MDC-T succession wars escalated yesterday as the party insisted that Morgan Tsvangirai was still its leader and its presidential candidate, a day after the former trade unionist intimated that he would be stepping down.
The ructions in the main opposition party intensified yesterday with MDC-T’s youth and women wings warning officials to desist from canvassing for the former Premier’s position and pushing for his resignation.
They warned they will not support any other presidential candidate besides Tsvangirai.
“The president will do well. He just needs time to recuperate,” MDC youth secretary-general Lovemore Chinoputsa said yesterday. “Now that the president has given us a trajectory of how he is going to lead us, where and what are we supposed to do? “We now have to follow his wisdom to make sure the party programmes run without any challenges,” he said in relation to the roles assigned to the three party vice-presidents.
Chinoputsa said they would stick to their presidential candidate, adding the youths would not be drawn into debating a post-Tsvangirai era. “There is nothing that has changed that requires us to consider replacing president Tsvangirai,” he said.
“If anything, the needs and aspirations of young people are better served under Tsvangirai. “Our senior leaders should desist from jostling for power that is not there. “We are watching them, as young people, and we will not hesitate to strike, if need be. “Let them move away from fighting each other and this warning goes to all the factions.”
MDC-T women’s assembly chairperson Lynette Karenyi supported Tsvangirai’s continued stay in office. “While, as an assembly of women, we recognise that Tsvangirai is not in good health, we believe that he will get over his ailment,” she said.
“We continue to pray that he be in good health in time for the 2018 harmonised elections to lead Zimbabwe into a new era. “On behalf of the assembly of women, we would like to vehemently and openly express our support for and solidarity with president Tsvangirai during his time of physical pain. We have the same confidence that we had in him during congress, and remain the same now as we will tomorrow. We are raring to go under his brilliant leadership.”
Karenyi said Tsvangirai’s illness was nothing new for an aspiring president, as other sitting leaders in other countries had defied odds to romp to victory despite poor health.
The position taken by the MDC-T youth and women’s assemblies dovetailed with the new position announced by party spokesperson Obert Gutu yesterday following a meeting chaired by acting president Elias Mudzuri.
In the statement, Gutu said Tsvangirai was not stepping down and would remain the party’s presidential candidate in this year’s elections.
“Contrary to recent Press reports that suggested that president Tsvangirai will soon be stepping down from the leadership of the party, the fact of the matter is that president Tsvangirai remains the leader of the MDC and he is the MDC presidential candidate for the 2018 elections,” he said.
MDC-T is reportedly divided between supporters of the three vice-presidents — Nelson Chamisa, Mudzuri and Thokozani Khupe — to succeed Tsvangirai.
After disclosing his illness two years ago, Tsvangirai appointed Chamisa and Mudzuri as his two additional deputies, in addition to Khupe, who retained her post at the last congress.
Tsvangirai had been expected to travel to South Africa earlier this week, but he reportedly delayed his trip to late yesterday amid behind-the-scenes bickering over his succession.
On Monday, the MDC-T leader, who is receiving treatment for cancer of the colon, hinted on taking early retirement, a decision which was reportedly supposed to be announced upon his return from his medical trip to South Africa.
But warring factions have traded open insults, accusing each other of trying to manipulate the situation to arm-twist Tsvangirai into stepping down.
Political analyst Philani Moyo, a director at the Institute of Social and Economic Research at the University of Fort Hare in South Africa, said the MDC-T succession politics was fluid, but speculated that Chamisa was the frontrunner.
“In a utopian party political system, Thokozani Khupe should have been miles ahead in the race to succeed Tsvangirai simply because she was popularly elected at congress, has been party VP for many years and is a senior leader, capable in her own right,” he said.
“However, in the real world of Zimbabwean internal party contestation and its attendant ethno-realities, it appears her chances of succeeding Tsvangirai are slim. “While Elias Mudzuri remains in the picture, her main competitor will obviously be Advocate Nelson Chamisa.”