Zvamaida Murwira and Farirayi Machivenyika
MDC-T co-vice president Dr Thokozani Khupe has made sensational claims that the late MDC-T leader Mr Morgan Tsvangirai had told fellow co-vice presidents Messrs Nelson Chamisa and Elias Mudzuri that she would act as president at all times that he was absent.
This came as a new voice recording emerged yesterday, in which Mr Tsvangirai could be heard giving instructions that the appointment of Messrs Chamisa and Mudzuri would not affect Dr Khupe when it came to her constitutional role to act as the party’s president in his absence.
Dr Khupe lashed out at Mr Chamisa for reneging on an agreement that the two made to stop all party meetings, including the recent meetings that culminated in his elevation as acting president. This is contained in a letter Dr Khupe wrote – written on a letterhead from the office of the MDC-T president – addressed to the party’s guardian council of elders, where she appealed to them to intervene in the leadership dispute pitting her against Mr Chamisa.
There is an ugly fight in MDC-T over who succeeds Mr Tsvangirai, who succumbed to colon cancer in a South African hospital last week.
He was buried last week at his rural home in Buhera. All the three vice presidents – Mr Chamisa, Dr Khupe and Mr Mudzuri – claim to be the rightful interim leaders of the opposition party.
The fights manifested at the burial of Mr Tsvangirai, where Dr Khupe, secretary-general Mr Douglas Mwonzora and organising secretary Mr Abednigo Bhebhe were assaulted. Party activists even threatened to torch the hut in which the senior party leaders had taken refuge. Dr Khupe noted in her letter that she had unsuccessfully tried to speak to Mr Tsvangirai from Cape Town, South Africa when he was in hospital.
“In all my visits and calls to the president in his last days, I never raised the issue of who was supposed to act in his absence because the president had sat Honourable Chamisa, Honourable Mudzuri and myself down to clarify who acted on his behalf,” she said.
“He had been clear that I was to act in all instances when he would be absent, by operation of the constitution.”
Dr Khupe accused Mr Chamisa of unprocedurally convening party meetings that they had all agreed to put on hold as Mr Tsvangirai’s health deteriorated. “I met Honourable Chamisa at his chambers on the 13th of February 2018, to advise him to cancel the series of meetings I heard he had scheduled pending due consultations with all leaders to resolve who was acting president,” she said.
“After much discussion, he promised to cancel them. After this one-on-one with him, I left for Bulawayo.
“On the 14th of February 2018, I learnt of the passing on of president Tsvangirai, and of a renewed interest by Honourable Chamisa to have the same meetings he had cancelled. I was further informed that he had called these meetings as preparatory meetings for president Tsvangirai’s burial. What followed is in the public domain as the late president Tsvangirai’s funeral literally became a campaign tool for party presidency by Honourable Chamisa.
“We had agreed that I be the keynote speaker at Freedom Square, but he protested that arrangement when we were on the platform. I gave in because I did not want to cause unnecessary scenes at the funeral.”
Ominously, an audio recording of the late Mr Tsvangirai telling some party members that his elected deputy Dr Khupe is entitled to take over the reins in any eventuality emerged yesterday, which seemingly corroborates Dr Khupe’s account.
Although it was not clear when and where the meeting took place, the recording indicates that Mr Tsvangirai was addressing disgruntled party members following his appointment in July 2016 of Mr Mudzuri and Mr Chamisa as his other co-deputies.
Mr Tsvangirai can be heard saying the appointment of Messrs Mudzuri and Chamisa did not mean he had undermined the authority of Dr Khupe, who was elected at the last MDC-T congress in 2014.
“So, kana muchindibvunza imimi kuti makazoappoindirei mamwe mavice president; handina kuundermina munhu aka elekitwa necongress because as far as I am concerned, she is my vice president. (So, if you ask me why I appointed other vice presidents, I didn’t undermine someone who was elected at congress because as far as I am concerned, she is my vice president),” Mr Tsvangirai said.
“Handidi kunzwa munhu anofamba achiti because pakazoappoindwa mamwe mavice president saka, therefore, Mai Khupe is no longer the vice president uchifunga kuti ndokutsigira. (I don’t want to hear anyone who moves around saying because I appointed other vice presidents so, therefore, Mai Khupe is no longer the vice president thinking that I will support you).
“She is the vice president elected by congress and that’s where we are. If I am not there, she acts on my behalf, whatever happens.”
Mr Tsvangirai could be heard adding: “So, who knows, if I am not there the vice president takes over. Handiti ndizvo? (Isn’t that so?) Kana vice president aita takeover mamwe ma regions oti maisirei iyeye iye aka elekitwa necongress zvinofamba here? You have to understand, please remove this idea that the idea of appointing other vice presidents was intended to undermine anyone it was not the case.”
Mr Tsvangirai said he wanted people to occupy positions after being elected on their own merit.
“We want people to be elected on their own merit so that they are able to pursue a national agenda, and a national agenda is to remove all these grievances you are raising so that we are able to have one national agenda,” he said.
Addressing journalists at Harvest House yesterday, Mr Chamisa said his side had set up processes to bury the hatchet with Dr Khupe.
He refused to give further details.
He said the party’s national executive and national council will meet today to make a definitive position regarding leadership issue.
“There are processes that we have instituted,” said Mr Chamisa.
“Transparency does not mean nakedness. We are engaging her. It is not a Khupe/Chamisa issue, but you will be assured that she will soon be part of us at the appropriate time.”