Consolidated Report of the Observer’s to the Extra-Ordinary Congress of the Women’s Assembly Elections MDC (Tsvangirai)
The following report is based on the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections. The MDC has stated in the public domain that these are the electoral guidelines that the party believes the State is obligated to meet in order to conduct a free and fair national election. In this instance the broader principles of the SADC guidelines will be used as a test against which the Women’s Assembly National Executive Committee Elections were conducted during the Extra-Ordinary Congress of the Women’s Assembly of the MDC (Tsvangirai Faction) on 28 October 2007.
In addition, this report includes the backdrop against which the Extra-Ordinary Congress was called for and discussions on how the background issues that impacted on events on the 28th of October 2007.
The Dissolution of the Women’s Assembly.
The National Standing Committee of the MDC (Tsvangirai) dissolved the Women’s Assembly under questionable circumstances. The events leading up to the dissolution of the Assembly were spread across the media and the image of women in decision-making positions was negatively impacted as the public was made to believe that two women in the Women’s Assembly were squabbling and failing to focus on their leadership responsibilities. The image of women in decision-making positions was not contextualised against the greater issues at play within the MDC and as such, the issues that had caused a crisis in the Women’s Assembly were overshadowed by what was made to appear as two bickering women. The Zimbabwean nation was indeed shocked to be informed that the MDC leadership had dissolved the Women’s Assembly. In particular, the unconstitutional processes that appeared to have been followed in effecting the dissolution alarmed the Women’s Movement in Zimbabwe .
The Women in Politics Support Unit (WiPSU) began to informally investigate the dynamics behind the MDC Women’s Assembly. It became apparent that there was need to seek clarification regarding the events surrounding the dissolution of the Women’s Assembly. On the 24th of October 2007, at a meeting organised by WiPSU and Feminist Political Education Project (FePEP), the Zimbabwe Women’s Movement met Ms Matibenga and asked her to share her insights on the events that led to the dissolution of the executive she chaired. During the discussions, it emerged that the dissolution by the National Standing Committee (NSC) was unconstitutional as the MDC Women’s Assembly could only be dissolved by two bodies namely; the National Council and the General Women’s Assembly.
After meeting Ms Matibenga and other members of the dissolved executive, the Women’s Movement elected to write to Mr Tsvangirai to seek further clarification on the dissolution and explanation on how the party was managing the leadership crisis within the Women’s Assembly.
As a result of the letter, representatives of the women’s movement met with Mr Tsvangirai on the 25th of October 2007. The MDC president denied that the party had dissolved the Women’s Assembly but that the party had merely dismissed the eight elected officials that constituted the members of the National Executive Committee of the Women’s Assembly. Further, he argued that there had been no procedural violations of the party’s constitution in the dismissal of the officials.
Mr Tsvangirai agreed to place the position of the MDC regarding the Women’s Assembly and women’s affairs on public record. Additionally, he committed the MDC to taking a demonstrated interest in supporting the increased and enhanced qualitative and quantitative participation of women in policy and decision-making positions.
Mr Tsvangirai extended an invitation to WiPSU and FePEP to attend the congress in Bulawayo as observers so as to prove that the actions of the MDC had been in line with their internal obligations and the broader principles of democracy.
The pre-election period was characterised by secrecy and rumours in respect of the venue of the congress. There were rumours that the congress was to be held in Mutare or Harare or even in Chitungwiza. The lack of basic information regarding the venue of the congress was a violation of the MDC constitution in that, the party was obligated to widely publicise the venue and date of the congress to ensure all eligible parties were given fair and equal opportunity, to secure their representation at the congress. The reluctance of the party to openly publicise the venue of the up-coming Women’s Congress was a direct violation of the SADC guidelines on elections by the MDC.
The observers were informed that the congress would be held in Bulawayo at their meeting with Mr Tsvangirai. Though the actual venue was not disclosed, observers were assured by various members of the MDC administration that the venue would be provided timeously.
The MDC argued that the reason for secrecy regarding the venue was to ensure security for the participants. However this allegation is questionable as it was clear only those in the Makone camp knew of the venue in sufficient time though Matibenga supporters were informed of the venue either the night before the congress or on the morning of the congress. This clearly indicates the secrecy was merely to misinform the Matibenga supporters and ensure their exclusion from the electoral process. As a result Ms Matibenga’s supporters were forced to scurry around the country mobilising their personal resources in order to travel to Bulawayo .
Another argument regarding secrecy was that there were simply insufficient resources to hold a congress with all the necessary participants. However, there are no signs that the MDC made any effort to mobilise such resources or rather take the issue to the electorate to contribute to the congress in light of the crisis. In any event how would the lack of resources equal the need to keep the congress secret?
The Nomination Process
Access to Nomination Papers
The nomination process for the candidates to the Executive Committee was fraught with controversy. Nomination forms were disseminated in a discriminatory manner. The failure of the MDC to ensure that the nomination forms of the Women’s Assembly were issued to all interested parties indicates that there was a clear party bias towards Ms Makone. Supporters of Ms Matibenga or any other potential candidate for the executive posts were not given access to the nomination papers. This procedural violation of the internal rules of the organisation certainly constituted the first practical hurdle before the non-Makone supporters.
The MDC certainly did not strive to ensure that all party processes were conducted in a manner that was free, open and gave all interested persons in the Women’s Assembly the opportunity to participate in the election of their leadership. The process was highly exclusionary in direct contrast to the SADC guidelines and principles of the MDC constitution.
The nomination papers were not equitably and timeously given to all those eligible to hold such papers. Nomination papers were given out to Provincial Chairpersons and in a few instances, to some district chairpersons. The various members of the wards should have been granted an opportunity to discuss the nominations and participate in the nomination process; however this was not the case. Therefore, not only was the Matibenga camp denied access to the nomination papers, the manner in which the Makone camp handled nominations in their own camp was discriminatory and elitist.
The lack of transparency in the Makone camp is problematic as it is symptomatic of a party that does not adhere to the basic principles of procedural and substantive fairness in a democracy.
Completion of Nomination Papers
There were numerous accounts of nomination papers that were inappropriately and illegally completed. In some instances, it was alleged that the Makone camp, due to the secrecy in issuing out nomination forms, had actually misrepresented the forms to women in constituencies as forms regarding per diem monies due after members of the community attended community meetings. In some cases, persons who Ms Makone had secured through alleged vote buying completed nomination forms. In other instances, bogus persons completed nomination forms.
It appeared that there were large numbers of delegates who did not know the identities of the candidates they had allegedly nominated. This was highlighted by the actions of several new executive committee members who were seen going around to delegates, holding the candidate list, introducing themselves and explaining that they were the persons on the list and would be standing for office. Certainly, these actions substantiated rumours of delegates who were merely place-fillers as they were completely in the dark regarding the names and identities of those they had allegedly nominated and were present to vote for. This violates the core principle of the SADC guidelines that voters should have basic access to information regarding the identities of whom they shall be voting into office.
The background to the dissolution of the Women’s Assembly was peppered with allegations that Ms Makone was using her financial resources to secure nominations for herself as the new Chairperson of the Women’s Assembly.
On the day of elections, there were allegations by delegates who had been brought in through the Ms Makone camp that some provincial chairpersons and district chairpersons had been given sums of between Z$40 to Z$60million, given cell phones and taken on shopping trips to South Africa.
These allegations have weight when considered against the backdrop of non-equal access to nomination papers, provincial and district structures that were not all in attendance in accordance with party rules and the selective nature in which delegates were treated in regards to accommodations and transport allowances.
DURING THE ELECTION
The venue was kept a secret by members of the MDC administration in charge on the day of elections. The venue was known to a select few and even the observers were denied this basic information. Observers, who were at the restaurant, had been repeatedly seeking the venue of the congress from various MDC officials and as at 11:45am on Saturday the 28th of October, the observers had not been officially informed of the actual venue of the congress.
