Movement for Democratic Change (pre-2004)

Movement for Democratic Change (pre-2004)

party_name = Movement for Democratic Change
party_wikicolourid = Liberal
status = defunct
class = fed
foundation = 31 September, 1999
dissolution = March 2006
president = Morgan Tsvangirai
leader = Gibson Sibanda
ideology = Democratic socialism,
Social democracy,
headquarters = 44 Harvest House Nelson Mandela Avenue & Angwa Street
Harare Zimbabwe
int_alignment = Socialist International [ Socialist International - Progressive Politics For A Fairer World ] ]
colours = Red and black
seats_house = 110 Zimbabwe Parliament, 30Zimbabwe Senate
website = []

Before its split in 2004, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) was a Zimbabwean political party under the leadership of Morgan Tsvangirai, founded in 1999 as an opposition party to President Robert Mugabe's Zimbabwe African National Union - Patriotic Front (Zanu-PF). [ The Politics of the Movement for Democratic Change] "New Zimbabwe"] The MDC was made up of many civic groups who campaigned for the "No" vote in the 2000 constitutional referendum, which would limit a president's service to two terms, before the introduction of a Prime Minister, as well as giving legal immunities to the State. [ MDC official site] ] However, as it was the term limit was not retroactive, Mugabe could still have maintained the presidency for two more years. The most contraversial part of the constitution was the land reform policies. It stated that, as in the Lancaster House Agreement, Britain would fund land reform from white settlers to landless black peasants. If Britain failed to compensate the farmers, the government would take the farms, without compensation. [ "Wikisource"] The party split over whether to contest the 2005 senate election, into the Movement for Democratic Change - Tsvangirai (MDC-T, or MDC-Tsvangirai), the larger party still led by Morgan Tsvangirai, and the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), a smaller faction led by Arthur Mutambara. [ [ I will quit if I lose to Khuphe - Welshman Ncube] "Zimbabwe Metro"]


The MDC began after the People's working Convention in February 1999. After winning with a successful urban vote to topple the proposed constitutional referendum with a "No" vote in 2000, the government went ahead with land reforms, and the MDC cited several issues concerning organization of the party. In 2004, opposition offices in Bulawayo were raided by police officers, armed with search warrants, looking for illegal documents and weapons. [ [ Zimbabwe Police Raid Opposition MDC offices] "VOA News"]

During Morgan Tsvangirai's treason trial pressure built up within the party because of the threat that Tsvangirai would be imprisoned, in which there were aledgedly rumors of a faction desiring an Ndebele president, Secretary General Welshman Ncube(now Secretary General of the Mutambara led Movement for Democratic Change) to replace him, as well as rumors of tribal prejudice on the other side. David Coltart however, claimed that people who believed this "are being deliberately mischievous or simply do not understand basic political reality in Zimbabwe" There were still however, some within the party who felt that Ncube was plotting to create a new party. There were several reports of violence at party Headquarters by party youth, including the beatings of several party members. There was even a Commission made to decide on whether these allegations were true, although no official decision was made as the commissioners failed to agree.

In 2005, amid tension, another report was drafted regarding the growing violence within the party. Because the 2004 commission had failed to reach a consensus and there had been no punishment given to the offenders, a new commission was set up to find cases of corruption and the origin of such violence. The report stated that most of there was a serious problem with misuse of the unemployed youth, who were not education properly about the party ideology, for selfish and ambitious purposes, and that the party's principles were being consumed by greed, corruption and tribal discrimination and that this division in the party would have disastrous consequences, and was threatening to undermine the party. Several youths were expelled from the party but, little other action was taken. This move was criticized by the party's legal spokesman David Coltart:

"I cannot believe that the youths involved in these despicable acts acted independently. It is common cause that they were unemployed and it is equally clear that they had access to substantial funding. That money must have come from people with access to resources. The instructions to act must have come from people within the Party as no-one else would have the detailed knowledge the youths had access to. In expelling the youths and relatively low ranking members of the security team we have only dealt with the symptoms of the problem, not its root cause."

Former allies the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) and the National Constitutional Assembly also clashed with MDC leadership. In particular, the ZCTU said that the MDC should not take up its seats in parliament, and should concentrate on extra-parliamentary affairs. They argued that rejecting the electoral process, and pointing out its flaws, while still contesting the elections was sending mixed signals to the MDC support base. However, MDC officials replied that there was a strong desire in the party to take up the seats available, in order to increase influence over electoral procedures.

In July 2005 a management committee was set up to discuss these factional issues, particularly the alleged formation of a "kitchen cabinet", made up of presidential aides, around the president which was aquiring power above those of the elected leadership. These allegations were made by four of the six members in the committee, namely the Vice President Gibson Sibanda, the Secretary General Welshman Ncube, the Deputy Secretary General Gift Chimanikire and the National Treasurer Fletcher Dulini. Morgan Tsvangirai claimed that these claims had no substance, and were down to rumour and hearsay. Party Chairman Isaac Matongo rallied behind the president, although he was the only party official to hold this belief to come from Matebeleland.

In a critique of the party structures in 2005, the MDC leadership admitted that the party had "moved away from its social democratic, all inclusive, non-tribalistic foundations."


The issue which eventually led to the dismantlement of the party was the decision on whether or not to participate in the 2005 Senate Election. The MDC's top six were unable to agree on the issue, and so the debate went down to the MDC National Council on October 12th. They voted 33-31 in favor of contesting the election (with two spoiled papers). However, Morgan Tsvangirai told the press that the debate was tied at 50-50, which included several proxies sent by Sekai Holland and Grace Kwinjeh, alledging that these were not recognised by Ncube, giving him different inaccurate figures. [ [ Putting the MDC split into context] "Nehada radio"] In response to the vote, admitting he had lost, he stated that MDC would still not go ahead with the election, as he was president and he should have the final decision.

