Zimbabwe: Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), including political status, organizational structure, leadership, activities, relationship with other political parties, and membership cards; treatment of MDC members by authorities (2017-May 2019)
Sources indicate the MDC – Tsvangirai (MDC-T), led by Morgan Tsvangirai, and the [MDC – Ncube (MDC-N) (Australia 11 Aug. 2016, para. 3.35)], led by Welshman Ncube, emerged from a split in the MDC party in 2005 (Australia 11 Aug. 2016, para. 3.25, 3.35; Political Handbook of the World 2017, 1715). According to a report by Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), another faction broke away from the MDC-T in April 2014, forming the MDC-Renewal (Australia 11 Aug. 2016, para. 3.32). The same source further states in a 2016 report that the MDC-T continues to be the main opposition party in Zimbabwe, despite the splits (Australia 11 Aug. 2016, para. 3.26). For further information on MDC factions, see Response to Information Request ZWE105030 of January 2015.
Sources indicate the Movement for Democratic Change Alliance (MDC Alliance) is a coalition of seven opposition parties that formed in 2017 to run in the 2018 general election (Europa n.d; EU Oct. 2018, 5; NewsDay 31 Aug. 2018). According to a Voice of America (VOA) article, Tsvangirai stated that the coalition formed in response to demands from opposition supporters - that all opposition parties to unite for the  elections and that facing the ruling party, the Zimbabwe African National Union – Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF), as a coalition would strengthen participation of opposition supporters during the election (VOA 6 Aug. 2017). Sources list the seven parties in the MDC Alliance as MDC-T, MDC [or MDC-N (EU Oct. 2018, 5)], People's Democratic Party (PDP), Transform Zimbabwe (TZ), Zimbabwe People First (ZimFirst [ZPF, ZimPF]), Zimbabwe African National Union-Ndonga (ZANU-N) [Zanu Ndonga], and Multi-Racial Christian Democrats (MCD) (Europa n.d.; EU Oct. 2018, 5; NewsDay 31 Aug. 2018).
In an interview with New Zimbabwe, a Zimbabwe online newspaper, Welshman Ncube, the MDC Alliance co-Vice President, stated the MDC Alliance is "'in the process of amalgamating the structures of all the seven political parties'" and there is "'partial integration at [the] national level'," though that not all of the leaders, including the leaders of TZ (Jacob Ngarivhume) and ZimFirst (Agrippa Mutambara), have been "'integrated'" (New Zimbabwe 9 Jan. 2019). NewsDay, a Zimbabwe daily newspaper, reports that the leaders of the seven parties are "willing to unite" but some leaders, including Jacob Ngarivhume of TZ and Agrippa Mutambara of ZimFirst, are leaving the decision to their party's executive (NewsDay 31 Aug. 2018). The same source quotes a spokesperson as stating "'[w]e are one unit with one leader since the election'" (NewsDay 31 Aug. 2018). In another NewsDay article, MDC Alliance leader Nelson Chamisa's spokesperson is quoted as stating that "'[i]t is important that we underline the fact that the name of the party is MDC. Both MDC-T, MDC Alliance and other names that have been used in the past were simple electoral vehicles and were not the legal names of the party. The party that everyone is integrating into is the MDC'" (NewsDay 12 Sept. 2018). Further and corroborating information on the status of the MDC Alliance could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.
According to sources, Nelson Chamisa became the leader of the MDC [Alliance (EU Oct. 2018, 5)] after Morgan Tsvangirai's death in February 2018 (DW with AP 16 Feb. 2018; EU Oct. 2018, 5). Sources report Chamisa's succession was contested by other MDC[-T (New Zimbabwe 1 Mar. 2018)] leaders, Thokozani Khupe and Elias Mudzuri (New Zimbabwe 1 Mar. 2018; DW with AP 16 Feb. 2018; EIU 2 Mar. 2018). The MDC website states Khupe was dismissed from the party on 23 March 2018 (MDC n.d.a). The EU's Election Observation Mission (EOM) report indicates Khupe is leading a faction using the original MDC-T name and symbol (EU Oct. 2018, 5).
