A BATTLE for assets looms in the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC-T) as the two warring camps jostle to outwit each other and seize control of the party, the Financial Gazette can report. Following the ouster and counter ouster of key party members — first by the secretary general Tendai Biti-led camp which suspended party president Morgan
Tsvangirai and six others at a palace coup last Saturday; and then a retaliatory measure by the Tsvangirai camp which expelled Biti and eight others on Tuesday — the composition and leadership of the party has been thrown into such disarray the future of party has never been bleaker.
Although the original party’s split in 2005 posed a threat to the movement then, when secretary general at the time, Welshman Ncube, led a splinter group out of the main fold protesting what they alleged to be undemocratic behaviour by Tsvangirai, analysts say this time around the party faces complete disintegration. The 2005 split left two formations that held, at least for some time, as fully fledged formations.
This time around the acrimony is more heightened and the battle to outwit and out-strategise is intense and if what has already transpired in a space of less than a week is anything to go by, the party is in for a drawn-out battle with none of the two sides showing, as yet, signs of relenting. As the contests of wills trudges on, and the warring sides each claiming to be the real party and none of them stepping aside to form another entity, what is at stake is ownership of party assets.
These include the party name, fixed assets such as the Harvest House headquarters and other immovable property. While the Tsvangirai camp says that by staging the palace coup on Saturday the Biti camp which has, in recent months, been pushing and strategising for leadership renewal within the party, the “rebels” have in essence formed their own party; the latter insist they have not moved out of the party.
“We are not going anywhere. We are building a movement,” said the Biti camp in a quotation attributed to Jacob Mafume. At a press conference, Tsvangirai said, “The national council acknowledged that Tendai Biti and others that attended the unconstitutional Mandel meeting have expelled themselves in accordance with the (party) constitution.”
Based on their claim that they have not moved, Elton Mangoma, a key member of the Biti camp told the Financial Gazette yesterday that they had not changed the name.
“We have not done anything about the name yet,” Mangoma said. “We have not changed it.”
Currently, occupation of the headquarters – and therefore implied ownership at least as of now – is with the Tsvangirai camp. “The thugs are currently occupying Harvest House but we will soon change that,” Mangoma said, adding that the rest of the MDC-T assets belonged to the party, which according to their camp belongs to them as they call themselves the party.
Although Tsvangirai camp spokesperson, Douglas Mwonzora, could not be reached for comment by time of going to press, earlier in the week, he had insisted that their camp was the legitimate party, which would therefore imply that party assets belong to them. Expected to spill into the courts, the battle for ownership of the party – and by extension its assets – is likely to get ugly and drawn out. Analysts say the MDC-T party as it has been known is now gone, and that the movement is beyond salvaging.
“At this moment the MDC is in deep trouble. With a fragmented leadership, divided support base the MDC stands no chance of being a political force it once was, even post July 31. The party is likely to split and this may mean the end of the MDC as we know it today,” said political analyst, Rashweat Mukundu.
Another analyst, Nhamo Mhiripiri, concurs. “After the circus has played itself through, it would be inevitable that we have a breakaway group,” said Mhiripiri.