‘Mandel meeting was fake’
Fortious Nhambura The Interview
Confusion is again reigning in the MDC-T. The party is on the verge of another split nine years after the 2005 split. Accusations of mismanagement and lack of democracy have been levelled against party leader Mr Morgan Tsvangirai by secretary-general Mr Tendai Biti and deputy treasurer- general Elton Mangoma and others. Our Senior Reporter Fortious Nhambura (FN) spoke to Tsvangirai faction spokesperson Mr Douglas Mwonzora (DM)on the problems in the party and the way for forward.
FN: Your party seems to be headed for a split again. What is the problem?
DM: There is a possibility that the party will split but throughout history political parties in a revolution have split. If you go to Zapu, they split into Zanu-PF and Zapu and even there, there were other smaller fragments of Zapu. After Independence, we also saw Zanu splitting into ZUM, and then we saw Zanu-PF further splitting into Zapu headed by Mr (Dumiso) Dabengwa, ZUD headed by Mrs (Margaret) Dongo, UPP headed by Daniel Shumba.
So this is not new phenomena. It is to be expected but what matters to the MDC is where the people are. We have absolutely no doubt that the majority of the MDC members and the majority of the people of Zimbabwe are with president Tsvangirai.
We have had a group of people who apparently don’t want to face congress; a group of people who do not want to take leadership through a democratic process.
It started with Mr Mangoma’s letter, urging the leader to resign. But preceding that letter was a meeting of four people; Honourable Mangoma, Honourable Biti, vice president (Thokozani) Khupe and president Tsvangirai held at the behest of Mangoma and Biti. At that meeting, they tried to push the president to resign and initiate a process of leadership change.
The rest of the Standing Committee disagreed with that approach and the bottom line of the Standing Committee was that leaders in the MDC are elected and removed in a particular away. In this case we elect and remove our leaders via a congress which involves not the four people that they wanted to involve but which involves the owners of the party; the people of Zimbabwe. So that is the basis of the problem.
Then we had a situation where secretary-general Biti convened a meeting that he called a meeting of the National Council at Mandel (Training Centre). Again meetings of the National Council are held in terms of specific provisions of the party constitution. And in terms of the clause 9.1.2G of the constitution of the MDC, the National Council is convened by the president. Needless to say Mr Biti is not the president. In terms of clause 9.3.1H of the constitution of the MDC, it is the national chairman who chairs this meeting. Mr Biti’s meeting was chaired by someone else – the secretary to the Guardian Council – therefore the meeting could never have never been legal.
Also the National Council of the MDC has a specific composition. For example, the constitution is specific: The National Council is made up by all members of the Standing Committee; it is also made up by all the national executive, all members of the management committees of women and the youth assembly. Nine members, including the chairperson, from each province and three representatives of Parliament and representatives of the Guardian Council. These have specific numbers.
FN: What was wrong with the council that endorsed your suspension at Mandel Training Centre?
DM: Now in the case of Mr Biti’s meeting at Mandel, out of the 13 members of the National Council, there were three, there were two actually, Mr Madzore and Mr Biti himself, and Mangoma was under suspension. So if we add Mangoma, three out of 13.
National Executive: out of 54 people, they had eight people. Then the Youth and the Women Assembly Management Committee have eight each, making it 16. Out of those 16, they had three. The provincial representatives are 108 and they had 25. The Guardian Council has 28 members but they had one, Mr Sipepa Nkomo himself.
So the total number came to 33 members of the National Council, genuine members of the National Council out of 195 (Editor’s note: The Guardian Council says the National Council has 176 members).
Thirty-three members out of 195 by any objective standard cannot be regarded as a sufficient number to make decisions. However, in order to suspend a leader of the Standing Committee, you need two- thirds majority of the National Council. Unfortunately, this figure can’t be attained in that.
So looking at the composition of the council itself and the manner in which it was convened, the manner in which it was chaired, it can’t be a legal council and Mr Biti being a lawyer knows or ought to have known this. Now one of the absurdities also is that Mr Mangoma, Promise Mkwananzi, Last Maengahama and Jacob Mafume were all under suspension from the party but they sat in the National Council to decide the lifting of those suspensions. So it’s like a person sitting in judgment over their own case. That can’t be legal. Mr Mafume is not a member of the National Council. He does not belong to a ward executive, to the district executive, provincial executive let alone national. The rest were members of other political parties, members of Welshman Ncube’s party were there. The National Council of the MDC, by comparison, is like the Zanu-PF Central Committee, not every cadre can be a delegate there.
