Tsvangirai refuses to be fired by Biti


Morgan Tsvangirai says he will not recognise his expulsion at the weekend from the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) by a rival faction. The group has been dubbed the renewal team, and is led by his former right-hand man, secretary-general Tendai Biti.

Mr Tsvangirai's decision to stay put in the MDC, a party he helped to found in 1999, heralds the splintering of Zimbabwe's largest opposition party into three formations in less than a decade.

Mr Tsvangirai's ally Lovemore Moyo, the national chairman of MDC-T, has also been expelled.

The tribunal that expelled Mr Tsvangirai consisted of three Harare-based lawyers, who said they were satisfied Mr Tsvangirai had committed serious misdemeanours.

"We have no doubt in our minds that he failed to uphold the constitution of the MDC, he failed to lead the party, he brought the party into disrepute and he caused divisions and was at the centre of divisions in the party," they found in their verdict.

Mr Biti's team held a meeting at the weekend in Harare's Mandel training centre, where Mr Tsvangirai's suspension was announced in March.

It is a hollow show of triumph against Mr Tsvangirai, who the group blames for poor leadership that has led to the MDC's defeat in last year's election.

In the strongest sign to date that the renewal team is on the verge of launching itself as a fully fledged political party, it has adopted the colour orange as part of its new identity. The MDC has traditionally used red as its colour.

Party insiders say the use of the colour orange denotes that the country is ripe and ready for a revolution.

Observers have said the bickering in the MDC is beneficial only to President Robert Mugabe's Zanu (PF). The ruling party would face an even more weakened opposition in the 2018 elections.

"This is despite behind-the-scenes overtures being made, aimed at the formation of a grand coalition among the opposition parties," said Rashweat Mukundu, a political commentator.

Douglas Mwonzora, MDC spokesman, on Monday said the tribunal which expelled Mr Tsvangirai was improperly constituted and that the courts had not given it the go-ahead to summon him.

"The high court made a clear ruling last Friday that Mr Tsvangirai could not be brought before the tribunal. What we have therefore is a bunch of lawless lawyers who have not only defied the constitution of the MDC, but are in contempt of the courts by going against the ruling," said Mr Mwonzora.

"Therefore we as the MDC will abide by rule of law and recognise Mr Tsvangirai as party leader…. We will not recognise anything done in contempt of the courts of Zimbabwe. We are finished with Mr Biti's party and we will now be seeking a return of our properties," he said.

Mr Tsvangirai's MDC is preparing for an elective congress in October. He is expected to win and stay at the helm for a fourth five-year term. Although weakened, Mr Tsvangirai is still popular at the grassroots level and his opponents will have to dig deep to lure the same kind of support that he still enjoys.

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