Emakhandeni Hall in Bulawayo was rumoured to be the official venue of the congress, a fact however, that observers were unable to confirm prior the election. The use of Emakhandeni Hall, as the official venue of the congress would have been in line with SADC principles that provide that polling stations should be in neutral places. This principle is underscored by the general concept that neutral places are the most suitable for such processes.
When it became apparent that Ms Matibenga’s supporters had gone to Emakhandeni Hall, and the party leadership felt that the process of electing Ms Makone into office would be jeopardised or disrupted by Ms Matibenga’s supporters, the party elected to keep the delegates at Fast Climbers Restaurant and secretly elect Ms Makone as Chairperson. The delegates gathered at Emakhandeni Hall were not aware that the secret venue had shifted to Fast Climbers Restaurant and that the MDC had commenced the election under the guise of serving “restaurant patrons’” meals.
Only the Makone supporters knew Fast Climbers Restaurant as the venue of the congress. Fast Climbers was certainly not a neutral venue, it is owned by Ms T Khupe, Vice-President of the MDC (Tsvangirai) and a supporter of Ms Makone. As the venue was now a private and not a public space, Ms Khupe had the right to eject and deny entry to those persons she did not consider acceptable, which she did.
The entire electoral atmosphere was characterised by secrecy, suspicion and fear of Ms Matibenga’s supporters. The secrecy of the venue was a means of curbing Matibenga’s supporters from arriving at the venue. Needless to say from the atmosphere in the room there was no reasonable opportunity for any opposition to the candidates or the electoral process. There was a great deal of intimidation of delegates seen interacting with the observers. Indeed, the hostile treatment received by Ms Dandajena, was a means to threaten other delegates as to how they would be ostracised, should they voice opposition to the unfolding events.
In addition, Mr Moyo, Chairperson of the MDC, used the tense atmosphere; created by the arrival of the protestors outside the restaurant, to compel women to vote for the unopposed candidates or accept that the MDC leadership would “select” leadership for them in the form of an interim committee. Mr Moyo manipulated the fears of the audience through his conduct and secured the election result desired by the party.
Accreditation was conducted in a discriminatory manner. As non-Makone supporters had been denied access to the nomination papers, congress date and venue they were certainly not on the party list of voters who were eligible to be accredited and thus take part in the election a new executive.
These structural obstacles ensured that there were no reasonable grounds to measure whether accreditation had occurred in an equitable and transparent manner.
There appeared be no structure regarding when, where and how accreditation would occur. The administrative team of the MDC undertook accrediting voters in different venues and rather appeared to accredit women wherever they located them. The accreditation process was done per province. Women who were allegedly Ms Matibenga supporters did not appear on the voter’s lists. The list was secret and there was no opportunity for observers to inspect the voter’s lists. All these processes violated the basic tenets of democracy regarding elections and the SADC guidelines the MDC is urging the present government to observe when conducting elections.
Delegates whose names appeared on the lists were aware that some of their colleagues who were non-Makone supporters did not appear on the voter’s lists. There was no apparent effort taken to rectify this anomaly. The observers, who had been in Fast Climbers Restaurant, with delegates since morning, were only accredited just when the election was about to begin approximately at 12pm.
The process of accreditation was not transparent and violated the MDC constitution and the basic SADC principles underlying transparency regulations regarding the voter’s roll and accreditation procedures.
The actual process of accreditation was discriminatory. Delegates gathered in Fast Climbers restaurant had not been required to produce any identification during accreditation yet the observer team was required to do so.
During the entire pre-election period and in the meeting with Mr Tsvangirai, it had been clear that the women’s movement team would be the only team of observers present at the elections. However, at the last minute, literally minutes before the election began, MDC administrators suddenly appeared with observer tags and claimed that persons, who had earlier appeared to be friends or relatives of Ms Khupe or Ms Sibanda and had assisted other restaurant employees in serving food, were also official observers. There were no official authorising documents regarding their mandate or status. The new observers had no materials at hand to conduct their new responsibilities and merely stood around the official observers watching over their shoulders as they were noting events. The new observers were allegedly from Bulawayo Agenda and Imbovana Yamahlabezulu.
This was clearly a strategy to counter a report from the official observer team so as to minimise any potentially negative issues the official report would highlight.
The Voting Process
Voting was by exclamation. There was no secret ballot and considering the atmosphere in the restaurant there was no reasonable opportunity for any opposition. There was a great deal of intimidation from persons walking around the venue and intimidating people who were speaking to observers. There was open hostility towards delegates seen interacting with observers. Indeed, the hostile treatment received by Ms Dandajena, a former member of the Women’s Assembly Executive, was an example to those present, that the party would actively ostracise members who voiced concern or opposition to party policies or procedures.
The treatment of Ms Dandajena was in direct violation of SADC principles obligating parties to elections to maintain political tolerance. The MDC had shown to the nation and its women constituencies that the MDC did not consider political tolerance as a principle it was obligated to uphold. Indeed, the blind support offered to Ms Makone, at the expense of the ordinary members of the MDC, was evidence of a political party that was politically immature and was not prepared to manage internal opposition to party policies.
In any election, voters should have the opportunity to exercise their right to elect leadership in a manner that does not expose voters to fear or favour. There can be no true election if voters are not able to voice their opposition peacefully through the ballot. This basic principle in electoral processes is part of the MDC constitution and SADC guidelines and voting by exclamation was a direct violation of all the above instruments.
In addition, immediately prior the electoral process, the manner in which Mr L Moyo conducted himself, egging the women to elect a committee, or accept that an interim committee would be selected for them urged the participants to vote the proposed candidates into office without opposition.
Ballot Papers/Nomination Forms
As mentioned above, voting was by exclamation, thus there was no paper trail to provide evidence of how the electorate voted. The nomination papers were the only form of documentation present at the election and as such warrants discussion.
The nomination papers were not presented or mentioned to the delegates during the election. Mr Moyo made no reference to the nomination papers and failed to use the papers as a starting point of the elections. Mr Moyo, did not inform the delegates, how many provinces had nominated Ms Makone, according to the nomination papers under their control. The failure to incorporate the nomination papers in the election process gives weight to the allegations that nomination papers had been issued by the party leadership and Ms Makone to those persons in the Women’s Assembly structures whose loyalty Ms Makone had secured. It also gives credence to allegations that, women in communities had signed the prefilled nomination papers under the misguided belief they were signing meeting attendance registers or proof they had been given per diems to attend general community meetings. Other allegations regarding the nomination papers were that bogus persons had filled the nomination papers. All these allegations were based on the argument that the Makone camp feared that if the nomination papers had been handled according to party procedures, Ms Makone would not have been able to secure a position to guarantee her nomination into the proposed new executive.
Nomination papers appeared unexpectedly at the end of the entire voting process in a tightly bound bundle and were placed in a box. The box containing the nominations was not sealed and there appeared to be no extra measures to secure the nomination papers. No one was seen submitting nomination papers that morning, thus the authenticity of the forms is questionable. Observers were not granted access to the nomination papers; the validity of the completed nomination forms should be tested.
As voting had been by group exclamation, there were no votes to count and the nomination papers were not counted in the venue. It would appear that the only reason the nomination papers were brought before the gathering was to create seeming compliance with the constitution of the party. Certainly, in light of the manner the party handled the nomination papers, and the failure of Mr Moyo to use the nomination papers during the election, there was no compliance with either the MDC constitution or the SADC guidelines regarding elections.
The internal MDC procedures for a congress of the Women’s Assembly are structured to ensure that principles of participatory democracy are followed as every ward and district ought to be in attendance.
Ms Makone had only managed to secure the vote and attendance of one (1) key person of each province (either a provincial chairperson or a district chairperson). This was not in line with congress requirements that their entire provincial executive committee should represent all provinces and that their entire district executives and one (1) ward member should represent all districts from each ward in the country. The bulk of these delegates had attended in support of Ms Matibenga.
