Can they save him? ... Tsvangirai is said to be still popular with ordinary MDC-T members
by Staff Reporter
COMMENT - Is it any surprise that the 'party of business' would break up over money? - MrK
MONEY appears to be at the heart of the bitter MDC-T leadership dispute it has emerged, with leader Morgan Tsvangirai said to be hard up and in need for new cash to fund his lavish lifestyle at a time party finances are woefully sparse and donors can’t be bothered.
The opposition party’s national executive is set to meet Friday over an explosive proposal (read it in full here) by deputy national treasurer, Elton Mangoma, for Tsvangirai to immediately retire so the party can choose a new leadership.
Tsvangirai refused to quit, in a development that has divided the party.
The leadership will meet fully aware the party risks a breakup as devastating as the 2005 split which saw former secretary general Welshman Ncube and several senior officials disgruntled with Tsvangirai’s leadership style walk away.
Mangoma is said to represent an increasingly emboldened group in the top leadership that is pressing for an early or extra-ordinary elective congress, believing Tsvangirai has become an insufferable liability and must be replaced before new elections which could happen before the scheduled 2018.
Sources close to leading protagonists in the Mangoma camp told NewZimbabwe.com that Tsvangirai was running out of money for his private needs and sparked angst after recently reaching out to President Robert Mugabe through a Harare Catholic cleric said to be close to the Zanu PF leader.
Tsvangirai is said to feel that, as a former Prime Minister, he is entitled to some kind of a subsistence package which should include the mansion in Harare’s leafy Highlands suburb acquired for him during the tenure of the coalition government.
Mugabe is said to have told the MDC-T leader he was open to considering ways of alleviating his plight on condition Tsvangirai accepts he lost the July 2013 elections fair and square and publicly endorse the vote as legitimate.
After Mugabe made his position clear through the emissary, the MDC-T leader reportedly travelled to South Africa where he is said to have asked former President Thabo Mbeki to arrange face-to-face talks with his rival.
Mbeki’s office said he was out of the country and unavailable for comment while efforts to reach the Catholic cleric were unsuccessful.
With violent attacks reported against those thought to be aligned to the Mangoma group, both sides were not willing to comment openly Thursday, fearing reprisals.
However a member of the Mangoma group said: “We have heard chatter to that effect and understand Tsvangirai is minded to endorse Mugabe if that can help address his financial problems.
“In fact, Tsvangirai has told the top leadership of the party that he wants to meet Mugabe to discuss national issues. But you will also remember that he did say, publicly in interviews, that he wanted to meet Mugabe to discuss his pension and the matter of the Highlands house.”
Reports dismissed as nonsense by the MDC-T leader’s supporters claimed Tsvangirai was offered a $3 million-sweatener to encourage him to walk.
On Thursday it was insisted that he was in fact open to the idea, if the pay-out sum could be bumped up some.
“Tsvangirai said he wanted more money because his wife had died during the time of the democratic struggle. He also claims he lost a lot and deserved more than the $3 million offered,” an insider privy to the developments told New Zimbabwe.com.
But one of Tsvangirai’s most vocal supporters dismissed the allegations as a poor attempt at demeaning the character of the party leader.
“There is nothing like that; it’s just an attempt at character decimation. Mr Tsvangirai never met Mugabe and he is not (financially) desperate.
"In any case, as a former trade unionist, it would be ridiculous to suggest he could ever be hostile to the idea of being in want,” said the official.
Reminded that Tsvangirai has, in the past, said he wanted to discuss with Mugabe the matter of his pension and referred to the need for dialogue in his recent so-called state of the nation address, the official said Tsvangirai wanted to talk about problems affecting the country, not his personal welfare.
Meanwhile, sources also said there was increasing anxiety over party finances with donors making it clear they would not make a penny available as long as Tsvangirai remained leader.
It was claimed usual donors are disaffected with Tsvangirai, blaming him for the party’s defeat in last year’s elections.
The former premier’s scandalised private life and association with women who have ties to Zanu PF has not helped matters, especially with prudish elements in the donor community.
In his letter, Mangoma asked Tsvangirai: “How will we put closure to the question of misuse of funds, and ensure that our friends regain confidence that donations will be channelled to the people’s project going forward?”
But the Tsvangirai supporter said the MDC-T was, like other organisations, feeling the pressures of operating in a failing economy.
He however rejected the idea that party would contemplate sacrificing its leader for the pleasure of supposedly disaffected donors.
“The MDC was not formed by donors; it was not formed for donors and it is not run by donors,” he said.
“The party was formed for, is run by and for the people of Zimbabwe. We have a paid up membership of more than 600,000 who sacrifice their hard earned cash to support a cause they believe is justified.
“The suggestion that any partners are refusing to help because they are not happy with the leader is just an excuse; it is a scapegoat used to mask the failure of those asked with raising funding for the movement.”
Asked why Tsvangirai was opposed to an early congress since it could endorse his leadership and silence the rebels, the official said the MDC-T would not be stampeded into calling an early congress for the convenience of power hungry individuals.
“The president is not afraid of a congress. He is not afraid and cannot be of the people; to suggest he is afraid of the people is like saying the Pope is afraid of Christmas. Turkeys, on the other hand, will be anxious about Christmas - and understandably so,” he said.
“But we will not be stampeded into any process for the convenience of power hungry individuals. The fact of the matter is that the party has a Constitution which should be followed; the party has processes which must be adhered to.”
Asked what they would do if they failed to force a congress and Tsvangirai clings onto power, a member of the Mangoma groups said: “We will cross that bridge when we get to it.”
Another added: “We have Plan B.”