then, both sides have been claiming to be the bona fide MDC resulting in the current tug of war in which no side is showing the slightest sign of letting up. In an effort to get an insight into “struggles within the struggles” inside Zimbabwe’s pro-democratic movement, the Financial Gazette talked to Mafume to find out why his faction believes the cause for which they are in the trenches is justified.

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Mafume, a founding member of the original MDC, and a former University of Zimbabwe students’ union’s secretary general, who is now a lawyer, is adamant the primary cause of the problems besetting the movement that once gave so much hope to millions of Zimbabweans — but is now sadly in smithereens — is because Tsvangirai is a consummate hypocrite whose practices are nowhere near democratic.

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“We are learning every day since Mangoma wrote the letter of the person he (Tsvangirai) would have been if he had gotten power,” Mafume said in response to a question on when they suddenly realised that Tsvangirai was not the lodestar that for long they had believed him to be. There has been violence, hate speech, the changing of the constitution and a further entrenchment of the personality cult,” Mafume fumed.

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“The height of it all has been the attempt to withdraw parliamentarians from the house… it shows malice and vindictiveness and a desire to punish thought. It extends even to banning the use of the social media.”

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His statement (expressing fears on the path Tsvangirai could have taken the country) make it appear as if Mafume — the losing candidate for the Harare South constituency in the 2013 harmonised elections — was relieved that Tsvangirai did not make it anywhere near State House.

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“No, the statement only suggested that there were tendencies that would have been dangerous to democracy, but to say we were happy he did not make it would be taking it too far.”
\nSuppose Tsvangirai had made it to State House in the 2013 elections, would they still have gone on with their revolt against his leadership, or it is just a case of being bad losers… after such a crushing loss a scapegoat had — per force — to be found, and Tsvangirai naturally came handy… otherwise why did the rebellion not take place before the disarming electoral loss since, according to Mafume, Tsvangirai has overstayed at the helm of the party by half to the detriment of its own advertised democratic principles?

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“We did not rebel at all. It is only in Zimbabwe where competition is seen as rebelling. In other countries it is the norm. In any democracy, after an election people assess their organisation top to bottom… the top being the one that takes responsibility for what would have happened. Being a president of a party is not a reward but a responsibility to deliver on something and where you fail surely you must take responsibility. One of Mugabe’s reasons (for not leaving) after failing on the economy is fear of being made a scapegoat as well and lack of realisation that the buck stops with him.

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“If he (Tsvangirai) had won, we would have expected him to serve one term as he himself has stated and then retire. If he had not, then surely we would have looked for other options.”
\nHow is the Renewal Team’s “Eureka!” differently different from similar rude discoveries made by Welshman Ncube and his colleagues about Tsvangirai’s crude democratic character in 2005 when the original MDC split? Why is it that Mafume, Biti, Mangoma, Sekai Holland and all those that are now crying tears of blood about Tsvangirai’s alleged dictatorial tendencies, appearing shocked like they have suddenly discovered something completely new in the man’s character when this is what has been said by the first breakaway group for umpteen times?

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In 2005 when irreconcilable disagreements arose over the MDC’s participation in elections for the re-introduced Senate arose, Tsvangirai and others were opposed and to break the stalemate, the issue was put to vote in the party’s national council. The majority voted in favour of contesting in the poll, but Tsvangirai using unknown veto powers decided to overrule the vote. This resulted in an acrimonious schism that saw Ncube, the then party’s secretary general; quintessential human rights lawyer David Coltart; the party’s deputy president the late Gibson Sibanda; among other senior members going to the pro-Senate group while Tsvangirai remained with his “dear-leader-is-ever right” sycophants. Among these court jesters was Biti, to whom Ncube’s good-riddance departure appeared to provide a lucrative opportunity to move a step up the slippery ladder to the coveted position of secretary general.
\nMembers of MDC Renewal Team not only went on to make Tsvangirai their eponymous hero by naming their faction after him, but also composed praise songs for him… euphonious tunes that eulogised “Save” — Tsvangirai’s totem — as the sure-fire Saviour of the people of Zimbabwe.

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With the benefit of hindsight, it appears as if Biti and company had hoped to manipulate Tsvangirai, a veteran trade unionists that many of his highly learned underlings have always seen as an addle-pated boob of a leader, they had dangerously miscalculated. Little did Biti and his cheerful choir of praise-singers that included Mafume know that when “Save” — like the great and voracious river from which the totem name is derived — fails to wash away the seemingly indefatigable President Robert Mugabe, the natural laws of unintended consequences would result in its vengeful outbursts wiping them off to oblivion.

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Or should the group have taken their time to learn a thing or two from Ncube, who after divesting himself of the cloak Tsvangirai magic has, to all intents and purposes, gone on to be a washed-up politician, while his party has virtually sunk from obscurity to oblivion?

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“The first group complained of the similar things but at that time we were all learning and we saw room for self introspection and self corrective behaviour and for some time we travelled in a path where we viewed democracy as being observed in the party. We had our challenges but we felt we had a viable option to the current Mugabe despotic rule. There was still room to correct his (Tsvangirai’s) behaviour… at least in our view.”

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By Mafume’s admission, actualities on the ground had given them a choice between the inadequate and nothing, and naturally, they had picked the former.
\nBut how far would their choice-less choice take them?

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“The idea was not about the win or loss. We expected him to take a bow at some point …we always felt it was, and is, wrong for a person to hold on to power on the pretext that he is winning or conversely a person will not leave a position for as long as he has not achieved.

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“Win or lose after 15 years now going to 20 was always going to be a long time on the helm of the party. It was not about grapes, sweet or sour… longevity in power has been something we have fought for a long time.”