A joint report by the International Republican Institute (IRI), a non-profit and non-partisan organization committed to advancing democracy (IRI n.d), and the National Democratic Institute (NDI), a non-profit and non-partisan NGO that supports democratic institutions and practices (NDI n.d), indicates there were legal challenges in court over the control of the MDC-T name, but the matter was not resolved before the nomination deadline for the 2018 election (IRI and NDI Oct. 2018, 27). The same source further states the Chamisa-led faction registered its candidates under the name MDC Alliance, while the Khupe-led faction registered its candidates as MDC-T (IRI and NDI Oct. 2018, 27).
Sources indicate that on 8 May 2019, Zimbabwe's High Court ruled Chamisa's succession of Tsvangirai to be "illegitimat[e]" and ordered the MDC to hold an elective congress (Reuters 8 May 2019; TimesLIVE 8 May 2019). According to an article by TimesLIVE, a South African news website, the High Court ruling directed the MDC to hold the congress under its 2014 party structure, which would have made Chamisa ineligible, but a senior MDC official stated the MDC intended to appeal the decision and "party business would go on uninterrupted," including the elective congress planned for 24-26 May, at which Chamisa was running unopposed as party leader (TimesLIVE 8 May 2019).
Various sources report the following election results at the MDC's May 2019 Congress:
- Nelson Chamisa, President;
- Welshman Ncube, Tendai Biti, and Lynette Kore [Lynette Karenyi (MDC n.d.b)], Vice Presidents;
- Charlton Hwende, Secretary-General;
- David Coltart, Treasurer-General;
- Thabitha Khumalo, Chairperson;
- Job Sikhala, Deputy Chairperson; and
- Vimbai Tsvangirai, Women's Assembly Secretary-General (TimesLIVE 27 May 2019; ZW News 27 May 2019).
3. Party Structure
According to the MDC website, the National Council is the "party's supreme decision-making organ between Congresses" (MDC n.d.a). An article by the Pan African News Agency (Panapress), a Senegal-based news agency, indicates the fifth MDC elective congress, held 24-26 May 2019, elected the party's leadership for the next five years (Panapress 28 Apr. 2019). The same source indicates MDC members held separate provincial elective congresses to nominate candidates to the party leadership (Panapress 28 Apr. 2019). Sources indicate that in March 2019, the MDC reduced the number of its "administrative provinces" in Zimbabwe (NewsDay 16 Mar. 2019) or its number of "provincial executives" (Daily News 5 Mar. 2019) from twelve to ten in order to reflect Zimbabwe's ten provinces (NewsDay 16 Mar. 2019; Daily News 5 Mar. 2019). Sources indicate that MDC branches in the US, the UK and South Africa are also considered MDC "provinces" (ZimLive.com 11 Apr. 2019; Panapress 28 Apr. 2019), giving the MDC a total of thirteen "administrative provinces" (ZimLive.com 11 Apr. 2019). According to Panapress, the US, UK and South Africa MDC jurisdictions also held provincial elective congresses to nominate the MDC leadership for the May 2019 Congress; Nelson Chamisa was nominated as the party's leader by all thirteen "provinces" (Panapress 28 Apr. 2019). For further information on MDC branches and MDC operations outside of Zimbabwe, see Response to Information Request ZWE105171 of May 2015. Further information about the structure of the MDC could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.
4. Membership Card
Information on the MDC membership card could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.
