Zvamaida Murwira and Audrey Rundofa
There was tension at MDC-T leader Mr Morgan Tsvangirai’s residence in Highlands, Harare, yesterday, as family members deliberately ignored his widow Ms Elizabeth Macheka and left out party leaders on the itinerary when President Mnangagwa visited to pay his condolences.
MDC-T vice president Mr Nelson Chamisa and Ms Macheka attended the funeral of the politician, despite threats by Mbuya Lydia Chibwe Tsvangirai, the deceased’s mother, that she would commit suicide if the two were allowed near the funeral.
It could not be established why the family wanted to bar Mr Chamisa and Ms Macheka.
Mr Chamisa is embroiled in a leadership wrangle with co-vice president Engineer Elias Mudzuri and deputy president Dr Thokozani Khupe.
Mr Chamisa is under fire for hurriedly convening a national council meeting that installed him as acting party president, a development his co-vice presidents dismissed as a nullity.
Ms Macheka could hardly be noticed in the lounge where dignitaries were seated when the President arrived.
She sat at a far corner with her father, Mr Joseph Macheka, while all the Tsvangirai family members sat on another side.
Under normal circumstances, Ms Macheka should have been the first to be consoled as Mr Tsvangirai’s widow, but mourners were instead commiserating with his mother.
During introductions, Mr Tsvangirai’s brother, Manase, introduced all other family members, who included nieces, nephews, his brothers and other relatives, only to make reference to Ms Macheka as an after thought.
In his 15-minute speech, Mr Tsvangirai’s other brother, Collins, never mentioned Ms Macheka and the role she played during her husband’s illness.
Instead, he constantly made reference to the role played by all other relatives like Mr Tsvangirai’s eldest son Edwin, Mr Tsvangirai’s mother and a niece.
This was despite the fact that Ms Macheka constantly travelled with her husband to South Africa for treatment.
President Mnangagwa was welcomed at Mr Tsvangirai’s residence by Minister of State for Harare Province Cde Miriam Chikukwa and all the MDC-T co-vice presidents — Messrs Chamisa and Mudzuri and Dr Khupe, and other senior MDC-T officials.
After speeches, some party officials had to intervene to have Dr Khupe be allowed to give a vote of thanks representing MDC-T.
This was after Manase, who was director of ceremonies, appeared to bring the event to an end after President Mnangagwa and family members had spoken, leaving out a representative from the party.
Manase was already winding up when Mabvuku-Tafara MP Mr James Maridadi stood up and whispered to him, before he subsequently invited Dr Khupe to speak.
Earlier in his speech, Manase had requested a niece, Mrs Bryline Chitsunge to give an account of Mr Tsvangirai’s illness and attendant hospital bills that had accrued.
Mrs Chitsunge implored mourners to desist from making the funeral “political.” “My uncle’s wish was to see people united,” she said. “My appeal to all of us is that, can this event be non-political?” All the speakers from the Tsvangirai family referred to Mr Chamisa as vice president of the MDC-T and not acting president, an indication that they did not recognise his rise, under controversial circumstances, to be the party’s acting president. In her vote of thanks, Dr Khupe avoided reference to the turbulences in the party, instead restricting herself to thanking Government for its assistance, both during Mr Tsvangirai’s illness and the funeral.
Mr Tsvangirai’s body is expected to be taken to his rural home at Humanikwa Village in Buhera today for burial tomorrow.
The body was taken to his residence last night where it was expected to lie in state.