MDC-T succession battle hots up
By Njabulo Ncube
MOVEMENT for Democratic Change (MDC-T) leader, Morgan Tsvangirai is under immense pressure to step down immediately following his public disclosure that he is suffering from the cancer of the colony.
Tsvangirai, who is recuperating from a recent operation at a private South African hospital, disclosed on Monday that he has been laid low by colony cancer, a diseases health experts say is deadly if not treated in its early stages.
While “get-well soon messages” have been awash since Monday, including from ZANU-PF politburo members such as Jonathan Moyo and Saviour Kasukuwere, MDC-T insiders intimated this week that a covert succession war is brewing as senior officials prepare to succeed the former trade unionists who burst into the local political scene in the late 1990s with the formation of the then united MDC in September 1999.
Names of Tsvangirai’s deputy Thokozani Khupe, party secretary general Douglas Mwonzora and youthful politician Nelson Chamisa are being suggested in the corridors at Harvest House.
The Financial Gazette has it on good authority that several suggestions are being bandied around to ensure a flawless exit strategy and preparations for a new leadership ahead the crunch 2018 polls.
Top among these suggestions is that Tsvangirai should step down now.
Some hardliners suggests Tsvangirai should move with speed to initiate the succession matrix in the MDC-T before internal fights engulf the party while he recuperates in hospital or at home.
This, according to information obtained by this newspaper, is intended to avoid another damaging split reminiscent of the infamous October 2005 break-up with Welshman Ncube which was later followed by the Tendai Biti-led breakaway after the 2013 loss to ZANU-PF.
Party insiders claim there is a general consensus Tsvangirai has been a pale shadow of his former self since his controversial loss to President Robert Mugabe and ZANU-PF in 2013 and the latest hospitalisation had compounded the situation, rendering him no longer fit to spearhead and run in 2018 despite his bravado while in his hospital bed.
It also emerged this week that proponents of a broad grand coalition firmly believe the MDC-T leader’s exit could offer hope for a united front against President Mugabe and his ZANU-PF administration which has been in power since independence from Britain in 1980.
Rightly or wrongly, Tsvangirai has been viewed as an impediment to a proposed opposition coalition of the various MDC formations, which include Ncube, Biti, Elton Mangoma, former finance minister, Simba Makoni and former vice president, Joice Mujuru, among other so-called democratic forces.
But in an interview with the Financial Gazette, MDC-T national spokesperson Obert Gutu, said there was no leadership crisis yet that has been sparked by Tsvangirai’s perceived incapacitation.
“(President) Morgan Tsvangirai is our leader. He is our best foot forward and we are praying to God the Almighty that he be completely healed,” said Gutu. “There is absolutely no leadership crisis in the MDC.”
He said party programmes are continuing.
“Everyone is more than determined to deliver democratic change to long-suffering Zimbabweans. God is on our side. The darkest hour is just before dawn, but we are certainly getting there. There is absolutely no doubt about that.”
While Gutu appeared to be rubbishing the alleged looming leadership crisis, party hardliners firmly believe it is time he passed on the baton.
Brighton Musonza, an MDC-T supporter based in the United Kingdom, charged that the party needed to immediately set in motion a deliberate and methodical leadership change process by establishing a leadership transition committee.
“The earlier (they set up a transition committee) the better, while Morgan (Tsvangirai) is still fit to lend his weight to iron out any challenges. A late show for this will cause intense (and) bitter rivalry as a power vacuum ensues threatening the stability and unity of the party,” said Musonza.
“The road is not gonna be easy, but I am sure those with Morgan at heart in these difficult moments of his life will not let this indefatigable warrior down. I know for some this may seem being insensitive, but let me assure you; the best person to referee this is Morgan.
“A good leader should be assessed on the benchmarks of honesty, respect, fairness, clarity, openness, collegiality, decisiveness, humility, diversity and bravery. One who knows that principles require determination, modesty and resilience — you don’t have to be a founder of the MDC, although that may only be an added advantage.”
Dinizulu Mbiko Machaphulani, a Zimbabwe political analyst based in South Africa, said Tsvangirai should not wait to be pushed. He said the MDC-T leader should move with speed to initiate the succession process at a time he has also appeared to have lost both financial and moral support from the international community.
“This is the time for a dignified and heroic exit. His exit should indeed promote good chances for alliance talks that need external facilitators, the players themselves are too involved and interested to facilitate the talks,” said Machaphulani.
“There is a belief Tsvangirai is incapable of delivering regime change after so many attempts and personal fumbling. But sadly he still commands some popular support but it is believed a new opposition agenda is impossible with him around. Further to others, he does not seem to want a coalition that is not led by him. That is why some dark forces might want him dead,” he added.
The MDC-T has, however, repeatedly denied accusations their leader is vehemently opposed to a coalition of forces against ZANU-PF.
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