As a result of vote buying and secrecy there was less than 10% of the participants to be expected at a congress of the Women’s Assembly. Due to vote buying and the clear party attempt to sideline Ms Matibenga, those eligible to vote in a new Executive of the Women’s Assembly were simply not in attendance and as such the basic right to vote was denied their MDC electorate. Strong-arming Ms Makone into office meant that all contesting candidates remained unopposed. Thus the basic democratic electoral principle enshrined in the SADC guidelines that include the right to exercise the right to vote and be voted for was violated.
Misinformation & Misrepresentation of Legal Processes
The court judgement of Friday the 26th of October was greatly misquoted and was used to give authority to the activities that were presently underway by Mr Moyo. The dissemination of information within the MDC is highly questionable.
Mr Moyo informed the delegates that the High Court had consented that, if the delegates agreed, they could decide if their gathering constituted a Special Meeting of the Women’s Assembly or an Extra-Ordinary Meeting of the Women’s Assembly. Moyo added that if the delegates agreed, the High Court would accept that they could have considered themselves to have properly constituted a congress despite the nominal numbers present.
The following are the provisions of the High Court Judgement, which was an order by consent:
“It is ordered
1. That the question of the validity of the dissolution of the Executive of the National Assembly of Women is to be included on the agenda and determined by the congress on the 28th October 2007 or any other date to which the congress may be postponed.
2. Each party bears its own costs”
Clearly, from a reading of the above judgement, the delegates in the restaurant had been grossly misinformed. Their understanding of the legality of their process was influenced by a perversion of the High Court judgement. The MDC appears to only release information it deems appropriate to meet its own ends and as such, the MDC constituents are highly misinformed. Perhaps a different result would have ensued if the delegates present had been given the true judgement of the High court.
Ms Makone Supporters
Ms Makone left immediately after the election. The general mood in the restaurant was that of celebration, satisfaction and relief tat the protesters had not managed to disrupt the activities in the restaurant. The spirit of triumph in the room was directed at Ms Matibenga in that the Makone delegates felt they had successfully out-manoeuvred Ms Matibenga. Furthermore, the endorsement of the restaurant election by Ms Khupe and Mr L Moyo who are senior members of the MDC leadership, gave the Makone-led executive the complete and full assurance that they had the backing of the MDC leadership. Ms Makone’s victory was celebrated in a manner that was meant to convey that Ms Matibenga had nominal party support and that Ms Makone enjoyed support from the grassroots to the highest office of the MDC.
Ms Matibenga Supporters
The Matibenga camp appeared genuinely relieved to discover that there had been independent observers inside the restaurant. They considered that the MDC party no longer had room for internal criticism or opposition and, as such, the party had engineered their opposition to the Makone-led initiative to seem as though Matibenga supporters were party sell-outs or clandestine MDC (Mutambara) members or ZANU PF members. In other words, the protestors considered the MDC (Tsvangirai) as changing into an oppressive and non-democratic party whose failure to manage internal criticisms was resulting in an unmanageable leadership crisis.
The Matibenga supporters appeared to have a firm grasp of the constitutional provisions regarding the Women’s Assembly and the election of a new leadership. They were also very familiar with the steps taken to dissolve the Women’s Assembly. In their understanding the MDC leadership had acted unconstitutionally by dissolving the Women’s Assembly. Ms Matibenga’s supporters argued the MDC leadership had subverted the findings of the Commission of Inquiry in order to protect its vested financial interests in the Makone camp.
The Matibenga supporters additionally considered the events in the restaurant to have been in violation of the party rules; they had proceeded with their own process and elected a new executive. Essentially there were now two parallel structures in the Women’s Assembly. They argued they had been at the right venue, Emakhandeni Hall and there were greater numbers of them in attendance (1500) as opposed to the nominal number of persons in the restaurant and as such their processes were valid.
The protesters believed the MDC was undergoing a fundamental shift in its foundational principles in that it was allowing itself to be manipulated by the desire of a few wealthy patrons away from its purpose and mandate to protect the rights of the poor, abused, marginalised working people of Zimbabwe .
The entire electoral process of the MDC (Tsvangirai) Women’s Assembly was severely flawed and could not have constituted a legitimate process in terms of the MDC’s internal party procedures, basic electoral norms and the SADC guidelines regarding election.
In light of the above, the commitment of the MDC to participatory democracy that includes accepting that there will be opposition to party policies and procedures is doubtable. The events regarding the electoral process, question the commitment of the MDC to democratic principles. The party is characterised by internal divisions that are symptomatic of a party that is unwilling and unable to manage criticism or internal opposition.
The process smacks of patriarchal arrogance, which does not allow a thorough thinking through of processes pertaining to women’s participation in politics. In this particular event, the party displayed a disturbing positioning of women and their assumed role in a shared leadership. If the party leadership was serious about maintaining a critical and effective Women’s Assembly it would have invested more time and resources to ensure a fruitful process, that would ultimately add value to the party. As it is, days after the so called congress in Bulawayo , the party and, more explicitly, women belonging to the party remain weakened, confused, divided and their attention negatively diverted.
As women we therefore urge the MDC leadership and Mr Tsvangirayi in particular to take the process in Bulawayo and its outcome very seriously. In the context of the 50-50 campaign, the development in the MDC is retrogressive. We feel that instead of forcing women to fight over the Women’s Assembly the party can widen this democratic space and increase the players. We maintain that there is enough room for women of diverse backgrounds to contribute to political institutions such as the MDC. The women’s movement is not campaigning for any particular individual, but would like, however, to see women being elevated to leadership positions through transparent and democratic processes.
Factual Report of the Observers to the Extra-Ordinary Congress of the Women’s Assembly
MDC (Tsvangirai) Elections
Saturday 27th of October 2007
1. The team of observers to the Women’s Assembly Congress arrived in Bulawayo at
approximately 6pm on Saturday the 27th of October. The observer team to contact, Ms
Melody Musarurwa, Secretary to the Secretary General of the MDC (Tsvangirai) Mr T Biti, at approximately 8pm in regards to the venue. The team was unsuccessful.
2. At approximately 9pm, the observers were able to contact the administrative team of the MDC through Ms Melody Musarurwa. Ms Melody Musarurwa apologised for the lack of communication and informed the team she was unaware of the venue of official venue of the congress. She made a concerted effort to note that her responsibilities were merely to assist in organising the technical aspects of the congress though she was unaware of the congress. She assured the team that as soon as she was informed of the venue she would inform the observers, she committed to informing the observers of the venue between 8am-9am the morning of the event, Sunday morning of the 28th of October.
3. Ms Melody Musarurwa pressed the observers to divulge where they were being
accommodated; the team informed her that they were resident at the Bulawayo Rainbow
Hotel. This was incorrect information; however, as the team was now unsure of their safety, they determined this was the appropriate course of action.
Sunday 28th of October 2007
1. The morning of the congress, Sunday the 28th of October 2007, the team of observers wished to begin their duties as early as possible. The team attempted to contact Mr Juwaba of the MDC Administration; however, he persistently refused to answer the observer’s calls and eventually switch off his mobile telephone at approximately 5:40am.
2. The team then made efforts to contact other administrative members of the MDC, in
particular Ms Melody Musarurwa, secretary to Mr BIti. Observers were unsuccessful in
contacting Ms Melody Musarurwa. At this point, the Observers contacted Mr Matibiri, MDC Administrator. Mr Matibiri was informed by the observers that they would go on record that the MDC failure to grant observers information regarding the venue and other arrangements to the congress would be considered a deliberate effort to prevent the observers from carrying through their mandate. Mr Matibiri assured the observers that this was not the case and promised to contact the team within five minutes.