"Well you have voted, and you have voted to participate, which as you know is against my own wish. In the circumstances I can no longer continue……No I cannot let you participate in this senate election when I believe that it is against the best interests of the party. I am President of this party. I am therefore going out of this and (will) announce to the world that the MDC will not participate in this election. If the party breaks so be it. I will answer to congress."

In response to his misinformation at the press conference Gibson Sibanda, the Deputy President of the party, summoned Tsvangirai to a hearing of the National Disciplinary Committee charging that because of his actions at and after the National Council Meeting, he had willfully violated clauses 4.4 (a), 6.1.1 (a) and (d) of the MDC constitution and clause 9.2 of the Party’s Disciplinary Code of Conduct. He also stated that Tsvangirai had addressed numerous party rallies telling supporters that the MDC was not participating in the elections, that he wrote to the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission telling them to register all MDC candidates wishing to participate as independent candidates. Furthermore, that he instructed party provincial chairpersons to ignore a letter written by the Deputy Secretary General ordering the selection of candidates, and that he had instructed the party secretariat to re-employ Nhamo Musekiwa and Washington Gaga. ["Gibson Sibanda" [ Full text of MDC disciplinary committee letter expelling Tsvangirai] "New Zimbabwe"]

Another letter was written to Tsvangirai on the same day, indicating that he had been suspended from office by the National Disciplinary Committee, while he maintained the right to appeal the decision. Tsvangirai claimed in response that the pro-senate group had not carried out proper provincial consultations. He also argued against claims that he was not respecting the founding values of the MDC by saying that his position on the senate expressed the will of the people, and that he should therefore be given power to make decisions. He also striked out against the supporters of participation, saying that they were planning a new "Unity Accord" and betraying the people of Matebeleland like Joshua Nkomo in the 1990s, and accused the Ncube faction of trying to get rid of him so that the new MDC could become puppets of Robert Mugabe.

"Even if I am left alone, I will not betray the contract I made with the people. The issue that is there is not about the senate only. It is about whether you want to confront Mugabe or you want to compromise with Mugabe. Some of us are now working towards a new unity accord. We are saying ‘no’ to unity accord number two. With us there is no unity accord....we will not do what Nkomo did."

Tsvangirai expelled supporters of the Senate from his party, and sought to nullify the charges and proceedings instituted against him by Gibson Sibanda by convening another National Council. The majority of major civic groups continued to support Tsvangirai, calling the Ncube faction traitors and rebels. Tsvangirai believed that there was little point in participating in elections in the current political situation in Zimbabwe, as the results, according to him, were certain to be rigged. Welshman Ncube however, declared that the only way of beating Zanu-PF was through elections, and there was no point in boycotting the elections just because of allegations that they were not free and fair.

Discussions in February 2006 confirmed the existence of what Ncube called a "mafia kitchen cabinet", a growth in youth violence, conflict and competition for the office of president and the resulting lack of implementation of party programmes. Tsvangirai also considered South African President Thabo Mbeki's mediation attempts as "destructive" and continued to deny tribal discrimination within the party. He was also irate over the Central Intelligence Organization's infiltration of the MDC and claimed that this was a deliberate attempt by Zanu-PF to divide the party.

A compromise position was brought up at the end of the first meeting, which would result in the pro-senate faction withdrawing from the election. However, the Management Committee would try to destroy the "kitchen cabinet" and parallel structure. Thirdly, public recriminations would have to stop while the leadership drew up a programme to help the party move forward. The compromise was however, refuted by both sides, with Tsvangirai unable to make a commitment on the subject of his aides, and the pro-senate faction unable to agree not to contest the Senate election at the second mediation meeting.

After the Senate elections, the MDC split into two groups: one led by Morgan Tsvangirai, Welshman Ncube along with Gift Chimanikire and Paul Themba Nyathi. The pro-Senate group had one more member in the House of Assembly at the time of the split, however senior members of the pro-Senate faction subsequently defected to MDC-T led by Tsvangirai including its Chairman Gift Chimanikire,cite web| url=| title= Chimanikire defects|publisher=zimbabwejournalists] Blessing Chebundo, the Member of Parliament for Kwekwe, the Environmental Secretary and Binga Member of Parliament Joel Gabuza, and Senate Candidate for Tsholotsho Sam Sipepa Nkomo.cite web|url= | title=MDC Mutambara Faction Hit by Defection, More Expected ] [cite web | url= | title=Sipepa Nkomo follows Chebundo in ditching Mutambara MDC faction ] Although the pro-senate faction had the bulk of it's support in Matabeleland, the party chose the Shona academic Arthur Mutambara to lead their party. [ [ Zimbabwe's 'outsider' faction leader] "BBC News"]

Since the split, the majority of MDC supporters continued to vote for Tsvangirai's faction; a poll conducted in rural areas in 2007 showed MDC-T gaining 21% of the poll, while MDC had a mere 1%. 33% supported Zanu-PF while a further 45% refused to state their preference, or were undecided. [ [ Early poll gives Zimbabwe Ruling Party An Edge Over Its Opposition] "VOA News"] In the 2008 Presidential Election, Mutambara backed independent candidate Simba Makoni. [ [ Mutambara withdraws from race, backs Makoni] "New Zimbabwe"]


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