The Guardian Council of the Movement for Democratic Change, which is supposed to be the advisory body of the party met for two days this week, but there is now confusion about the decisions it reached.
On Thursday, the faction loyal to party leader Morgan Tsvangirai released a statement in which the council dissociated itself from the faction led by secretary-general Tendai Biti.
Today, the acting chairperson, Sekai Holland, was quoted by The Herald as saying she read that statement under duress. The council had actually decided that the two leaders should work together to reunite the party. Tsvangirai was still president while Biti remained secretary-general.
Which is which? The two statements are reproduced below.
FROM The MDC
Thursday, 22 May 2014
Statement by the Guardians’ Council of the Movement for Democratic Change, Courtney Hotel, Harare. The Guardians’ Council of the MDC met in Harare over the past two days to deliberate on a wide range of matters affecting the party.
In terms of the Constitution, the role of the Guardians’ Council is:
a. To offer advice and wisdom to the national leadership of the party including the National Executive and the National Council
b. To perform and/or carry out any such functions which the National Council may from time to time delegate to it, which may include investigations, arbitration and reconciliation in disputes within the party structures and/or among members
The Guardians’ Council wishes to categorically state that it was never involved in the planning, convening, organizing and conduct of the meeting that was held at Mandel and dissociates itself from all the resolutions of that meeting.
The Council resolved to condemn the resort to violence as a means of resolving political disputes and that those in the violence should be brought to book. This is in line with the values and principles of the party as contained in the party constitution.
In line with its Constitutional mandate, the Guardians’ Council further resolved to explore effective strategies designed to ensure that a conducive environment is created within the party at all levels to facilitate dialogue.
The Party must once again become one united, strong and effective organization capable of winning the next election. In that regard, it must be bound by its founding values and principles of solidarity, democracy, fairness, transparency and accountability.
FROM THE HERALD
The following is the statement by the Guardians’ Council made available to The Herald concerning its deliberations on May 21-22, 2014
The Guardians’ Council has met to deliberate on a wide range of matters that included appraisal of the current internal crisis in our party during this difficult period in our country.
We noted the gravity of the internal crisis which has culminated in suspensions and counter-suspensions by the two warring tendencies in our party.
In light of this, the Guardians’ Council unanimously agreed that in spite of these tragic events emanating from our National Standing Committee leaders the MDC remains one party — the people’s project.
The Guardians’ Council itself reiterated that it stands as one united party organ which now calls on all party members to adhere to our party principles and values as clearly stated in our constitution, including:
The MDC is against all forms of violence and does not believe in the use of violence as a way or means of attaining any political, social, economic or religious objective;
The MDC considers democracy as a core value, to that extent, its policies are to be determined by its membership, and further its leadership shall be accountable to the people as defined by this constitution;
The MDC firmly believes in freedom of speech, freedom of expression and further, the free circulation of ideas and information within the movement
The MDC is against all forms of factionalism, fronticism, rumour mongering, slander and character assassination
1. The MDC has reached the most critical stage of its life, facing an existential crisis as, according to their own accounts, there is no longer any trust between the president and the secretary-general and amongst the members of the National Standing Committee.
2. In spite of consistent advice and repeated warnings from the Guardians’ Council and subsequently from the Guardians’ Council executive committee, party leaders have been attacking each other verbally, in the press and even physically.
This is in direct contradiction of MDC’s values and principles, especially Article 4.6 which states that the MDC firmly believes in freedom of speech, freedom of expression and further, the free circulation of ideas and information within the movement.
3. The resulting deep and dangerous internal party divisions have separated our party from its values and from the focus of its work which is to carry out the democratic liberation, empowerment and transformation of Zimbabwe, thereby completing the unfinished business of the national liberation struggle.
4. In clear violation of our party constitution, the National Standing Committee has formed factions that are splitting the party down to the grassroots where party structures are openly fighting and injuring one another. Families, communities and the nation are all being affected, as well as external friends of Zimbabwe.
5. The Party factions have been acting unconstitutionally by claiming to have suspended each other’s leaders and there is talk of MPs and Senators being recalled from Parliament, thereby creating confusion and instability in the party.
6. The prospects of the MDC remaining a strong and viable opposition Party to strengthen our fragile democracy are being destroyed, potentially ensuring the corrupt and authoritarian rule of ZANU-PF for many more years to come.
These unconstitutional factions must stop the bleeding caused by their fights and work to unify the Party and focus on its core values once more. Indeed all opposition parties must unite.
The meeting resolved that the Guardians’ Council go forward and carry out our mandate as stated in our constitution;
6.5.3(a) To offer advice and wisdom to the national leadership of the party including the National Executive Committee and National Council
6.5.3 (d) To perform and/or carry out any such functions which the National Council may from time to time delegate to it, which may include investigations, arbitration and reconciliation in disputes within the party structures and/or among members.
The meeting condemns all warring sides, and asks them to stop their behaviour that is hurting all our party members, eroding our popular support base and dashing the hopes of our people. Their shameful activities are contrary to the values and tenets of our party constitution.
Even more importantly, this behaviour negates the reality that the MDC is the people’s project that takes precedence over the personal selfish parochial interests presently being displayed by our leaders in the national standing committee.
Our party stands above these heartbreaking developments.
On this note, and in view of the need for openness and transparency to the nation, the Guardians’ Council feels it must, sadly, use a public platform to rebuke all our National Standing Committee leaders.
We urge them to introspect their actions deeply and revue their philosophies and values in order to judge themselves and their commitment to the precious MDC, the people’s hope for an improved future in a democratic Zimbabwe where all voices are heard and tolerated.
We call on our party president, as the custodian of our party constitution and as the embodiment of our party values and principles, to deal immediately and decisively with all the elements fomenting actual and perceived violence within our party.
The Guardians’ Council recognises the damage that has already been done to our party and urges the warring parties and generality of our members to work together and build on the achievements of the Global Political Agreement peace-building process.
During that time the country experienced unprecedented levels of tolerance.
If the current National Standing Committee was able to work in the inclusive Government with ZANU-PF, in spite of everything that had happened to us in their hands, then opening their hearts to one another to resolve this current crisis should be an easy assignment in comparison.
The Guardians’ Council therefore agreed on a straight forward roadmap which the National Standing Committee should follow forthwith in order to save the party.
Senator Sekai M Holland MP
Harare Metropolitan Province
Acting Chairperson MDC-T Guardians’ Council 22 May 2014