3. Within five minutes, Ms Musarurwa of the MDC administration called the observer team. She informed the observers that she was still unaware of the official congress venue. She apologised for losing contact with the observers as “we slept late at around 4:00am last night working and we had overslept, no one was trying to avoid you”. Ms Musarurwa assured the observers she would keep them updated regarding any developments. She again queried if we were staying at the Rainbow Hotel, to which the team responded in the positive. (This enquiry added to the observers’ suspicions that the MDC was possibly attempting to locate the team and monitor their activities)
4. Ms Musarurwa, proffered information that some delegates to the congress had been
accommodated at the Bulawayo Selbourne Hotel. She suggested that since the
transportation to the congress venue would collect delegates from the Selbourne Hotel, the observers could make their way there, wait and follow the delegates’ busses to the venue. The proposed arrangement was unsatisfactory. Due to the tensions surrounding the congress, the previous MDC rally on Saturday the 27th of October 2007, and the dynamics of the dissolution of the Women’s Assembly, it was necessary to send a team of observers to the venue before the congress to observer conditions on the ground. Ms Musarurwa argued she was not in a position to assist the observers as the venue was being kept secret for security purposes.
5. The observers elected to go to the Selbourne Hotel and monitor events from there.
Observers where dressed in denim jeans and YIDEZ T-Shirts and they additionally wore WIPSU and FEPEP Elections observer tags prominently on their clothing.
6. On arrival at the Selbourne Hotel, the observers proceeded to join congress delegates queuing in the dining area where breakfast was being served. Observers joined the serving queue and began interacting with the delegates there. Generally, observers were well received and able to interact freely with the queuing delegates. There was considerable curiosity among the delegates regarding the identity and purpose of the observers.
7. The observers entered the main dining area, present in the room were a few councillors. There was an air of ambivalence regarding the observers. The observers took a table to have tea when an unidentified, short dreadlocked woman, began walking around the tables whispering something to diners. As she neared a table near to that of the observers, she motioned towards the observers and was overheard saying “Vatengesi” meaning “Sell-Outs” and urging them not to speak to the observers, saying “Musataure navo” meaning ‘don’t speak to them’. Every table the woman in question approached would turn and look at the observers slowly the atmosphere in the room became hostile.
8. The hostility in the dining area was exacerbated by the arrival of Ms Evelyn Masaiti. Ms Masaiti has been part of WIPSU initiatives and was thus familiar with the organisation, its focus and approach to it’s work. Yet, she clearly was unhappy with the presence of the observers. She seemed to encourage the hostility directed towards the observer team.
9. Interestingly though, Ms Masaiti, was also going around the room to all the tables
introducing her-self and informing the delegates that she was one of the persons in the proposed new executive. She appeared not be merely ‘meeting and greeting’ delegates but rather attempting to inform delegates of the identities of the persons who had been nominated for positions in the new executive. This raised a few queries with the observers, because delegates who ordinarily have nominated a candidate would have known the identity of the candidate, as the new party official they were electing.
10. The dining room in the hotel room slowly emptied out and it appeared as though the delegates were going to caucus in a hotel room and it appeared as though observers were not welcome. The remaining delegates had ceased to interact with the observer team and new arrivals were not even greeting observers.
11. One of the hotel waitresses approached the observers and enquired if the team was
resident in the hotel. The observers indicated they were resident elsewhere and the waitress immediately ceased to serve the observers, without notifying the observers. Later, the observers recalled the waitress to the table and enquired why she had not returned to the observers table. The observers were informed that she had been told not to serve us and if we wished to dine there she would demand cash payment. The team responded that they were quite willing to pay for their meals but queried her failure to return to the table and inform the team of her instructions. She was reluctant to respond.
12. The Administrator, Mr Matibiri, entered the room and approached the observer team. He mentioned that he had accreditation papers which the observers were to complete before the electoral process. He informed the observers he would organise their accreditation and he would return shortly.
13. The team left the dining hall, entered the lobby and found that a group of women were seated in the lobby and were being accredited. The women were pleasant to the
observer team. At this point, Ms Melody Musarurwa and the rest of the administrative team entered the lobby and approached the observers. The administrators enquired if the observers were satisfied by being at the Selbourne Hotel, to which the team responded no, as they were still not aware of the official venue. The administrators informed the observers that the venue was still not presently available however; the information would be released later.
Once the women in the lobby observed the interaction between the Administrator
and the observers, they stopped intermingling with the observer team as though they had been issued prior negative information regarding the observers.
14. The administration team prepared to leave the lobby to get some breakfast as the entire team had not eaten. The observers decided to follow the administrators as they also had not eaten and the observers informed the administrators that they would tag along. When the observers arrived at the parked vehicles outside, Mr Matibiri, was in one of the vehicles the MDC team was using. One of the observers asked Mr Matibiri the location of the congress venue as it was now after 8:00am. He motioned the observer to the car and stated “venue hayizi available kuvanhu nenyaya yesecurity but don’t worry just hang around here (the Selbourne Hotel) and you can follow the buses that will take vanhu kuvenue”. The observer informed Mr Matibiri that the state of affairs was highly unsatisfactory however; Matibiri argued that the secrecy measures were for security purposes.
As other administrators entered the car Mr Matibiri was seated in, he became
aware that the observers were to follow them to breakfast. However, the administrators drove off rapidly, ensuring that the observers would be unable to follow them. Later, it became clear that the administration team had driven to the rumoured venue, Emakhandeni Community Hall, at this point and had found Ms Matibengas’ supporters in the Hall and had informed the rest of the MDC leadership and Administration of this fact.
15. Considering the events in the hotel dining room and lobby it became clear that the observers were deemed untrustworthy and supporters of Ms Matibenga with a view of not observing but rather disrupting the up-coming meeting.
16. At that point one of the observers spotted Ms Thokozani Khupe, Vice-President of the MDC (Tsvangirai), approached her and requested the venue. Ms Khupe also protested not to know the location of the venue; however, she suggested that we enter her restaurant, Fast Climber’s Restaurant, situated one door down from the Selbourne Hotel where the invited delegates were staying. The observer’s took up Ms Khupes’ suggestion after noting a large number of women were leaving the Selbourne and entering the restaurant.
17. Inside Fast Climber’s, there were approximately 20 women seated on one side of the restaurant. Of note, Ms Sheila Nkomo, CCF Co-ordinator for Makokoba constituency and personal assistant to Ms T Khupe, was also in the restaurant. What was of interest was that although Ms Nkomo is close to the VP, she was genuinely unaware of the venue of the congress. The observers took a table and asked Ms Khupe to arrange a meal for the team to enable the observers to monitor events around the delegates gathering in the restaurant
18. A group of women councillor’s, whose identities are withheld in order to protect them from victimisation, entered the room and were recognised by the observers. The councillor’s approached the observers and took seats next to the team. The councillor’s were familiar with the work with WiPSU undertakes with women and were comfortable with speaking to the observers. They indicated their pleasure at the presence of the observers, as they appreciated that the observers could provide independent verification of the events that were taking place that day.
19. The delegates began informing the observers, without being questioned, that, “zviripano zvakaoma, vanhu varipano (muFast Climbers) varikutoda kutungamirirwa nemunhu ane mari and those without should stand aside”. (What is about to occur here is unpleasant because those persons who have been invited here to Fast Climber’s Restaurant are those who want to elect new leadership that has significant amounts of resources and those leaders without resources should stand aside and simply let the process happen.)
20. The observers were also informed that 21 Parliamentarians met other party officials on Saturday the 27th of October 2007, the day the MDC held a rally in Bulawayo. Apparently, 17 out of the 21 parliamentarians in attendance at this meeting voiced their opposition to the manner in which the Women’s Assembly had been dissolved unconstitutionally and threatened to leave the MDC (Tsvangirai) faction if the party continued to support what they considered to be unconstitutional procedures.
21. The delegates in question, informed the observers, of their thoughts regarding the manner in which the congress was organised. The delegates complained that there was a great deal of vote buying. They argued the financial dynamics were the primary reason the leadership had elected to hold such a special congress. They informed the observers that some of the women had been given Z$60 Million on the day in question, had had their hair done, been taken to South Africa for shopping trips. They were unwilling to disclose the source of funds as by now, the table had been surrounded by other women who were eavesdropping and beginning to intimidate the group.