FN: It seems the same issues are coming back again. 2005 we had the same situation where the secretary-general of the MDC then, Professor Welshman Ncube, and vice president Gibson Sibanda raised the same issues against Mr Tsvangirai that Mangoma has raised. Are all these guys wrong?
DM: Certainly, they were not raising the same issues. The issues raised by Welshman Ncube and Sibanda are related to the voting in the National Council and this had to do with on which side the majority was. Welshman’s allegation was that president Tsvangirai had gone against the majority. President Tsvangirai, on the other side, was actually saying that there was a tie and that there was a casting vote.
So it was a factual dispute. It centred on the strategic value of getting into the senatorial elections. History was to prove president Tsvangirai correct because in his opinion, which was correct, participation in the Senate would have a strategic dampening effect on the MDC. The avoidance of the Senate election in 2005 saw the MDC performing much better in 2008. But the fact that people make allegations against a leader is not a new thing. What is important is that those allegations have to be proven. It is easy to make allegations, to try to soil somebody’s reputation but what is important is are those allegations substantiated? That’s number one. Number two, what do the masses say?”
When Mangoma raised those allegations in the standing committee, he was listened to. The allegations were debated the allegations were dismissed by the standing committee voting nine to three. Only one member of the standing committee agreed with him and two, Solomon Madzore and Tendai Biti did not express an opinion.
When the same issue was discussed at national executive level Mangoma actually exonerated the president in the national executive. Fortunately, there are minutes to that effect.
So if they resuscitate the same allegations in respect of which they exonerated the president, it means that there must just be some ulterior motive and this normally happens when politicians are fighting.
FN: I want to believe in 2005, Professor Welshman Ncube said Mr Tsvangirai is dictatorial. Mr Mangoma brought the same issue that the party leader lacks democracy. And when they went to their Mandel meeting that suspended you, your leadership, they also said that you were not listening to the people and that you were dictatorial. How do you comment to that?
DM: Firstly, the issue of dictatorship does not feature in Mr Mangoma’s letter to the president; that means it’s an afterthought. It is something that is being raised in furtherance of whatever they are now doing. Hon Mangoma and Hon Biti wanted to effect leadership change of the MDC in a meeting of four people. President Tsvangirai has said this must go to congress.
Hon Mangoma and Hon Biti don’t want to go to Congress. They don’t want to subject themselves to the wishes of the people and want to be given leadership of the party in a boardroom. President Tsvangirai has said that any leadership change should happen at the congress and should involve the people. These other gentlemen do not want to involve the people. They want to take over leadership in a boardroom and we had to respectfully disagree. Where you have a leader who says let us go back to the people, you have a democrat. Where you have people who want to use their powerful posts in the party, their finances to take over leadership, then you have what we call elite capture. President Tsvangirai is against elite capture.
FN: Mr Mwonzora, your faction and that led by Biti claim to have quorate National Council meetings. I then don’t know how you managed to do it, when you have just one National Council.
DM: What that shows you is that one meeting was fake and this is objectively verifiable. Whether a meeting forms quorum or not is something that is objectively verifiable. The National Council members of the MDC do not change. They were elected in 2011 so what one needs to do is to go to the various minutes of the National Council meetings over these years from 2011.
The identity of the delegates must be the same. Now in the case of Biti’s meeting, the people who came to Mandel are different from the people who have always attended National Council meetings from 2011 to 2014. In the case of the meetings we held at Harvest House, you will see that the delegates are consistent from 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014.
We have gone a step further. At the meeting of the National Council of 29 April at Harvest House, the members of the National Council filled affidavits on whether they had been invited in Mandel or not and those affidavits are there. So we have 167 members of the National Council who were not there at Mandel and the list is there. And the list can’t be compared to the historical list of the National Council so it’s objectively verifiable.
The difference between Biti’s group and ourselves is that we are saying we have a list of people who attended. Biti’s group does not want to disclose their list. All they want to talk about is the number 138. But 138 persons doesn’t necessarily constitute a quorum, it must be 138 delegates of the National Council not 138 of anyone which is their meeting. So this is objectively verifiable and members of the National Council themselves have now written affidavits to say “We were on this meeting, we were not on that meeting.” We invite the Press, especially the public media, to come and inspect the registers.
