Movement for Democratic Change

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Movement for Democratic Change- Tsvangirai
FounderMorgan Tsvangirai
PresidentNelson Chamisa
SloganChinja Maitiro. Guqula Izenzo
Split from2005
Headquarters44 Harvest House Nelson
Mandela Avenue & Angwa Street,
National affiliationZimbabwe

The Movement for Democratic Change - Tsvangirayi (MDC-T) formerly just the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) is the main opposition party in Zimbabwe formed in an era of economic melt down and political unrest in 1999. The party was part of Zimbabwe's Government of National Unity (or just the inclusive government) between 2008 and 2013. It's visibility and influence reduced after losing the 2013 Presidential and Parliamentary elections to ZANU-PF. The party is led Morgan Tsvangirai, who has been president of the party since its founding.

Thousands of MDC-T Supporters at a Rally


See History of Zimbabwe Timeline.


The party believes in Social Democracy and Democratic Socialism. It draws much of its political ideas from western democracy which advocates for freedom of association, majority rule, freedom of press, freedom of movement among other things.[1]

Party Colours and Slogans

A palm hand is part of the MDC-T Slogan

The MDC party is identified by its large red colours. The colours usually come with the face of its president Morgan Tsvangirai or any party leader of a respective constituency. The party's slogan "Chinja in Shona and Guqula in Ndebele language, involves the raising of an open hand palm which the supporters define as a symbol for change.

Formation and History

The history of the MDC as a party can be traced back to 26 February 1999. This was after a group of about 700 men and women from all walks of life had gathered to enact the party structures and map their way into Zimbabwe's political fraternity. They set up various committees and sub committees to examine a whole gamut of Zimbabwean issues, only to resolve that the only way out was the need to challenge Zanu PF politically. The party was officially launched in September 1999 at Rufaro Stadium in Harare.

Most of the leaders who took part in the formation were trade unionists from the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU), student leaders, white commercial farmers, academics and intellectuals and youths. Gibson Sibanda who became vice president of the party was also an ardent member of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions. The MDC was then formed on the basis of carrying on the struggle of the people; the struggle for food and jobs; peace; dignity, decency and democracy; equal distribution of resources; and justice, transparency and equality of all Zimbabweans. [2]

A combination of labour movements and the civic society then came chipped in later to formalise and strengthen the party structures with Morgan Tsvangirai being the president. In 2000 the party made history by becoming the first opposition party to won a handful of seats against Zanu PF winning 57 out of the 120 House of Assembly seats. The basis of the MDC was not merely one of popular discontent with the (Zanu PF) executive but an explicit agenda to democratize the state through a peaceful transition. [3]


At its formation, the MDC was funded by a group of white commercial farmers who wanted to secure their land from invasion by the War Veterans through the Agrarian revolution which was beginning to take a more militant stance against them. Multi-national and local companies which sympathised with the white commercial farmers also helped the party financially. It was also reported that the MDC also received funding from the European Union, The British and the U.S governments who were keen on seeing the end of Robert Mugabe rule which was described by foreign media as dictatorial.

The Inaugural Congress

On 26 January 2000, the party held its inaugural congress at Chitungwiza Aquatic Complex. This congress endorsed Morgan Tsvangirai to run as the president of the party in the impending elections. A constitution for the party was adopted. The ruling Zimbabwe African National Union Patriotic Front (Zanu PF) immediately entrenched violence as a political culture, leading to dozens of deaths and massive displacements of the poor in the rural areas. The situation remains unchanged to this day. [4]

MDC Restart Programme 2004

Restart was a five-year programme situated within the context of the MDC’s overall policies. These policies were developed from the National Working People’s Convention in 1999, and at subsequent MDC congresses. It replaced the MDC’s earlier economic blueprints such as Bridge which formed a key element of the 2002 presidential election campaign. [5]

2006 Watershed Congress

Between 16 and 19 March 2006 the MDC held its watershed congress and substantial resolutions were passed, peaceful and democratic means to push the aged dictator out were to be the hallmark of the future. That congress adopted a road-map to legitimacy whose signposts and benchmarks saw the party finally regaining its influence in the country's political landscape. [6]