5. Relationship with Other Parties
Sources indicate violent clashes have occurred between supporters of Nelson Chamisa and Thokozani Khupe (AP 19 Mar. 2018; Human Rights Watch 6 Mar. 2018). According to Human Rights Watch, Khupe was attacked by MDC party youth, including those belonging to a "militia-type, uniformed youth group called the 'Vanguard'" at Tsvangirai's funeral on 20 February 2018, and again in August 2018 (Human Rights Watch 6 Mar. 2018). Bulawayo24, an online news site based in Bulawayo, reports that "Chamisa has denied he is behind the violence but recognizes [that] a paramilitary group in the party known as the Vanguard" has been responsible for attacks, including on Khupe's offices in Bulawayo (Bulawayo24 5 Mar. 2018).
The joint IRI and NDI report states the MDC Alliance was involved in intimidating female candidates on social media during the 2018 election, including a candidate who was "exposed to verbal abuse and intimidation" after leaving the MDC Alliance to run as an independent candidate (IRI and NDI Oct. 2018, 40). Similarly, the EU's EOM report indicates "[h]ate speech" increased on social media platforms, especially against women who left the MDC Alliance to join the Khupe-led faction (EU Oct. 2018, 30).
6. 2018 Election
Sources indicate the July 2018 elections were the first elections since former president Robert Mugabe was ousted from power after 37 years in office (EU Oct. 2018, 1; Freedom House 30 Jan. 2019; IRI and NDI Oct. 2018, 7); they included presidential, parliamentary and local elections, also known as harmonised elections (EU Oct. 2018, 1). Freedom House states the MDC "was generally able to hold pre[-]election campaign events without interference" (Freedom House 30 Jan. 2019). Similarly, the EU's EOM report indicates "[t]he presidential campaign was very competitive, with both main candidates, President Emmerson Mnangagwa of ZANU-PF and Nelson Chamisa of MDC-Alliance, conducting large-scale rallies in all ten provinces" (EU Oct. 2018, 19).
Sources indicate Emmerson Mnangagwa won the presidential election with 50.8 percent of the vote, while Nelson Chamisa received 44.3 percent of the vote (Freedom House 30 Jan. 2019; EU Oct. 2018, 35; IRI and NDI Oct. 2018, 44). Sources indicate the MDC Alliance won 87 seats in the National Assembly, while ZANU-PF won 180 out of 270 seats, or two-thirds of the total (EU Oct. 2018, 36; IRI and NDI Oct. 2018, 45-46). The joint IRI and NDI report indicates the MDC Alliance won control of 26 local authorities, while ZANU-PF won control of 60 local authorities (IRI and NDI Oct. 2018, 47). Sources indicate the MDC Alliance filed and lost a legal challenge regarding the results of the presidential election (EU Oct. 2018, 43-44; BBC 24 Aug. 2018; IRI and NDI Oct. 2018, 11); petitions challenging the outcome of various parliamentary elections were also filed by both ZANU-PF and the MDC Alliance (IRI and NDI Oct. 2018, 11).
7. Treatment of MDC Members by Authorities
Sources state that soldiers fired at opposition [MDC (The Guardian 4 Aug. 2018) or MDC Alliance (EU Oct. 2018, 38)] protestors on 1 August 2018, leading to at least six deaths (EU Oct. 2018, 38; The Guardian 4 Aug. 2018; ZHRC 10 Jan. 2019, 41). The Guardian reports eighteen people at the MDC Alliance headquarters were arrested "on suspicion of incitement or organisation of political violence" on 2 August 2018 (The Guardian 4 Aug. 2018). Similarly, the EU's EOM report states that on 2 August 2018, police "stormed" the MDC Alliance headquarters and arrested twenty-seven people for "'inciting violence'" and "'possession of dangerous weapons'," then released them on bail on 7 August 2018 (EU Oct. 2018, 39). New Zimbabwe reports that a former ZANU-PF youth leader and twenty-six other people, most of whom said they were MDC supporters, arrested in [August] 2018 at the MDC Alliance headquarters, were released in March 2019 after repeated postponements of their trial (New Zimbabwe 27 Mar. 2019). Further and corroborating information on the outcome of the arrests could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.