22. The delegates voiced their concern that they would be given a leadership that could provide financing but could not work with grass-root members of the party. The delegates wanted a change but they wanted someone who would also be hardworking and able to work with grassroots members of the party. They acknowledged that as councillors their work was severely hampered by a chronic lack of resources. Often, they were obligated to pay for the responsibilities of public office from their personal funds. This situation was common as neither the party nor the government structures provided them with sufficient resources for their responsibilities or even a basic living wage.
23. They argued, that in light of the conditions they worked and the conditions of other members in the party structures, such as provincial and district councillor’s and chairpersons, those persons approached by Ms Makone as she went about vote buying,would be hard pressed to ignore such a powerful financial incentive to switch loyalties and ensure Ms Makone’s unopposed rise to power.
24. The observers questioned the delegates if they had travelled to the congress via public transport or had been bussed to the congress. It appeared as though most delegates had travelled by public transport. Those who had travelled by public transport and used their own funds to travel to the congress would be reimbursed and given per diems.
25. However, the delegates complained of the selective nature of allotting accommodation to the invited delegates. Women who were in either in the provincial structures (mostly chairpersons) or in other instances, district chairpersons whose loyalty had been secured and those in the nominated executive committee had been accommodated by the party and Ms Makone at the upmarket Rainbow Hotel, Holiday Inn and Selbourne Hotel.
Yet,those who were considered borderline voters, were accommodated at the questionable Palace Hotel. The accommodations for the voters whose loyalty Ms Makone was allegedly unsure of, had been forced to share one bathroom and one toilet for all delegates including men and women. Of note they were also in the dark regarding the venue of the Extra-Ordinary Congress.
26. By this point our table had been surrounded by a group of women who were
eavesdropping and attempting to intimidate the observers. One of the delegates, trying to intimidate the team, called a team member and questioned her as to why she was conducting interviews and whether they were recording the conversations and by whose authority was she conducting such interviews. “uri kuitei? Mvumo yokubvunza vanhu mivhunzo iyoyo maiwanepi?”The observer team member responded that it was through the authority of the Office of the President of the MDC, that our presence and activities where mandated.
27. Councilor Karenyi from Mutare was going around the room holding a list of the names of the nominated women’s assembly executive committee and their proposed posts. She stopped at all tables and informed the women of the names of the persons on the list and that they were to vote for the entire proposed list. She was also introducing herself to women who clearly appeared not to know who she was and inform them that she was on the list of the proposed new executive.
28. Councilor Karenyi is familiar with the observers team through their work with her as a councillor however, she acted as though she had never met any of the observer team members and was unwilling to be seen anywhere near the observers table.
29. At that point, Mr Juwaba entered the room, approached one of the observer team
members and informed the team that it was not permitted to conduct interviews. The
observer informed him that as observers, the team was entitled to conduct interviews.
30. One of the observers’ team members rose to make a phone call and was approached by a man who identified himself as Mr Nephat Mdlongwa and held the position of Provincial Head of Security in Bulawayo. He wanted to know how many persons constituted the observer team and their details. The observers complied with his requests.
31. At this point, Ms Evelyn Masaiti, entered the room accompanied by four (4) women who acted as bodyguards, bearing two boxes of Large Pizzas which she gave to two tables (despite the fact that food was being served). Ms Evelyn Masaiti was familiar with most members of the observer’s team however; she made a concerted effort not to greet or communicate with the observers but to be seen visibly distancing herself from the observer’s team. After a while of going around the tables and greeting the women present she left the room with her bodyguards.
32. Throughout this entire process there was an unidentified bespectacled man who appeared to be one of the key organisers, who had been observed going around the entire gathering and speaking to people though was making a concerted effort to avoid the observers. As a result of his stance to actively avoid the observers, the team was unable to ascertain his identity. What was clear, however, was that he was monitoring the activities of the observers and all those who interacted with the observers. He was certainly misinforming the delegates of the identities and purpose of the observers because his contact with the delegates resulted in the groups he left displaying open hostility to the observers.
He was also spotted speaking animatedly to the two women who where later accredited as observers and pointing at the observer team. This fact was significant later on in the day as it became clear he was part of the MDC logistics team that was managing the event.
33. When one of the observers was standing near the doorway of the restaurant, the
unidentified bespectacled man began to conduct a very loud conversation with Ms B
Ngoma very close to one another. The man yelled “Tsvangirai would like to conduct these affairs in a fair manner and have Ms Matibenga here but what can he do as the grassroots and all the party structures do not want Matibenga in the Women’s Assembly” Clearly, this was a strategy to influence the observer to believe that Mr Tsvangirai would like to follow the party constitution but his supporters would not want to do so and thus distance himself from the present affairs.
34. Then another unidentified man called the room to order and asked that “vese vasiri madelegates tinokumbira kuti mumbobuda” (All persons who are not delegates to this congress are asked to leave the room). He repeated the request several times and
eventually the rooms’ attention was drawn to the observers table. An observer team
member called out that the observers were invited to the congress and as such were there to observe all processes. The gentleman in question responded “yenyu status inoda kuti tiyiclarifaye musati masara muno”(that as observers our status was not clear and had to be clarified before we could be privy to the unfolding events). The team requested that he seek such clarification before beginning other processes. At this point he turned and deferred to Mr Juwaba.
35. Before Mr Juwaba could respond, women who where seated around the observer team
became openly aggressively and requested that the observers leave the room so that they could deal with their internal affairs. “imbobudai timbopira midzimu yedhu”. Two women standing nearby asked the hostile group to leave the observers alone as it might have repercussions with higher powers (“imwi regai vakadaro zvichatinetsa mberi zvamurikuita”). The observer’s declined to leave. Then the group of women began to exit the room headed for the Selbourne Hotel.
36. The observers’s rushed outside to monitor events and were intercepted by the MDC
administrators whom the observers informed of the ongoing events. They responded that
the observers should bear in mind that Women’s Assembly was characterised by several
complex dynamics that the observers could not be privy to and that they could not assist the team to observe. The observer responded that, the only reason the observers were in attendance, was that the MDC leadership had failed to manage the dynamics of the Women’s Assembly and such dynamics where responsible for the crisis that had spilled onto the public arena and as such, the observers were there to observe and be privy to such dynamics.
The observer then informed the administrators that they should be granted access to the caucus that was occurring and that at this stage they were willing to consider the exclusion as a logistics issue or maybe a management issue. Mr Matibiti conceded that there was a need for the observer team to observe the caucus and that the exclusion of observers was definitely not a logistics issue or a management issue but that there was nothing they could do to assist as there were higher powers at work.
The observer again asked where the venue was and was informed that the venue was still secret but that they should remain waiting at the Fast Climber’s Restaurant. Therefore at 11:40am the venue of the Extra-Ordinary Women’s Congress in Bulawayo was still a secret and only a few select persons where in possession of this information.
37. At this point the women who had exited the Fast Climber’s Restaurant began spilling out of the Selbourne Hotel and returning to the restaurant.
38. The observer followed the group and upon entry a few women where seen going around to the women who had returned remained in the restaurant and where overheard by observers speaking in low voices about the nominated candidates and that no one should speak to the observers as they where there to disrupt their activities and where sells out who supported Ms Matibenga.
39. The atmosphere in the room turned openly hostile towards the observers. Ms Theresa Makone entered the venue at this stage through the back entrance of the Restaurant. Ms Makone was accompanied by a few women and she took a seat in the corner of the
room. Ms Masaiti and Councillor Karenyi approached Ms Makone shortly and began going
around the room introducing Ms Makone to the crowd. It was clear several women had
not met Ms Makone before though they had indeed heard of her. Interestingly, Ms Makone was being introduced as the woman whom the delegates would be voting into the post of Chairperson!
