Tsvangirai seeks unlimited term as MDC leader
Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) leader Morgan Tsvangirai was elected into office in 2000 under the current party constitution which says the term of the party president is limited to two five-year terms.
According to the current MDC constitution, Tsvangirai's term expires in 2010 after which he would have to pave way for a new leader.
However, Tsvangirai's advisers, fearing that the ruling Zanu PF government may postpone the next elections to 2010 -- the time when Tsvangirai's term expires, have pushed through a constitutional amendment which they hope to pass at a planned congress later in March.
The amended draft, made available to New Zimbabwe.com Thursday, only imposes a limit on the president's term "after assuming governing power of the Republic of Zimbabwe".
Article 6.1.2 of the amended draft reads: "After assuming governing power of the Republic of Zimbabwe, the President subject to being re-elected by Congress, shall serve for a maximum of two terms as party president but eligible for election in other party positions thereafter."
The MDC split irreconcilably between two factions last November after Tsvangirai's colleagues, led by his deputy Gibson Sibanda, accused him of "dictatorship" following his rejection of a vote of the party's national council to participate in senate elections.
The two factions plan to hold two separate congresses where they will both elect their new leaders. However, observers say short of an "amicable divorce" negotiated between the two groups -- the matter over who can rightly claim control of the party can only be settled by a court of law.
On Thursday, Sibanda's group declared that they now controlled the parliamentary party after 23 (initially 22) MPs out of the MDC's 41 in parliament swung behind them. They immediately elected a new chief whip and rolled out a new shadow cabinet.
Last night, a Zimbabwean political journalist watching the developments in the MDC told New Zimbabwe.com: "This looks like a project for feudal dictators. Tsvangirai is behaving like 17th century monarchs who rigidly opposed the march of constitutionalism.
"This makes nonsense of Tsvangirai's pretences that he is fighting for a democratic dispensation. This is an entrenchment of authoritarianism and an absolute vitiation of the concept of constitutionalism."
The draft constitution also gives the president power to appoint or dismiss members of the party's national council.
The journalist added: "All these measures are designed to give Tsvangirai untrammeled power as party leader. What this demonstrates is that Tsvangirai has irredeemably lost the plot. Political blunders can be made and forgiven. But a deliberate tampering with a party constitution cannot pass for a blunder."
MDC sources said the draft constitution was the work of Tsvangirai's unelected advisers, dubbed the "kitchen cabinet" by his critics.
Tendai Biti, a lawyer who supported Tsvangirai's stance on the senate, is said to have been critical of the document and put together another version which restricts Tsvangirai's term to two years. Tsvangirai, however, is said to favour the draft drawn up by his advisers.
Welshman Ncube, the MDC's secretary general, now critical of Tsvangirai,
told New Zimbabwe.com Thursday: "Our problem with Tsvangirai and
his kitchen cabinet has always been that they don't want to play by
the rules. The draft constitution which they have drawn up is a shocking
document which concentrates power on one person. You always thought
that was a Zanu PF way of doing things."
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