FN: So in other words you are saying you are prepared to avail the register of people who attended?
DM: Yes, we are very, very prepared.
FN: Mr Biti made serious allegations against Mr Tsvangirai, ranging from violating the party constitution to embezzlement. If I might ask, you as the people who are standing with Mr Tsvangirai, why are you standing with Mr Tsvangirai in the face of such damaging allegations?
DM: Allegations are not fact. We know that the allegations are false. There are two officials in the MDC who deal with finances on a day-to-day basis; that is the treasurer-general and the secretary- general. The mandatory signature is the treasurer-general’s, deputy treasurer Mangoma in the absence of (Roy) Bennett. To say that any other official had his hands in the money is factually incorrect. Mangoma actually exonerated the president.
The main advisor on the constitution from time to time is the secretary-general. And every time we made a decision he was present and every time we made a decision, he never raised anything. He surprised us by holding a press conference, but he should have raised it in the meetings. After that has been said and done, the main violator of the constitution is the secretary general who convenes a meeting he is not supposed to convene who asks people to chair meetings those who are not supposed to chair. We support president Tsvangirai because he is the choice of the people chosen by congress. He has an undoubted mandate to run the party up to 2016 or up to the next congress. We support the idea that in changing or retaining leaders we must involve the congress. If at congress president Tsvangirai is voted out, our allegiance will go to the next president but right now he is the president of the party we know that the allegations raised against him are not factually true and they are being raised by people who want to take leadership outside the democratic process.
FN: Are you saying all is well in your party?
DM: We are with Mr Tsvangirai because he is the legitimate leader elected by the people and for us it makes sense as politicians to be on the side of the people who elected both ourselves and Mr Tsvangirai at congress. And we will be with him up to the congress and if people vote him out, we will be with the next president if we are voted in. The people who have gone out are the people who are afraid of congress, they know that if we go to congress, they will lose. So the people who staged Mandel fear congress, people who remained do not fear congress. I feel I have authority because I was elected and I feel that the next thing I have to do is to subject myself to the will of the people. Not be given leadership by some arrangement at Mandel, I do not want that. But you must also realise that 10 out of 13 members of the standing committee have remained with Tsvangirai. Three out of 13 have gone with Biti and these three are totally unpopular people in the party.
FN: Who are the nine who have remained with Mr Tsvangirai?
DM: Vice president Khupe, national chairman Lovemore Moyo, deputy national chairperson Morgen Komichi, deputy national secretary general, who is now acting secretary general Tapiwa Mashakada, organising secretary Nelson Chamisa, deputy national organising secretary Abednico Bhebhe, deputy secretary for women Theresa Makone, secretary for information and publicity, myself. That means its nine out of 12, the other one is Bennett. Three out of 13 which is Biti, Mangoma and Madzore have gone, the other one Bennett has not said anything.
FN: Biti and others are saying you have no mandate to recall MPs from Parliament because you are not the legitimate leaders of MDC-T. What is your comment? Have you written to Parliament seeking their expulsion from the August House?
DM: I just wanted to add that the leadership position or campaign for leadership in the MDC is not linear, is not mathematically defined for example to say if you are organising secretary, the next post is secretary general or if you are vice president the next post is president, it’s not always like that. One may decide to remain where they are or to take any other post that is available. The good thing is that at our congress all positions are up for grabs and in my own view honourable Biti should have waited to contest at congress.
FN: Biti and others are saying you have no mandate to recall MPs from parliament because you are not the legitimate leaders of the MDC-T. What is your comment? Have you written to Parliament seeking their expulsion?
