Farirai Machivenyika Senior Reporter
Ailing MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai, who is currently undergoing treatment for colon cancer in South Africa, has taken an indefinite rest from party duties, his office confirmed yesterday.
Party sources said Mr Tsvangirai would remain in the neighbouring country for sometime after being treated, to allow him to rest.
His three deputies — Mr Nelson Chamisa, Engineer Elias Mudzuri and Ms Thokozani Khupe — are in charge of party duties.
Mr Tsvangirai was airlifted to South Africa after his health condition deteriorated drastically while attending a workshop in Kadoma last Friday.
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His spokesman Mr Luke Tamborinyoka confirmed that on his return, Mr Tsvangirai will not immediately resume party duties.
“President Morgan Tsvangirai, who is in a very stable condition, has completed his medical procedure in South Africa, but is now taking several days of rest from the hectic schedule of work that awaits him in Harare,” Mr Tamborinyoka said.
He did not disclose how long the opposition leader would be away from work.
“The people’s leader is now fully recuperated but will not be at work for some days to come as he fully recharges his batteries ahead of the mammoth responsibility of providing leadership in galvanising the nation for the watershed polls next year,” said Mr Tamborinyoka.
“In the meantime, the three Vice Presidents will continue to execute their assigned tasks to ensure consistent and uninterrupted leadership to the various party programmes currently taking place,” he added.
Mr Tsvangirai was reportedly carried into a private plane on a stretcher bed at Harare International Airport although his office tried to downplay the incident, insisting the MDC-T leader had flown to South Africa for a routine medical check-up.
His close associates immediately followed him to South Africa amid indications his condition was serious.
A senior MDC-T source who requested anonymity, said; “Yes, I can confirm that Mr Tsvangirai will remain in South Africa after his treatment,” adding that he was out of danger.
“Our president is a hands-on man so if we allow him to return too soon, he will resume party duties when he should take time to rest,” he said. “People will start calling wanting to meet him. He can’t turn them away. So we have decided that he should remain in South Africa for sometime, otherwise healthwise he is out of danger.”
Mr Tsvangirai’s illness raised panic in the opposition with accusations among members that the party, especially Mr Tamborinyoka had not been forthright on his condition.
Other officials were also irked that members of the “kitchen cabinet” were ring-fencing Mr Tsvangirai to make it appear that they loved him more than any other party member.
Mr Tsvangirai’s illness also led to jostling among party members for his successor with some touting Mr Chamisa as the heir apparent.
Others within the MDC-T argued that there was no one who was superior to the other among the three deputies.
Ms Khupe has had a fall out with Mr Tsvangirai over the handling of coalition talks with other opposition parties and has avoided visiting the party headquarters, Harvest House, for security reasons.
Ms Khupe and other senior officials were assaulted in Bulawayo after they boycotted the signing of the MDC Alliance in Harare last month.