Human Rights Watch reports "numerous cases of beatings and harassment by soldiers in several of Harare's high-density suburbs, including Chitungwiza, Seke, Dzivarasekwa, Glen Norah, Glen View, Kuwadzana, and Highfields," where the MDC Alliance won the majority of seats, in early August 2018 (Human Rights Watch 7 Aug. 2018). The Guardian reports that MDC activists in Chitungwiza, a town thirty kilometres from Harare, stated soldiers "'came in two waves. The ﬁrst was just pushing people around, beating people with bars and sjamboks [leather whips]. Then later they had some kind of list and were going house to house looking for people'" (The Guardian 4 Aug. 2018, brackets in original). Similarly, the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum (The Forum), a coalition of twenty-two human rights NGOs in Zimbabwe (The Forum n.d.), received reports of two groups of soldiers moving through "high density suburbs," with the first group "beating people at random," and the second group "had a list of names of opposition supporters they were hunting for … [and] that they went door to door beating them up" (The Forum 15 Aug. 2018, 4-5).
Human Rights Watch indicates that witnesses reported seeing ZANU-PF supporters in Muzarabani South, Chivhu, and Marondera who were "singing war songs and threatening retribution to all opposition activists" in front of houses of MDC Alliance supporters and election officials (Human Rights Watch 7 Aug. 2018). The Forum estimates that there were twenty-seven violations based on complaints of "harassment and intimidation by the military" in August 2018, including in Chitungwiza, Kuwadzana, Highfield, Dzivarasekwa and Mbare; most of the complaints were from "the opposition's supporters and polling agents," including an MDC Alliance polling agent in Hurungwe West who was "harassed" by ZANU-PF supporters (The Forum 15 Aug. 2018, 5).
According to Human Rights Watch, six "masked men" broke into the house of an MDC Alliance youth leader, pointed a rifle at her and "[o]ne of the men slapped and kicked her"; the perpetrators also abducted two men who lived in the same house, then "beat and kicked them for an hour," before releasing the men (Human Rights Watch 7 Aug. 2018). Corroborating information could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.
The Forum received sixteen reported cases of abduction and arrests of opposition supporters, including an MDC Alliance polling agent who was abducted on 7 August 2018 in Marondera, "tortured and stripped by [four] assailants," and then found in Goromonzi the next day (The Forum 15 Aug. 2018, 5). Corroborating information could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.
The Zimbabwe Peace Project (ZPP), a coalition of Zimbabwe human rights and church-based organizations that documents rights violations, reports cases of opposition supporters being denied "government[-]funded food aid and agricultural inputs," and cites an example of MDC Alliance polling agents in Guruve who were denied access to "farming inputs" (ZPP Aug. 2018, 2, 3-4). The Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission (ZHRC), a state-appointed independent commission, states that they received ten complaints of "partisan distribution of food aid and [p]residential inputs, where known opposition political party members were unfairly discriminated against" (ZHRC 10 Jan. 2019, 7, 43).
According to an August 2018 article in the Herald, a government-owned Zimbabwe newspaper (BBC 21 Nov. 2017), nine senior MDC Alliance officials, including Tendai Biti , were wanted for "'[p]articipating in a gathering with intent to promote public violence, breaches of the peace or bigotry'" (The Herald 7 Aug. 2018). Sources report that Biti sought asylum in Zambia, but was deported back to Zimbabwe, where he was charged, then released on bail (BBC 9 Aug. 2018; IRI and NDI Oct. 2018, 49). President Mnangagwa announced on twitter that his "intervention" led to Biti's release, but the charges were not dropped (BBC 9 Aug. 2018; Freedom House 30 Jan. 2019). Sources state Biti was convicted and fined $200 in February 2019 for "false[ly]" announcing that MDC candidate Nelson Chamisa had won the presidential election (Reuters 18 Feb. 2019; AP 18 Feb. 2019).
