Tichaona Zindoga Political Editor
The opposition MDC-T has been thrown into succession mode following what is seen as the deteriorating health of its leader, Mr Morgan Tsvangirai, The Herald has learnt. Mr Tsvangirai, who is suffering from an undisclosed ailment and last month underwent a surgical procedure in South Africa, has been unwell for some time.
On Thursday, he was billed “to lead from the front” a rally in the eastern border city of Mutare but had to shelve it for “a routine medical review”, according to his party and spokesperson.
In a party that has strong factional undercurrents, sources revealed that Mr Tsvangirai’s present ill health had fed into frenzied jockeying for his position.
Mr Tsvangirai was unlikely to lead the party into the 2018 harmonised elections, sources claimed.
“This is due to a combination of factors including his inability to defeat President Mugabe since 2000. For him to stand in 2018 will be expecting a repeat of the same result,” said an impeccable party source.
“He has gone past his sell-by date, and that is why he was long ago challenged to become the Mandela of the party, if you recall. His present ill health only complicates matters for him,” added the source.
It is also understood that the Western countries that back the opposition outfit are looking beyond Mr Tsvangirai.
The fight to succeed Mr Tsvangirai has been seen to be pitting vice president Thokhozani Khupe and former national organising secretary Mr Nelson Chamisa, who was denied the position of secretary-general at the party’s congress in 2014.
Despite being temporarily emasculated by the loss to Mr Douglas Mwonzora, Mr Chamisa commands a lot of support from the structures and membership.
The contending factions in the party have denied any angling for the top job with Mr Chamisa describing Mr Tsvangirai as his “father”.
“But you should also bear in mind that Mwonzora, given his role as SG is in a good position and increasingly he has used that powerful position to angle for leadership,” claimed another source.
Mr Mwonzora could not be reached for comment yesterday.
However, Mr Tsvangirai’s spokesperson, Luke Tamborinyoka, yesterday dismissed the speculation around his boss’ crown.
“The Herald is trying to equalise the MDC with Zanu-PF,” he shot back.
“There is no one jockeying for any position in the MDC and the so-called ructions are a figment of your imagination.
“For the record, President Tsvangirai has a very good relationship with his deputy, Hon. Thokozani Khupe, and the rest of the standing committee which has stood by him in his current indisposition.
“As I have said, Mr Tsvangirai is only worried about the health of the country’s economy. Mr Tsvangirai is in high spirits and he is recovering,” he said.
He said Mr Tsvangirai’s no show in Mutare was because “we had to bring forward the march and the new dates coincided with his routine review”.
Party spokesman Mr Obert Gutu said the party stood by their leader.
“(p)resident Morgan Tsvangirai is our best foot forward; he is the real deal,” he said.
“We are all of us solidly united behind our leader. Any talk to the contrary is just but bar talk fuelled by lazy and misdirected people who have nothing better to do with their time.”
The original MDC formed in 1999 suffered a major split in 2005 followed by minor splinters that saw the likes of Prof Welshman Ncube, and Messrs Tendai Biti and Elton Mangoma forming their own parties.