The splits

In 2005 the party split into two factions because of a disagreement emanating from whether it should participate in that year's Senatorial elections. The bigger faction was led by Morgan Tsvangirai called MDC-T and the smaller one called MDC led by Professor Arthur Mutambara until 2011 when Professor Welshman Ncube took over. In 2010, another major break-up occurred when Job Sikhala pulled out of the party due to some ideological clashes with the likes of Welshman Ncube and Arthur Mutambara. Despite the splits which marred the party, the MDC T formation remained relatively stronger than all of its break away parties which struggled to maintain good followings. After the presidential elections of 2013, another split occurred when Tendai Biti and other cadres pulled out of the party to form what they termed the MDC Renewal Team. Biti was supported by a number of senior members including Elton Mangoma the former minister of energy during the Government of National Unity era.

Government of National Unity

Morgan Tsvangirai on Signing the GNU in 2008 In 2008, Tsvangirai won his first ever presidential election with 47,9% against Robert Mugabe's 43,2%. However the law required one to have at least 51% to become president so they had to be a run-off election which Tsvangirai snubbed because of alleged violence against his supporters. The MDC-T, ZANU PF and the smaller MDC signed an Agreement on 13 February 2009 to ensure rule of law, Human Rights and media freedom after the disputed 2008 elections.[7] The power-sharing deal saw Tsvangirai becoming Prime Minister and his party allocated some key ministries such as Finance and Energy.

Factions and Calls For Leadership Renewal

After the 31 July elections, some of the party officials like treasurer general Roy Bennet and Ian Kay openly called for Tsvangirai to step down as MDC leader. In January 2014 Mangoma joined the fray by writing a letter to Tsvangirai saying, “…It is my humble submission that at this juncture, you consider leaving the office of the president". [8] This angered party loyalists leading to Mangoma's assault in February 2014. Mangoma accused Tsvangirai for setting him up. [9] MDC-T secretary general Tendai Biti who was also named in the leadership renewal plot, escaped unhurt at the assault incident but had his house petrol-bombed by unknown assailants on 24 February 2014. [10] For the first time since he had been advised to step down, Tsvangirai on 2 March 2014 said the MDC may consider holding an early congress to solve the leadership disputes.[11] The party was supposed to hold an extra ordinary congress in 2016 where a new leadership was to be elected.

Structure and Constitution

The MDC-T has a democratic constitution which advocates for universal suffrage both at party and at national level. All leaders are elected by the electorate. This constitution has sections which specifically guide conduct of party leaders, electoral conduct, leadership and succession. The party structure is as follows;

  • President
  • Vice President
  • Secretary General
  • National Coordinating Secretary
  • National Youth Chairperson.
  • National Treasurer
  • Party Spokesperson
  • Provincial Chairperson
  • District Chairperson

The Congress is the supreme organ of the Party and is composed of all members of the National Council, National Executive of Women, National Executive of Youth, Provincial Executive Committees, the Chairperson, Secretary, Organising Secretary and Treasurer from each District Executive Committee and Provincial and District levels of the National Assemblies of Women and Youth and external assemblies, the Chairperson of each Ward Executive Committee and all the party’s elected members of the house of Assembly, Mayors and chairpersons of local Authorities.[12] The congress meets once every five years, provided that an Extra-Ordinary Congress can be convened, at any time, in accordance with the provisions of the Party’s Constitution.[12] Below are the key structures which build up the congress;

  • The National Council
  • The National Standing Committee
  • National Executive
  • The Province Executive Council
  • The District Executive Committee
  • The Ward
  • The Branch
  • The Youth Assembly
  • The Women's Assembly.[12]


The MDC-T was founded on strong Christian principles although it embraces other religions such as African Traditional Religion and Islam. Morgan Tsvangirai the president once made statements which showed his tolerance for same-sex marriages. His stance was however criticised by the majority including his fellow leaders in the MDC party. The party has remained divided on the issue of same sex marriages. However, considering the need to maintain good relations with the west and USA, the party has never denounced same sex marriages as compared to ZANU PF's Robert Mugabe who is known for his utter hatred of same sex marriages. In terms of foreign policy, the MDC-T seems to have good relations with the European. It has in the past denounced the eastern countries such as China. It has strongly condemned corruption especially in government. However the party failed to put the gospel into practice during the GNU era when some of its leaders were fingered in corruption allegations.

