Thursday, October 13, 2011
by Staff Reporter
A KEY MDC-T meeting exploded in angry recriminations over the WikiLeaks saga on Wednesday. Nelson Chamisa, the MDC-T’s organising secretary, stormed out of a national executive committee meeting in Harare, prompting party leader Morgan Tsvangirai to step in after a furious row over the party’s handling of the leaked United States cables.
After breaking the meeting for tea, Tsvangirai took charge when it reconvened and ordered the debate about action to be taken against officials named in the United States cables closed, sources told New Zimbabwe.com.
The Prime Minister also reminded his party that Wednesday was October 12 – the sixth anniversary of a damaging split that rocked the party after long-simmering disputes over policy.
“This is not a good day,” a source quoted Tsvangirai as telling the closed door meeting of the party’s top-decision making body outside congress.
A statement issued at the end of the meeting said: “With regards to the recent WikiLeaks publications, the party restates its resolution of the 10th of December 2010 and noted that the same were WikiLies, unsubstantiated hearsay and would not cause commotion or division in the party.”
Sources said the fuse was lit after the party had gone through the agenda and members were asked to raise issues for discussion under ‘any other business’.
Nkulumane legislator Thamsanqa Mahlangu, sources said, expressed disquiet with the December 10 decision to ignore WikiLeaks revelations.
“Burying things under the carpet is not a solution,” a source quoted him as telling the meeting.
But Tsvangirai shot down his motion, insisting that the party had taken a firm position on the matter and no purpose was served by revisiting the discussion.
Morgan Femai, the party’s former provincial chairman for Harare, is said to have stepped in and asked the NEC to rubberstamp the province’s decision to suspend its spokesman and Deputy Justice Minister Obert Gutu, also over comments attributed to him in the cables.
Secretary general Tendai Biti, sources say, told the meeting that Gutu’s suspension was a nullity as the provincial party had no legal grounds to take that step.
But this intervention only incensed some party officials who were seeking stronger action against officials including Biti, Gutu, treasurer Roy Bennett and Chamisa who are all revealed in the diplomatic cables to be critical of Tsvangirai and his advisers.
“Soon, you had Chamisa and Charlton Hwende on one end and the agitators including Femai and Mahlangu at the other locked in a raucous row. In the exchanges, Femai told Chamisa and Hwende that they could be dead by the morning, declaring that ‘ndichakutumira mheni’ [I will get you struck by lightning],” a source revealed.
An angry Chamisa is said to have declared that the Femai camp’s behaviour was “alien to the values of the MDC”, before storming out.
Shortly after, Tsvangirai called for a tea break and told the warring parties to calm down.
MDC sources say the clashes were a “hangover” from the congress held earlier this year at which Mahlangu, Lucia Matibenga, Elias Mudzuri and Femai lost in elections for senior party posts. Tsvangirai later co-opted them into the NEC out of mercy.
But the WikiLeaks saga had given these officials a window to claw back some of their influence in the party as they were hoping to cast the officials named in the cables as “sell-outs” whom Tsvangirai must not trust.
In the end, Gutu’s purported suspension was lifted and the party closed the debate over the US cables.
Meanwhile, Tsvangirai came under fire at the same meeting over his decision to rescind his appointment of Roy Bennett as deputy agriculture minister without informing the exiled former Chimanimani MP.
Tsvangirai named Seiso Moyo in Bennett’s place on Tuesday, it turns out without informing Bennett who failed to take his place in the cabinet after President Robert Mugabe refused to swear him in. Bennett is on self-imposed exile in South Africa.
The snub fuelled speculation within the party, expressed on Wednesday, that the move had been taken because of Bennett’s devastating appraisal of Tsvangirai in the cables.
Bennett was quoted as telling American diplomats that Tsvangirai was being manipulated by Econet boss Strive Masiyiwa, and that “Tsvangirai does what the last person tells him to do”.