DM: The first thing is that Biti has written to Parliament and raises five fundamental issues, i) Number one that it is the secretary general of the party who can write to Parliament on any issues including recall, ii) Section 129k applies when a member of the party crosses the flow to another party, iii) that the section applies when a member voluntarily terminates membership of the party, iv) that the MDC is under curatorship, v) that the members can on be recalled by the citizenry and not by their political parties. All the five points are wrong at law. Firstly the leader of the opposition in Parliament is not Mr Biti, it is deputy president Khupe and chief whip is Innocent Gonese and this is recognised by the standing orders and rules of the house. So the people who officially communicate party position with Parliament are the two. By his letter Mr Biti is staging a coup d’état in Parliament where he is seeking to replace Madam Khupe, again unelected. The law is clear that the party writes. It envisages a situation that the subject of recall may actually be the secretary general himself. Now according to Biti’s letter himself if he is to be the subject of recall he has to write the letter himself. To show that what Mr Biti is saying does not make sense we can ask the following questions. (i) What if the subject of the recall is Hon Biti himself, will he write the letter? (ii) What if the subject matter of the recall is a member of the Biti faction or his partners in crime, will he write the letter, (iii) what is Hon Biti does not agree with the majority of the party leaders on recall, will he write the letter? Secondly he says that it only applies to floor crossing. No the law says if the membership is terminated, if the member ceases to be a member of the party. One can cease to be a member of the party in three ways; this can be by resignation, crossing the floor or by expulsion. If a person is expelled from the party why should he or she continue representing that political party in Parliament, it does not make sense. He says that MDC is under curatorship and that again this is totally false. The Zimbabwe law does not allow parties to go under curatorship. Also the MDC constitution does not allow curatorship. If an organisation is under curatorship it cannot be under curatorship of its own members. In this is the case, the guardian council is made of members of the party and cannot therefore manage it. If the MDC is under curatorship was is Biti speaking on its behalf.
So the letter to the Speaker is legally flawed, legally so incorrect that the speaker must ignore it. The duty of the speaker is to interpret the law not to be guided by some interested person who is afraid of a recall. When he wrote the letter we had not recalled anyone. We will exercise the right of recall of those people who have ceased to be our members because Mr Biti went to Mandel, announced a new leadership of a party he called MDC-Team, he has formed his own political party. In terms of clause 5.10 our (MDC) constitution he ceases be a member of our party and he is recallable together with those nine MPs. We are not going to back down from our decision to recall because the affected person has written a letter to the Speaker. We urge the Speaker to look at the law himself and not be given unsolicited legal advice by an interested person.
FN: So when are you sending the letter to Parliament?
DM: Because we are a party of justice those MPs will have to show-cause why they must not be recalled. Soon we will be approaching the Speaker with our decision to recall certain MPs; it may be nine of them, one of them, some of them.
FN: Your party has claimed a hidden hand as behind the implosion in the organisation (MDC, Zanu-PF and western donors). Why then should you be trusted with national leadership if, as you claim, you can be so easily infiltrated and manipulated?
DM: Well the point is not whether we were infiltrated or manipulated. What is the issue is what forces are at play. We have said that the meeting at Mandel is a culmination of elaborate covert operation involving state security, Zanu-PF, other parties and a few malcontents to destabilise the MDC and also to debrand president Tsvangirai. We know that Zanu-PF for example is afraid of meeting president Tsvangirai in 2018. So we maintain our statement. President Mugabe during independence pleaded on behalf of these rebels, that it was their freedom to do what they were doing in the MDC. That is uncharacteristic of Zanu-PF and President Mugabe in particular. Why, because we all know how President Mugabe dealt with rebellion in Tsholotsho and to hear the same party pleading for the people who were transgressing in our party opened our eyes and confirmed to us the reality of the situation.
FN: Will there ever be a day you can take responsibility for your own problems, why do you always attribute everything to Zanu-PF?
DM: Yes there is. We have taken responsibility for the action for which we responsible for but sometimes we have to blame. For instance Hon Mangoma’s assault everyone condemned the MDC as being behind the attack. The MDC security department submitted pictures of the assault and a video showing how Mangoma was assaulted and by whom? The person is very clearly indentifiable from the video but the police are not interested. We have supplied the pictures to the police but they do not want to arrest this person. Why the police are not interested in this person boggles the mind but to us it opens the mind. The second is the bomb at Biti place. Why is it that no one has been arrested yet?
FN: You have been quoted saying the party is broke and it’s now time to fund your struggle as you put it. Who was funding you before and why?
FN: The MDC is a party that follows the laws of the country. The law relating to the funding of the party is the Political Parties Finance Act which spells out how a political party must be funded. Over the years we have been funded by Government because of our membership in Parliament. But the Government has not released the money to us. What that means is that the MDC is unable to sustain its workforce and for that reason we can only raise money legally through the membership of the party. That is why we asking our members to donate. This is in order to sustain the party and pay the workers.
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