Voter Base

MDC-T enjoys majority support in most urban areas such as Harare, Bulawayo and Gweru. This is mainly because the party has captured the hearts of professionals especially those employed in the civil service most of whom are urban dwellers. The party also enjoys support from the youths who are fanatics of the 21 century democratic tendencies which the party endeavours to offer. Before the 2013 elections, the MDC-T had almost all the parliament seats in Harare and Bulawayo cities. The party also enjoyed 100% dominance between 2000 and 2007 in the Matabeleland provinces. After the 2013 elections, Zanu PF had only 6 seats in parliament in Harare and the rest well taken by MDC-T.



It has emerged that one of the fundamental flaws of the MDC-T party is its lack of a coherent ideology. Since its formation, the party failed to capitalise on the economic decline of the country to offer the people a readily crafted ideology. Instead, the MDC-T campaign trail has been based on criticising the ruling party instead of crafting an ideology which could be adopted by the people. Furthermore, the party has also been infested with factionalist tendencies and this is witnessed by the 3 major break-ups in the party from its formation. In its early years, MDC-T was identified with violence tendencies which saw the burning of houses, killing of people including police officers, burning of buses and destruction of private properties. Another major criticism was that the party was formed with the influence of the west especially Britain. Thus its campaign has been hinched on the need to safeguard the interests of the elitist white minority instead of the majority Zimbabweans.


The 2013 Manifesto

The MDC-T launched its manifesto which worked as its campaign handbook during the period towards the controversial 2013 elections. The constitution is available at the party's website [2].[13]


Juice was an economic framework crafted by the party during the period of the GNU. The MDC’s jobs plan entitled Jobs, Upliftment Investment Capital and the Environment (JUICE) was a comprehensive plan for the generation of decent jobs that was meant not only end poverty but also empower citizens. JUICE advocated for a Broad Based Economic (BBE) upliftment of citizens by expanding people’s choices in attaining sustainable livelihoods not through asset striping and looting.[14]


Conditions for a Sustainable Election in Zimbabwe (CoSEZ) was crafted with the need to call for the neighbouring countries names Zambia, South Africa and Botswana to ensure that a conducive environment exists before, during and after elections.[15]

Boycotting Elections

The party resolved in April 2014 that it would boycott future elections (by elections) citing irregularities associated with the election processes.[16] It must be noted that, the party had long been affiliated with the issue of boycotting by elections but it publicly announced that it was no longer going to participate in any by elections in April 2014. In 2008, the Chairman of the National Constitutional Assembly, Lovemore Madhuku warned the party of imminent splits after the party boycotted to contest in the by elections for the Zaka East parliamentary seat which fell vacant after the death of Tinos Rusere in the same year. [17]

The ousted National Organising Secretary of the Party, Nelson Chamisa stated that, the party was to only participate in the by elections if a new Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC)was functional unlike the one led by Justice Rita Makarau as it was non-partisan.[16] Party officials argued that, their party was now playing second fiddle to the Zimbabwe African National Union Patriotic Front (Zanu PF) in urban areas, where the party used to have strong support bases. After the July 31st elections, many seats felt vacant and ZANU PF candidates won all of those seats.

On 13 January, the party reinforced its decision when it stated that it was not going to participate in the by elections slated for 27 March to fill in the parliamentary seats (Mount Darwin West and Chirimanzu-Zibangwe) which became vacant after the reappointment of Joice Mujuru as the Vice President of the country who was replaced by Emmerson Mnangagwa after the 6th ZANU PF Congress which was held in December 2014. [18] The party's spokesperson, Obert Gutu said,

Our position is that we will not participate in any by election as long as the conditions that we have been complaining about (access to the voters roll and the media) are still the same[18]

Despite the fact that, the party views its stance as a noble one, the MDC faction led by Ncube has described the move as an act of cowardice.[18]

Timeline of Major Events

  • 1999- Formation of the Party at Rufaro Stadium in Harare.
  • 2000- MDC officially won 57 seats against Zanu PF’s 63.
  • 2005-The party won 41 seats of the 120 contested seats.
  • 2005- Break away by a faction led by Arthur Mutambara.
  • 2006- Watershed Elective Congress.
  • 2008- The party also won 41 out the 150 seats and had the majority of members in the house of Assembly.
  • 2008-2013 MDC-T was part of the Government of National Unity together with ZANU PF and MDC-M.
  • 2013- The party suffered a huge blow in 2013 by winning a meager 49 out of the 210 parliamentary seats.
  • 2014- Breakaway by Tendai Biti to form the MDC Renewal Team.
  • 2014- MDC-T elective Congress held in Harare and Morgan Tsvangirai retained power as the president.[12]

