MDC was officially launched at Rufaro Stadium in Harare, an event that was attended by thousands of Zimbabweans.
The inaugural Congress of the MDC was held at the Aquatic Complex in Chitungwiza. The first leadership of the Party was elected. The new Executive was drawn from various sectors of the society that included, labour, civic organisations, academia, farmers, religious and traditional groups.
The top leadership was elected as follows:
MDC made history when it nearly upstaged the ruling party in the June 2000 general election by winning 57 out of 120 contested seats while ZANU PF could only manage a marginal 62 seats. This was in-spite of the fact that the MDC was only 8 months old.
Although the MDC got less seats in the 2005 general elections than it got in the 2000 election, it was evident that violence, intimidation and downright rigging by the ruling party were major factors in influencing the outcome of the results. While the MDC remained the only formidable threat to the ruling party's hold on political power in Zimbabwe, it began to experience serious internal challenges. Fatigue and despondence due to the prolonged struggle, disregard of the provisions of the party constitution by some party officials and the tendency to resort to unorthodox means to resolving internal conflicts that had crept into the party, contributed to the fateful October 12, 2005 conflict that culminated in the split of the party.
It is imperative to those who are thirsty for the truth that we give an outline of what happened on the fateful day of 12 October 2005. At that time, the ZANU PF government had decided to bring back the upper house (Senate) through Amendment No. 17, a development that deepened divisions within the party as the structures haggled over whether to participate in the Senatorial elections or not. Against this backdrop, a National Council meeting to come up with a party position on the matter was held on 12 October 2005. The sequence of events that occurred on the day, are outlined below.
Council debated whether or not to participate in the Senatorial elections. As members could not agree on the way forward, it was agreed that the matter be resolved through the vote. A secret ballot was held and the results came out 31 against and 33 in favour of participation.
The then President of the MDC, Mr Morgan Tsvangirai, stood up and said, "Well, you have voted, and you have voted to participate, which as you know is against my own wish. In the circumstances, I can no longer continue." There was then a long silence, as members glanced at each other, wondering what he meant? Then he resumed: "No, I cannot let you participate in this senate election when I believe that it is against the best interests of the party. I am the President of this party. I am therefore going to go out of this room and announce to the world that MDC will not participate in this election. If the party breaks, so be it. I will answer at Congress." He then stormed out of the room, followed by a few cheering supporters.
A Councillor came up with a proposal that all the remaining five Management Committee members should immediately follow the President to his office and implore him to accept the result of the Council vote, and then report back to the rest of the Councillors. This was adopted, and the other members dispersed around 4.00 pm, having started at 10 am.
The five Management Committee members pursued the then President to his home where he had already finished addressing a press conference.The then President Mr. Morgan Tsvangirai refused to speak to them and left for his rural home.( He told them that he did not want to speak to them, he was going to his rural home, and he drove off.) Efforts to contact him were fruitless as he would not answer his cellphone.(They tried to telephone him all evening and the next day, but he would not answer. )
Meanwhile, they learned that at the press conference, with both international and local media, he had misrepresented the truth by claiming that the vote was 50-50 and he had used his casting vote (which he did not have, according to the constitution) with the result that MDC would not be participating in the Senate election. This misinformation was soon out in the international press. Management therefore met again that evening to release an official announcement giving the real results and declaring that the MDC had therefore resolved to participate.
When it became evident that the Party was headed for a split, there were several mediation efforts to reunite the Party, however, they were not successful. The failure of the mediation efforts to bring the two groups together led to the two formations convening separate Congresses in 2006. This was a clear confirmation that the party had irretrievably separated and that the MDC had indeed split into two formations.
The MDC held its second Congress in Bulawayo on 25-26 February 2006 in Bulawayo at the Amphitheatre. Some founding members of the party were re-elected to lead the party while new faces also came in. Those who were elected included among others:
Although the split had posed a serious setback to the survival of the party, the new leadership came in with renewed hope and energy and were determined to turn the fortunes of the party around. A clear vision for the Party was enunciated.
Notwithstanding the fact that the two formations held separate Congresses in early 2006, mediation efforts that had started immediately after the split continued with a view to reunite the parties. In early 2007 negotiating teams headed by the Secretary Generals of the two formations, Professor Welshman Ncube and Mr Tendai Biti held a series of talks aimed at ensuring that the two formations contested the 2008 elections as one entity or at least find some formula that would see the two formations not fielding candidates against each other in the election.
In February 2008, a few days before the harmonised election, the talks irrevocably collapsed, leaving the two formations with no option but to contest the election as separate entities. Since the time of the split the Party has remained and continues to be a formidable threat to both ZANU PF and the other MDC formation hence the continued effort to destroy it and wipe it out of the political space.
With the failure of the coalition and reunification talks between the two formations the MDC contested the 2008 elections and got 10 seats in the House of Assembly and 6 in the Senate Assembly. Though the election result was unimpressive, it guaranteed a hung parliament were no party had an overall majority in parliament, an issue which improved the democracy of the country. Because of the strategic position the party occupies, the MDC has continued to lure our MPs and senior members to its side hence the party has been hit by defections and suffer insubordinations from its legislators.
The MDC held its 3rd Congress on the 8-9th January 2011 at the City Sports Centre in Harare and ran under the theme Creating a just and fair Zimbabwe; Celebrating our diversity. The Senior Party leadership was elected as follows: