Morris Mkwate, Harare Bureau
UNCERTAINTY has gripped the MDC-T on the back of Mr Morgan Tsvangirai’s faltering health, with the prospect of replacing him before 2018 fast-becoming a possibility.
His close lieutenants believe “serious challenges” will rock the opposition party should illness incapacitate him, and are keenly monitoring his progress.
Jitters have heightened with Mr Tsvangirai’s frequent trips outside Zimbabwe for treatment and his non-participation in Biometric Voter Registration and the opposition “coalition”.
Insiders told our Harare Bureau that the MDC-T leader recently shantied key responsibilities to his three deputies, an indication that illness had taken a toll on him. Dr Thokozani Khupe is now responsible for party administration and Parliamentary issues, while Mr Nelson Chamisa takes charge of policy, international relations and youth affairs. Engineer Elias Mudzuri has been tasked with overseeing all party structures and MDC-T interests in local Government.
Party spokesperson Mr Obert Gutu tried to downplay the matter, saying, “Those are fictitious reports. I am the mouthpiece of the party, and I say nothing of that nature is going on. The party is fine; everything is going on well.”
However, sources said though cautiously optimistic, top party officials were “concerned” about the “illness which has become a source of headaches and an inconvenience”.
“He has not been well, and that has been of concern to us. It is a crucial time when Biometric Voter Registration is being conducted. This illness is a source of headaches. It is an inconvenience. It is affecting the (opposition) alliance and the party,” an insider said.
“Though Chamisa has been representing him at alliance meetings, certain issues require his personal attention. For instance, there are challenges in the alliance, which is, really, a ‘fiction’ party with people who have no ground. It has characters who just want us to win elections and then use Parliament as a platform to gain relevance. Some of them have been going overseas to decampaign Tsvangirai over the past few years. What has changed?”
Another said, “There is unhappiness in the MDC-T that some will be losing constituencies. In Matabeleland, the likes of Khupe are not happy that Welshman (Ncube) is coming from nowhere to claim a stake. (Obert) Gutu was campaigning in Harare East, but the People’s Democratic Party is now contesting in that constituency in 2018. Manicaland has the same issues. All in all, the MDC-T will contest in 112 out of 210 constituencies, and all this was supposed to be discussed openly, yet Tsvangirai is not well.”
Asked whether a possible successor had been suggested, the sources said only an extraordinary party congress could provide direction should Mr Tsvangirai step down. Reports have previously linked Eng Mudzuri and Mr Chamisa to the top opposition post.
“There is cautious optimism in the corridors (that Mr Tsvangirai will remain in charge), therefore, names have not been mentioned. However, an extraordinary congress is the one that would select the next leader in the event of him not being in a position to continue to lead the party. Yes, former treasurer-general Roy Bennet has always wanted Chamisa, but he has also been working with Elton Mangoma. In fact, he wants anyone who is not Tsvangirai. The truth is he has not been happy with Morgan for a long time. His argument is that he helped Morgan financially, but Morgan failed to back him for the post of Deputy Minister of Agriculture during the inclusive Government era.”