MOVEMENT for Democratic Change (MDC-T) supporters and members aligned to Morgan Tsvangirai’s faction are mobilising against Tendai Biti in Harare East constituency in order to build a solid case against the party’s secretary-general that would justify his planned recall from Parliament. From the branch level up, all wings of the MDC-T in Harare East are being mobilised against Biti, who represents the constituency to strengthen plans by their leadership to recall the former finance minister from Parliament.
The Financial Gazette has it on good authority that well before the Mandel meeting on April 26, where Biti and like-minded colleagues in the MDC-T suspended Tsvangirai along with six other top officials of the party, those baying for his blood in the constituency had already passed a vote of no confidence in him. Harare East constituency has 17 branches and three wards for the MDC-T.
As part of the vote of no confidence, a petition was circulated and signed by 2, 930 members. Although an overwhelming sentiment could have been whipped up in the structures against Biti, there are some who have defected from the same structures to stand by the renewal team, led by the MDC-T secretary-general. Collin Chavengwa, a district organising secretary in Harare East, said the constituency had been aware of Biti’s alleged covert formation of parallel structures within the party at the peril of Tsvangirai for months. He said they started agitating for Biti’s recall as an MP after a heated December 17, 2013 meeting following which the legislator wanted to suspend him and district chairlady, one, Netsai Wutawunashe.
The move was vetoed by Tsvangirai who suspected that Biti could have been out to purge those aligned to him, sources say. “We want him (Biti) recalled. As a constituency, we decided a long time ago (mid April) that Biti be recalled from Parliament,” said Chavengwa. Contentious issues which brought relations to a head include the legislator’s alleged refusal to conduct an election post-mortem for the constituency; some allegations of mishandling of elections funds intended for polling agents and biased selection of election agents; among others.
According to Chawengwa and one, Peter Mudavanhu, another pro-Tsvangirai cadre, who after some alleged bad blood between him and Biti, was removed from the position of provincial chairperson for Harare East, what angered the constituency even further was Biti’s recent remarks that the MDC-T election message left a lot to be desired compared to the ZANU-PF’s bhora mugedhi catch phrase.
Since December, Chawengwa said, they have been holding meetings regularly pointing out to members how their MP has been selling out. To date, they have held a total of about 18 meetings on the issue. “We held meetings in the branches and wards. Then we held a ward assembly and then finally a district assembly, which resolved and communicated to the national leadership that we had no more confidence in Tendai Biti,” Chawengwa said.
Although Stewart Mutizwa, acting provincial chairperson — who is believed to be aligned to Biti could not be reached for comment — party national spokesperson, Douglas Mwonzora, confirmed that the constituency had passed a vote of no confidence in Biti before the Mandel meeting. “It’s true they passed a vote of no confidence in their MP weeks before the Mandel meeting. Honourable Biti’s clandestine activities were known by party members from as far back as 2012. So the Mandel meeting did not come to us as big bang,” Mwonzora said.
Following the Mandel meeting one of the first things Biti did was to write a letter to the Speaker of Parliament to protect his status as an MP. Political analyst, Alois Masepe, said by insisting they have not formed another party, the renewal team is aware that their actions could precipitate by-elections if they are recalled from Parliament.
“If your party recalls you that creates a vacancy and because they fear a by-election they are deriving comfort from saying they have suspended Tsvangirai,” said Masepe.
Further, Masepe said, if the renewal team is truly democratic why the reluctance to face the electorate.
“They are very sure that they are not popular, therefore they cannot risk putting their popularity to the test. If what Biti is saying resonates with his constituency, then the constituency should be able to vote you back. They should test their popularity with their constituencies,” Masepe said.
Tsvangirai has repeatedly challenged the renewal team saying they do not have any people behind them. However, Biti denies he is scared of the electorate. “We are not scared of the electorate. The letter we wrote was written to notify the Speaker that no one has the right to communicate with Parliament but the secretary general of the party,” Biti said.