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By waiting to challenge Tsvangirai’s continued suitability as the party’s leader only after he has lost the last elections, it would give the impression that this is a group of opportunists, who are not patient, and only chose to hang around with Tsvangirai when they think there is something to benefit in the shortest term but are ready to forsake him when they realise that the hope of benefiting through him are fading.

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“Whether they win or lose Zimbabwean politicians have a tendency to want to stay on. Hanging around Morgan was not a walk in the park. It was a risky business which meant arrests, torture and even death. The colleagues you talk about… Solomon Madzore spent one year in jail. Last Maengahama three years in jail. Tendai Biti three months in jail for treason having announced that Morgan was the new president (after the March 2008 harmonised elections) while he (Tsvangirai) was holed up in Botswana.

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“The people I have described have earned their stripes in their own right and are prepared to rise and sink on principle. There was no opportunism then or now. We believed in the cause not the person. We believe in Zimbabwe not the person. We are democrats and we created a movement and not a person.”

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Democrats who created a movement, not a person? Really? How then did the party end up being called MDC-T(svangirai)? And all those songs extolling Tsvangirai (the ZANU-PF way), when the party was a movement of democrats? With this “dear-leader-is-ever-right” brigade (of which Mafume, Biti, Mangoma et al were part of till after the disastrous 2013 elections) firmly behind him even when he was being openly undemocratic, how did they hope to change Tsvangirai, or mould him into a democratic leader?

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“Granted. A miscalculation was made. We wanted to create a Mandela-like figure… unfortunately he is no Mandela. The more songs were sung about Mandela the more grounded and humble he became. Unfortunately for Zimbabwe the more you sing about Tsvangirai and Mugabe the more they think they are gods. The name and picture changes (to MDC-T etc) were meant to avoid confusing the soft electorate or so we thought or planned. Tragically they confused our dear leader into believing that he was predestined to free Zimbabwe. Predestined to rule even much like Mugabe believes.”

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Why then are the Renewal Team-cum-UMDC legislators still reluctant to let go what is clearly not theirs in Parliament now that the technicality they have been hiding behind (that they were not a rival political party) has fallen away with the emergence of the UMDC?

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“It has not fallen away nor were we hiding. We have not formed a party. We have created a platform for grand coalition that will govern those operations and it comes into force at a later date. We are showing the way that it is possible to unite and work together so that we create a bigger platform.

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“So (the position remains that) we have expelled their leaders and they dropped their court challenge so our Mandel resolution still stands. UMDC is not another party nor does it affect the existence of the parties as disparate entities. So nothing has changed except that (Douglas) Mwonzora (new MDC-T secretary general who sometimes doubles up as the party’s lawyer) dropped the challenge to our decision and paid legal costs so they remain valid. If anything they are violating the MDC constitution, but I can see you are trapped in (a tradition of) seeing the party as a person… even when expelled he thinks he is the party.”

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The gospel according to Mafume is that the Renewal Team is the bona fide MDC. So should Zimbabweans prepare themselves to see the team recalling the other MPs who have chosen to stick to the illegitimate Tsvangirai fast like the proverbial savannah tick?

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“We are not malicious and vindictive (so) we will not recall anyone for that is not the focus and that is not what people need today… they need the economy fixed.”
\nTheir detractors say having no credible grassroots support of their own, Renewal Team is scared of losing the only seats they are lucky to have hence their resorting to the use of legal casuistry and sophistry in order to cling on to them for as long as it can take.

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“No one is scared… our (MDC-T) friends have been losing by-elections and now they are not participating… where was their grassroots support? People must not encourage useless bravado and a merry go (round) attitude to nowhere. If they are not participating because the ground is not fair why would they want us to?

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“Who does not have grassroots support? Arnold Tsunga won (the Chikanga-Dangamvura constituency in Mutare) despite Tsvangirai fielding another candidate against him. There are many factors into an election and we know we can overcome most of them. What we won’t to do is cut our nose to spite our face and contest in a rigged contest. We need electoral reforms first.”

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MDC-T does not miss an opportunity to sardonically dismiss the Renewal Team as a clone of ZANU-PF. This has not been helped by the fact that since coming into being last year, virtually all its efforts and bile have been directed towards Harvest House, causing those that doubt them to wonder when they are going to prove the prophets of doom wrong by starting (or is continuing with?) groundwork to wrestle real power from ZANU-PF?

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“That’s an unfounded allegation. We have been at the receiving end of their efforts. But the truth is that they are the ones that are closer to ZANU-PF than us. Their (MPs recall) motion was supported by Oliver Mandipaka, a ZANU member; the ex-Prime Minister lives in a ZANU house; the mayor of Harare is cosy with Chombo (Local Government minister from ZANU-PF), they even marry there and they say we are ZANU? We are the ones that have run from ZANU-PF.”

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Mafume, the former director of constitutional affairs in the Prime Minister’s office who in his own way oversaw and supervised the constitution-making process, is convinced that the position taken by the Renewal Team is the correct one and they have the best legal brains to defend it.

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“We have over a century of legal experience in our midst and we believe we will win in a free and fair contest. The names we are talking about are not pushovers… they won against all odds and they do so again if necessary.”

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As the legal experts from both sides of the two MDC formations do battle with tempers hot as hinges of hell, one is only reminded of the old story of how an architect and a lawyer argued over which was the older profession. To buttress his claim, the architect summoned the trusty services of the Holy Bible and went straight to the Book of Genesis: God had created the world in six days out of chaos. “Granted,” said the lawyer. “But who had created the chaos?” – Financial Gazette