2018 factionalism

While Morgan Tsvangirai was in a South African hospital, His absence created a leadership vacuum which left the party without cohesion and direction. His subordinates were involved in a fight which threatened to tear the party apart. It was the most important crisis the party had faced in years and threatened to damage the party’s prospects in the 2018 general elections. [19]

Acting President Drama

There was drama over the identity of the Acting President whilst Tsvangirai was in hospital. The party had three Vice Presidents, Thokozani Khupe, Nelson Chamisa and Elias Mudzuri all claimed that they were the legitimate acting Presidents which put the party into disrepute and confusion. Khupe was elected at the 2014 Congress while Chamisa and Mudzuri were appointed by Tsvangirai in 2016, a decision that came with huge controversy and whose repercussions were felt when Tsvangirai fell ill.

Luke Tamborinyoka announced the appointment of Nelson Chamisa as Acting President until Tsvangirai’s return. The reason given was that both Mudzuri and Khupe were in Cape Town, South Africa where they were attending a workshop. It appears there was some disagreement over the attendance of Khupe and Mudzuri at the Cape Town event since the principals of the MDC Alliance which is led by Tsvangirai boycotted it.

Confusion arose when party spokesperson Gutu disputed Tamborinyoka’s statement and stated that Mudzuri was still the Acting President. Two days later, Mudzuri claimed that he had met Tsvangirai and was still the Acting President. Tsvangirai’s son, Edwin told SABC TV that Mudzuri had indeed met his father in hospital but he did not disclose details of what had been discussed. At the same time Chamisa was executing duties as Acting President and asserting his role as such. Khupe, on the other hand, was insisting that the party must go by the constitution which recognises the role of elected officials. The party is not “dysfunctional” because Tsvangirai is absent, Khupe’s tweet implied, a direct challenge to the assertion that Tsvangirai had appointed either Chamisa or Mudzuri as Acting President.[19]

Nomination Court June 2023

Nomination court on 21 June 2023 produced six presidential candidates for the August elections. They are:


  1. Movement for Democratic Change – Tsvangirai
  2. , Formation,Movement for Democratic Change, retrieved:18 Dec 2014"
  3. The Politics of the Movement for Democratic Change
  4. , Inaugural Congress,The Movement for Democratic Change, retrieved: 18 Dec 2014"
  5. , RESTART, Movement for Democratic Change, published:January 2004,retrieved:29 January 2015"
  6. , 2006 Watershed Congress,Movement for Democratic Change, retrieved:18 Dec 2014"
  7. Two years of GNU–Stormy weather ahead...
  8. Mangomaon MDC-T Leadership
  9. Leadership Renewal Only Way for MDC
  10. Tendai Biti's home Petrol Bombed by Unknown Assailants
  11. Tsvangirai Ready for Congress
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 12.3 , The Congress,The Movement for Democratic Change, retrieved:18 Dec 2014"
  13. , 2013 Manifesto,Movement for Democratic Change, retrieved:18 Dec 2014"
  14. , JUICE,Movement for Democratic Change, retrieved:18 Dec 2014"
  15. , CoSEZ,Movement for Democratic Change,retrieved:18 Dec 2014"
  16. 16.0 16.1 MDC-T vows to boycott future elections, Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation, published:14 Apr 2014,retrieved:14 January 2015"
  17. Fiikile Mapala, Madhuku warns MDC against poll boycott, New Zimbabwe, published:11 Dec 2009,retrieved:14 January 2015"
  18. 18.0 18.1 18.2 Mugove Tafirenyika, Opposition parties demand voters' roll before by-elections, Daily News, published:13 Jan 2015,retrieved:14 January 2015"
  19. 19.0 19.1 [1], Big Saturday Read: MDC-T - when things fall apart, Published: 10 Feb 2018, Retrieved: 12 Feb 2018
  20. Six Presidential Candidates Submit Papers For Zimbabwe 23 Aug Elections, Pindula, Published: 20 June 2023, Retrieved: 22 June 2023

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