40. One of the observers decided to place a call and as the restaurant was noisy, decided to do so outside. As the observer approached the door, the bespectacled man mentioned earlier, was seen giving two men standing in the doorway instructions that no one was to freely walk in and out of the main restaurant door. As the observer attempted to leave the room, two men had been placed at the door and attempted to prevent the observer from leaving.
Simultaneously, another man who was attempting to enter the room and was
being barred by the newly placed guards, became frustrated and began chastising the
door keepers. He identified himself as the MDC Co-ordinator for Bulawayo East Mr Abdul Mohammed.
The men at the door apologised and Mr Mohammed proceeded into the
restaurant. The observers elected to question him regarding events of the day so far and regarding the accreditation process for delegates that was still on-going. He declined to answer any questions and referred all questions to his superior, Ms Doreen Sibanda, Chairperson of MDC Women’s Assembly Bulawayo East. Ms Sibanda declined to answer any questions and referred all question to her superior Ms T Khupe, Vice President of the MDC. Ms T Khupe was in discussions with Mr Lovemore Moyo. Ms T Khupe availed herself and informed the observer the process of accreditation was still on-going and they were not behind schedule.
41. One of the observer’s decided to return outside to monitor events at the door and outside the restaurant. The unidentified bespectacled man mentioned earlier was in the entrance corridor and as the newly placed guards where deciding whether or not to let the observer out of the room, the unidentified man passed the observer saying “ini handina kumboti pane munhu anofanirwa kurambidzwa kubuda muno” (I never said anyone should not be allowed to leave this room). As he said this he motioned to the youths and the observer was let out by the guards who immediately closed the door behind the door. This was directly contradictory to his earlier statements regarding who should be permitted in or out of the restaurant. There were now several youths hanging around the entrance of the restaurant door which was now being strictly controlled.
42. On the street there were members of the public who had begun to gather around the
restaurant area. There was tangible tension among the youth who were immediately
outside the restaurant door. The observer elected to return inside the venue to inform the rest of the team of developments at the door and outside.
43. At this point, Mr Matibiri began to “accredit” the ‘observers’, however, the process seemed arbitrary, as the aim of the process appeared directed at Mr Matibiri catching sight of the Nation Registration Cards of the observers. Suddenly, it appeared that two women who had been hanging around the venue and serving the gathered women food and had appeared to be friends or related to either MS Khupe or Ms Sibanda and whom Ms Khupe’s had indicated were from her constituency were suddenly being ‘accredited’ as well. Mr Matibiri suddenly was issuing out newly minted observers tags with no affiliated organisation.
There was no official authorising documentation regarding their mandate or status. The new observers had no materials at hand to conduct their new responsibilities and merely stood around the observers watching over their shoulders as they were noting events.
44. This was clearly a strategy to counter a report from the official observer team so as to minimise any potentially negative issues the official report would highlight. Mr Matibiri was asked who the new observers were and the official observer team was informed that they were from Bulawayo Agenda and Imbovane Yamahlabezulu.
1. The elections began by Ms Editor Matamisa requesting all those in attendance to switch off their mobile phones in order to ensure the safety of the delegates. She looked at the observers and stated that if she saw any person on the phone or anyone’s mobile phone ringing, it would indicate to her and others present who the sell-outs in the room where.
Her tone was highly intimidatory “dzimai maphone enyu nekuti akarira tichaziva
kutivatengesi ndivanani”. It became clear that just after everyone switched off their
phones, the election had begun in Fast Climbers Restaurant. Ms Khupe then proceeded to lock the door of her restaurant which had been open throughout the day. She
pronounced, whilst standing in the doorway, that she did not want to see anyone going in or out of the venue.
2. At this point it was impossible for some of the observers to leave the room and monitor events outside the restaurant which was suddenly clear to have been the original venue of the election. Ms Khupe was strategic in this regard; locking the observers in the restaurant ensured that there could be not have the opportunity to provide a contradictory statement or report about the on-goings outside the restaurant.
3. The election began at 12:20pm chaired by Mr Lovemeore Moyo, the MDC National
4. Mr Moyo, began by informing the delegates of the background to the present affair. He stated that the MDC, National Council had requested a Commission of Inquiry into the Women’s Assembly. The result of the Inquiry, according to Mr Moyo, was the discovery of a leadership crisis in the Women’s Assembly and the inability of women to manage their crisis.
Mr Moyo, stated that the women in the party had approached the party leadership and
admitted they could not work together and therefore the women themselves had decided
they would dissolve the Women’s Assembly. The party then decided to dissolve the
Women’s Assembly in accordance with the wishes of the women.
5. Mr Moyo then asked the crowd if they agreed with the decision taken by MDC leadership to dissolve the Women’s Assembly without consulting the other party structures. The women could respond by an exclaimed yes or no. The women exclaimed YES! It was made clear in this process that the entire election was going to be conducted through voting by exclamation.
6. The tone of these first few minutes of the election provided clear evidence of the caucusing of the delegates present. It was an attempt to show that the party did not generally violate its own constitution and this was a means of seeking party ratification for decisions that party had already made. The manner in which Mr Moyo conducted the process served to give weight to the observer’s suspicions that Ms Makone supporters had met prior the election to prepare for the Chairman’s questions.
7. Mr Moyo informed the women that the High Court Judgement in Harare handed down on
Friday the 26th of October 2007 had held that if the women in attendance agreed the ongoing meeting would change status from being an Extra-Ordinary Congress, to elect an Executive Committee, to being a Special Congress.
8. Mr Moyo asked the delegates to exclaim if they agreed to so constitute a Special
9. The women exclaimed YES!
10. Mr Moyo informed the delegates that the High Court had also decided that if the women agreed, the small numbers of women in the room could constitute the necessary quorum to elect a new executive. This agreement would by-pass the number of stipulated delegates that the MDC constitution required to elect a new executive. Please note that the delegates in the restaurant could not have exceeded approximately 160 persons.
11. Mr Moyo then asked the women if they so agreed?
12. The women exclaimed YES!
13. Mr Moyo informed the delegates that the High Court had ordered that if the delegates present agreed; the provincial chairperson’s or the provincial secretaries and their chairperson’s could elect new executive on their behalf!
14. The delegates responded with an emphatic YES!
15. Mr Moyo then stated that after such agreements the process of electing a new executive could now continue. The chairman informed the delegates that the Standing Committee of the MDC had decided to dissolve the Women’s Assembly as they considered the event in the Women’s Assembly to be crisis.
16. This was in direct contrast to Mr Moyo’s initial statement earlier that the dissolution had been effected by the women who were part of the Women’s Assembly.
17. Mr Moyo continuously referred to the dissolution of the Women’s Assembly. This is a key issue, Mr Tsvangirai in his meeting with various representatives of the Zimbabwean Women’s Movement on the 25th of October 2007, had insisted that he and the MDC party leadership had “not dissolved” the Women’s Assembly. Mr Tsvangirai argued they had “merely dismissed” the (8) eight elected officials who constituted the National Executive Committee of the Women’s Assembly.
18. Mr Moyo kept emphasizing that the party had come to a conclusion that the women could not remain without a leader and hence the party had seen it fit to hold this Special Congress for women to elect a leadership for the women.
19. At exactly 12:30pm, outside the Fast Climbers’ Restaurant, a large delegation of women arrived chanting supportive slogans to Ms Lucia Matibenga.
1 This is a complete text of the High Court Judgement, The following are the provisions of the High Court Judgement which was an order by consent;
“It is ordered
1. That the question of the validity of the dissolution of the Executive of the National Assembly of Women is to be included on the agenda and determined by the congress on the 28th October 2007 or any other date to which the congress may be postponed.