Sources indicate President Mnangagwa established a commission of inquiry on the events [in Harare (Freedom House 30 Jan. 2019)] of  August 2018 that led to six people being killed by authorities (Amnesty International 8 Feb. 2019, 18; Freedom House 30 Jan. 2019; VOA 19 Dec. 2018). The commission of inquiry released the following findings:
- The demonstrations which became riotous and caused extensive damage to property and injury had been incited, pre-planned and well organised by the MDC Alliance;
- The particular circumstances prevailing on the day justified the deployment of the Military to assist the Police in containing the riots; and
- Six (6) people died and thirty-five (35) were injured as a result of actions by the [m]ilitary and the [p]olice. (Commission of Inquiry 1 Dec. 2018, vi-vii)
The commission of inquiry recommended that "[t]hose particular members of the [m]ilitary and the [p]olice found to have been in breach of their professional duties and discipline on the 1st of August 2018 should be identified as soon as possible for internal investigations and appropriate sanction" (Commission of Inquiry 1 Dec. 2018, 54). According to Amnesty International, as of February 2019, no investigation has been conducted "to hold suspected perpetrators to account" (Amnesty International 8 Feb. 2019, 18). VOA indicates the MDC denied their involvement in instigating the violence and called the investigation a "white wash to cover up the real culprits" (VOA 19 Dec. 2018).
7.1 January 2019 "Stay-Away" Protest
According to a report by Amnesty International, the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) called for a three-day "stay-away" [general strike] from 14 to 16 January 2019 in response to an announcement of a 150 percent fuel price increase by President Mnangagwa (Amnesty International 8 Feb. 2019, 8). The same source indicates that police, soldiers and other state agents were deployed to various parts of Zimbabwe, including Bulawayo and Harare (Amnesty International 8 Feb. 2019, 9). A report by the ZHRC states uniformed members of the Zimbabwe army and police "instigated systematic torture" and that in "some instances it was also noted that those aligned to the [MDC] were also specifically targeted" (ZHRC 28 Jan. 2019). Amnesty International reports a man leaving the office of an MDC member of parliament in Chinhoyi was beaten with "iron bars and batons" by men wearing military uniforms (Amnesty International 8 Feb. 2019, 12). Amnesty International also indicates three MDC Alliance members of parliament were arrested for "inciting public violence" and denied bail on 17 January 2019 and twelve additional MDC members of parliament were arrested on 21 January 2019 (Amnesty International 8 Feb. 2019, 17). In an interview with NewsDay on 22 January 2019, the MDC chief whip stated that six MDC members of parliament had been arrested and several other legislators were in hiding (NewsDay 22 Jan. 2019).
Various sources indicate the MDC turned down an invitation for "dialogue" from President Mnangagwa to resolve the country's economic [and political (Reuters 6 Feb. 2019)] "crisis" (Reuters 6 Feb. 2019; ANA 8 Feb. 2019). According to sources, the MDC stated "'the dialogue process must be convened by an independent mediator'" (Reuters 6 Feb. 2019) or "facilitated by an independent regional arbiter" (ANA 8 Feb. 2019).
This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim for refugee protection. Please find below the list of sources consulted in researching this Information Request.
 The eight others are Morgan Komichi, Happymore Chidziva, Jim Kunaka, Paddington Japajapa, Mafaiti Mubaiwa, Jeff Tafadzwa Chaitezvi, Lovejoy Chitengu and Chamunorwa Madya (The Herald 7 Aug. 2018).
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Additional Sources Consulted
Oral sources: Movement for Democratic Change; Zimbabwe Human Rights Association; Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights.
Internet sites, including: 263 Chat; African Arguments; African Union – Election Observation Mission; Cite; Bertelsmann Stiftung - Bertelsmann Stiftung's Transformation Index; Daily Maverick; ecoi.net; Factiva; International Crisis Group; Mail and Guardian; Southern Eye; The Standard; UN – Refworld; US – Department of State; Zimbabwe Situation.