MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai’s quest to run for the presidency for the fourth time might hit a brick wall, amid revelations there are renewed efforts to force him to make way for a new leader before the polls.
A faction loyal to vice-president Thokozani Khupe is said to be pushing for a special congress aimed at retiring Tsvangirai on health grounds.
If the faction succeeds, Khupe would take over, but the move is being resisted by a group that is backing Tsvangirai’s third deputy, Nelson Chamisa, sources have revealed.
Tsvangirai, who has been battling cancer of the colon since last year, is reportedly back in South Africa for another round of treatment.
He is expected back in the country tomorrow.
MDC-T sources said the infighting in the party had spiralled out of control after the military forced former president Robert Mugabe to resign last month and Zanu PF replaced him with President Emmerson Mnangagwa.
According to the sources, Khupe’s faction is already mobilising provinces to support the idea to retire Tsvangirai, arguing MDC-T needs a fit leader to face Zanu PF in next year’s general elections.
The MDC-T had hoped to be part of Mnangagwa’s government in a transitional arrangement, but the deal collapsed, spinning the party into chaos.
Khupe is believed to have the backing of five provinces, Bulawayo, Matabeleland South, Manicaland, Matabeleland North and part of Harare. She is also supported by external branches in the United Kingdom, South Africa and United States.
However, MDC-T spokesperson Obert Gutu yesterday rubbished the claim, maintaining the party’s next congress would only be in 2019.
“This is a total fabrication. There is absolutely nothing like that,” he said.
“Our next congress is due to be held in 2019. President Morgan Tsvangirai is our leader and he is also the MDC Alliance presidential candidate for the 2018 elections.”
Khupe also told The Standard on Friday in a separate interview that she remained loyal to Tsvangirai and was working well with Chamisa.
But sources within the party said Khupe had covered ground in mobilising some provinces to support the idea of a special congress that would see the reconfiguration of Tsvangirai’s 18-year-old party.
“As we speak, a lot of jostling is taking place across the country. The same people who were opposed to the MDC Alliance are telling people that the only way the MDC can win against Mnangagwa and Zanu PF is for the party to have a new candidate,” a well-placed source said.
“They say our president is sick and has been in hospital for the last six months, hence the calls by the provinces to call for an extraordinary congress to select a new leader.”
According to the source, the issue of the special congress is likely to be resolved at the party’s next national council meeting.
“The issue will be tabled at the next national council meeting and we hope it will be debated without emotions.
“The majority of the provinces are ready to support this motion.
“There will also be a push for the council to reject the MDC Alliance agreement on claims that it was not properly discussed and adopted as the Khupe faction has told provinces that the MDC-T does not need an alliance to win an election, but a new presidential candidate and a new vision.”
Khupe’s decision to suspend Matabeleland South provincial chairperson Solani Moyo on allegations that he intended to assault her in the full glare of party members who included national chairman Lovemore Moyo, was an indication that the infighting was getting out of control.
“The decision to suspend Moyo was on the grounds that he refused to support the idea of a special congress to remove Tsvangirai. Matabeleland South province is backing Tsvangirai, together with the Mashonaland provinces as well as Masvingo,” said the source.
“As it stands, it’s a 50-50 war and things can move either way. Tsvangirai is willing to hand over power to Chamisa, but Khupe is making inroads in mobilising provinces for her candidature since talks for a transitional government collapsed.
Both Khupe and Chamisa were not picking calls yesterday.