2. Each party bears its own costs”
20. In Moyo’s words, either you elect a leadership today or the party leadership would select a leadership for you in the form of an interim committee”. (if the women could not come up the leadership the party would assist by providing leadership). Just after he said this protesters outside began banging on the door and demanding entry into Ms Khupe’s Fast Climber’s Restaurant.
21. Mr Moyo then took advantage of the protesters pounding restaurant door and dramatically crouched low and began to incite the women to make a decision and elect a new executive now or have the leadership select an interim committee for them! Mr Moyo stated the party and the women present in the restaurant where now at war! (sesi sempini lapa!)
22. The atmosphere in the room shifted significantly at this point. Mr Moyo’s action and comments incensed the women and some delegates began to yell out of fear for their safety and their responses became highly agitated.
23. Mr Moyo reiterated that the women had to elect a new executive or an interim committee in this Special Congress. (This meant that one way or the other the women were coming out there with a committee.)
24. In the meeting Mr Moyo, emphasized the party’s decision and continued to give women three options which were:
25. Do the women agree with the dissolution of the Assembly?
i. Result: Affirmative through a large roar
26. Do the numbers of women in Fast Climbers want to proceed with the election for a new
i. Result: affirmative through a large roar
27. Do the women want a Special Meeting or a Congress?
i. Result: the Women want a Congress were they can elect a leadership
28. Mr Moyo then asked all the provinces present to sing the party slogans. Of note is that of all the provinces present the Harare province was the only province omitted from this process.
It was after much whispering that the chairman decided to mention Harare. This is
significant in that Ms Dandajena from the Harare province who was present in the
restaurant was considered by those present to be anti-Makone and could have been a
disruptive force in the election process. However, Ms Dandajena had entered the
restaurant and had been virtually ignored by all other present delegates. None of the
observers saw any other delegate make an effort to speak to her and she certainly was not part of any pre-election caucusing.
29. Mr Moyo, then asked the women “pane mukadzi muno, here, watinofunga kuti angaita
chairperson.”(Is there woman present in the room whom you might consider to be the
chair?) The women did not respond. They looked around and questioned a few other
members of the pubic.
30. Mr Moyo then he repeated is there “tine mukadzi muno, patakaungana watingafungidzira kuti angaita chairperson wedu.”
31. At this point, a delegate from the crowd nominated Theresa Makone.
32. Mr Moyo did not call for the submission of the nomination papers that had been given to various district and provincial chairs to complete within their respective constituencies. There was no official record in the venue on the day of elections how many provinces had nominated Ms Makone.
33. Mr Moyo further asked whether there another nominee in the room. There was a deafening silence. Hence Ms Makone stood unopposed and was thus elected the Chairperson of the
34. Tinobvumirana nazvo here (Do we all agree) is what Mr Moyo went on to say to the positive uproar of the delegates.
35. There was no use of nomination forms in the venue to nominate candidates or the use of hands to vote as voting was by exclamation.
36. There was no secret ballot and the atmosphere in the room was such that there could have been no pronounced opposition to a nomination.
37. The rest of the candidates stood unopposed. Surprisingly, people who nominated the executive in the venue (not on the nomination paper’s) had no clue who they were
nominating, their identities and their provinces. Rather, this clearly indicates that people had been planted in the venue to nominate the executive unopposed a part of a preplanned strategy.
38. The following is the list of the committee:
Chairperson: Theresa Makone (unopposed)
Vice Chairperson: Ennie Chitsa (unopposed)
Secretary General: Evelyn Masaiti (unopposed)
Vice Secretary General: Margaret Matienga (unopposed)
Treasurer: Spiwe Banda (unopposed)
Organising: Linnet Karenyi (unopposed)
Deputy Organising: Chitembwe (unopposed)
39. Mr Moyo stated the executive committee would be tasked to revive the Women’s
Assembly as the party leadership had seen it fit to ensure that women had leadership. He reiterated that the party strongly desired that the women did not remain without a leader. The party, would therefore, be very pleased that the elections had resulted in a new leadership for the Women’s Assembly.
40. Mr Moyo then went on to state that the court had held that, should the women consent, the newly elected leadership would remain in power until 2010, where the party would then consider it time to hold a congress to elect new leadership. He asked if the women so agreed? The women exclaimed yes. Mr Moyo then proclaimed that the new leadership was final until 2010.
41. Mr Moyo went on to state that the women had been forced to elect this new leadership as a means of sorting out the “madness within the party”. Mr Moyo’s comments were received with loud roars from the audience.
42. Ms Khupe then proceeded from where Mr Moyo had concluded, she stated the women
stading before the audience was the new leadership of the Women’s Assembly and all
party members should work with their new leadership. Ms Khupe stated they (the party and those in attendance) did not hate any one but rather people (meaning Ms Matibenga)should not allow themselves to be used to fight the MDC, which was focused on trying to fight the political establishment.
43. Ms Khupe emphasized that as women they were the ones bearing the brunt of the struggle. Ms Khupe urged that if the delegates later felt that if the new executive was not performing to the expectations of the constituencies, they should be removed. These women (the new executive)were tasked to deliver to the masses. Ms Khupe comments at this stage were being delivered in a manner to highlight to the women the power they wielded as they had managed to get rid of Ms Matibenga. Her comments where couched in a manner as to show the women –look at how powerful you are- this seemed to egg the women on and send them into a frenzy of cheers.
44. Its is doubtable that the women present could understand the dynamics of the event they were party to as surely they should have realised hat they would be unable to act upon Ms Khupe’s comments until 2010. The atmosphere in the room was more akin to a rally as opposed to an electoral process. There was no time for those present to reflect on the comments from the present party leadership and the decisions they were making.
45. According to Ms Khupe “one person should not have the power to spilt the party. Do not give in to people who are being bought by party thugs to destroy the MDC. This shows that there is too much indiscipline.” Ms Khupe went to say that “as a party they were tired of people who could not perform their duties. If such people (meaning Ms Matibenga) claimed they had no resources to carry out party responsibilities, how then had they managed to organise 6 truck loads of people and hire thugs to come and disrupt normal party activities? She added that “right now one of us fell ill in the hotel and we had to rush her to Galen House (private hospital) and we paid Z$60 million to secure her treatment, surely if we had such leaders (pointing at the door and meaning Ms Matibenga) this woman we saved could have died”
46. Ms Khupe termed the protest outside as purely “nonsense”, “it’s nonsensical, rubbish and should come to an end. It is of ZANU PF.”
47. The final statements were given by Ms Editor Matamisa and Ms Jessie Majome. Ms
Matamisa mentioned hopefully that the election of women’s executive was the will of the people. Ms Matamisa mentioned that if it is God’s, and hopefully it’s God’s, then they (the new executive) are here to stay.
48. Ms Matamisa went to state “Our jobs have been made easier as there are no ballot papers to count and we can thus rush home to our husbands.”
49. At this point a bundle of tightly tied papers appeared and was placed in box and sealed. Ms Matamisa shifted her focus onto the bundle and indicated as she said the above comment that the bundle was in fact, the nomination papers. No one was seen submitting nomination papers that morning. However, the appearance on the nomination papers was necessary to give seeming compliance with the constitution of the party. As mentioned earlier there had been a great deal of speculation regarding the nomination papers as they were the documents that accelerated the crisis in the Women’s Assembly due to the manner they were handled. With these comments, and the cheers from the crowd, the nomination papers were placed in a box and carried off by a delegate.
50. Jessie Majome stated that the Women’s Assembly should give the women a chance to
enhance women’s participation in politics. This was greater by a loud cheer. She urged the new executive to work hard and added a few closing remarks.
51. At this point, it was clear the election was over. Ms Khupe together with Mr Moyo asked the women to remain calm and seated in the restaurant, not to attempt to leave but rather allow themselves to be served food and then leave after the meal. The women cheered and the meeting was over.
After the process and outside the Restaurant
1. Once outside the restaurant, the observers approached women who were seated on the
pavement, across the street, after being denied access into Ms Khupe’s Restaurant as
they were supporters of Ms Matibenga. Once Ms Matibenga’s supporters indentified
the observers, team they approached the team and voiced their desire to speak and be
heard. One of the observers was approached by a woman who offered to assist the
observer in controlling the crowd.
2. The attitude of Ms Matibenga’s supporters was one of relief regarding the presence of the observers. Some members of the crowd exclaimed that they considered the observer team as the only means to access information regarding what they termed clandestine activities within Ms Khupe’s Restaurant. (“kochi chaiitika mukati memuFast Cloimbers”)They also mentioned that they considered the observers the only means they had to voice their displeasure at the manner the MDC leadership had conducted the entire affair regarding the dissolution of the Women’s Assembly and the Congress.
3. The observer then asked the crowd why they had gathered at the Restaurant. The
protestors responded that they had heard that the leadership of the MDC had dissolved
the Women’s Assembly and had removed leaders they elected without consulting those
who had put her in office. They argued they considered themselves to have been the
persons who voted Ms Matibenga into office and yet the MDC had denied them their right to remove her through an electoral process. They stated if the MDC leadership had been unhappy with Ms Matibenga why had the leadership failed to subject her to internal disciplinary procedures? They singled out Mr Morgan Tsvangirai as having a hidden agenda. They believed that if Mr Tsvangirai had no hidden agenda he would have been willingly to let the Women’s Assembly dissolve according to internal procedures and he would have ensured that the party managed the election process in the congress to have been held an open and transparent manner.
4. The observer then asked the women to identify themselves in the groupings they had come to Bulawayo. Present, were delegates from the provinces Masvingo, Matebeleland North and South, Midlands North and South, Mashonaland East, West and Central, Manicaland,Bulawayo and Harare.
5. The delegates where then asked when they had received the information that there was to be an Extra-Ordinary Special Congress.
Masvingo Saturday 28 October 2007 in the morning
Matebeleland North and South Saturday 28 October 2007 in the evening
Midlands North and South Saturday 28 October 2007 in the evening
Mashonalands East West Central Saturday 28 October 2007 in the morning
Manicaland Saturday 28 October 2007 in the morning
Bulawayo Sunday 29 October 2007 in the morning
Harare Saturday 28 October 2007 in the morning
6. The delegates stated they were angered by rumours that inside the restaurant there were allegedly ‘correct’ delegates from their provinces who purported to represent them. They argued that the persons inside the venue had been handpicked by Ms Makone. They stated that the persons inside the restaurant were the provincial chairpersons’s and bogus members of the provincial councils. In other instances, other provinces inside the restaurant,where district chairpersons and bogus council members. All these persons where allegedly in the restaurant as they had accepted the Z$40 million, cell phones and shopping trips organised and funded by Ms Makone.
7. The Matibenga supporters were asked if they actually understood the constitutional
provisions regarding the dissolution of the Women’s Assembly. Impressively, the women
began to go through a step by step explanation of the MDC constitutional procedures
regarding the dissolution, showing a deep appreciation of the constitution. They were also very clear on how and at which points the MDC leadership had violated the constitution and thus violated their rights as party member’s and voters.
8. They indicated they considered the actions of Mr Tsvangirai and the MDC elite to be changing the fundamental principles the MDC had been founded upon and the basic
reason they had joined the party. They all began to quote Mr Tsvangirai as having said “The MDC was a party of the poor, the working class, the uneducated and the ignored.” Yet clearly the dissolution was indicative of a party that wants to exclude us( the general electorate”) from the party”.
9. Some of observers started conducting separate interviews. One of the observers was
approached by the MDC ‘s Bulawayo’s Provincial Head of Security Mr Nephat Mdlongwa
who indicated that he was assigned to “take care” of the observers and make sure that
they did not get into trouble, to which one of the observers responded by saying she was fine and not afraid, the observer later on left the security officer.
10. Another observer elected to deal with a smaller group of protestors. She began to ask what they were doing outside and what they had to say about the treatment they received from the women who were in the climber restaurant, one women responded by saying that she was not happy because there was no transparency in the way the congress was organized.
The protestor went on to add that as the Chairperson of her district, she and the grassroots women in the MDC structures, were not consulted and the party officials never sat down with the women constituencies to discuss where Ms Matibenga had gone wrong and to make matters worse they never tried to warn or discipline Ms Matibenga according to internal party procedures.
11. The observer then asked the women why they had not voiced their concerns regarding the dissolution of the Matibenga led committee, to which all the women responded angrily. The women expressed their displeasure on what had happened on the day of the dissolution of the Women’s Assembly. The observer asked one women to respond to which the protestor responded that they were called and told that they were supposed to attend a meeting which Ms Makone ferried the people whose votes she had bought, in her vehicles. Ms Makone’s supporters had then been taken to the venue of the meeting whilst the other women who she knew were not in her favour were told to go to a fake venue.
12. The protestor said that all the strategies regarding the dissolution of the Women’s Assembly were planned at the time where the Matibenga supporters were desperately trying to locate the real venue of the meeting in which the dissolution was being discussed.
The protestors indicated that the events that occurred on the day of dissolution clearly indicated that Ms Makone and her supporters were involved in clandestine affairs. That is when it dawned on the rest of the protestors that there was something amiss in the manner in which the MDC leadership and Ms Makone had dealt with the dissolution and Ms Matibenga.
13. The District Chairperson of a province, which will remain unnamed, for fear of victimization, indicated she had no idea that the women’s assembly was dissolved and she also added that she was never told about the women’s congress meeting that was going to be held in Bulawayo. The Chairperson had only been informed of the congress through party rumours.
When she had enquired why she had not been invited, she was informed that the party
had only invited the Provincial Chairperson because the party did not have sufficient
resources. The other protestors responded “they said the party could not invite all the women in the structures to come for the congress like they used to because the party did not have resources, we made our effort and went out there and sourced our own resources asi vava kutirambidza kuti tipinde (we have made our arrangements to be here and participate yet they are denying us entry) and they refuse to let us know the venue of the congress. If everything was clear they could have just commended us for going out of our way”.
14. The observer later asked the women why they were out side if they were in the women’s assembly structures and all the women responded angrily and the vice secretary for a particular district said that ¾ of the women who were in the Fast Climbers Restaurant holding a “congress ” were not even the real persons in the party structures. The protestors argued that Ms Makone had formed her own structures using her financial muscle, as a result, the persons inside the venue where not representing the people from the official constituencies.
15. As one of the observers was about to conclude her interviews, she was threatened by one MDC youth who said that he did not believe in what the observers were doing
“tichakubvisai hembe nekuti isu se YiDEZ Hatisi kubvumirana nezvamuri kuita,
murikutengesa musangano, chisiyanai nezvamuri kuita’ (we are going to strip you of the YIDEZ t-shirts you are wearing because as the youth members of YIDEZ we do not agree with what you are doing) the observer simply ignored the two hooligans and walked away. As the observers had collected sufficient information, they thanked the crowd and left.
The processes noted in the above document, are clearly evidentiary of a ‘congress’ that was characterised by secrecy, elitism, vote-buying, the sidelining of constituencies, misrepresentation of information, and misinformation. The entire process was fraught with serious irregularities that attack the validity of any decisions taken in the restaurant.
The manner in which the entire processes regarding the congress were managed could not have, in any way, complied with internal MDC constitutional or party procedures, the SADC guidelines on elections nor indeed the broader democratic principles of elections. The principles of a participatory democracy were violated and the party was extremely heavy-handed in its advocacy for a new leadership in the Women’s Assembly.
Should the party elect to uphold the results of the ‘congress’ it will expose itself to great fissures from all party structures, especially women in urban and rural communities who are a considerable portion of the electorate. The observers were under the mandate of WiPSU, FePEP and the Zimbabwean Women’s Movement. Their invite and mandate to observe had come through the Office of the President of the MDC, Mr Morgan Tsvangirai.
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- ▼ November (6)