THE inescapable reality that the MDC-T faces now is the inevitable end of its leader Mr Morgan Tsvangirai’s reign over the opposition party leaving many possible scenarios after his exit.
By Nduduzo Tshuma
Since coming out in the open in 2016 about his illness, cancer of the colon, that has seen him frequent neighbouring South Africa for treatment, it has been said that Mr Tsvangirai’s favoured candidate to succeed him was one of his deputies, Mr Nelson Chamisa.
Mr Chamisa takes over the party’s acting presidency from Engineer Elias Mudzuri who recently indicated his interest in taking over after Mr Tsvangirai in what has become a tripartite succession race in the battle of deputies also pitting Dr Thokozani Khupe.
The clearest indication however, came yesterday when Mr Tsvangirai appointed Mr Chamisa, the acting party’s president until his return from South Africa.
With reports that Mr Tsvangirai is in a critical condition, reports that he however denies, the appointment of Mr Chamisa is somewhat indefinite and a blow to a faction led by Dr Khupe that has been reportedly pushing that she be made acting president.
The basis of the push, we are told, is that of the three deputies, Dr Khupe is the only one who was elected at a party congress placing her ahead of the other two in terms of legitimacy.
In the event that the worst is to happen to Mr Tsvangirai, Mr Chamisa as acting president, starts his campaign on an advantage ahead of the other two.
The dual role of acting president and chairperson of the MDC Alliance has given Mr Chamisa greater power than his two colleagues as he leads structures within the MDC-T and also the coalition partners.
There are reports that Mr Chamisa’s position has also been strengthened by the support he enjoys from MDC Alliance partners like Professor Welshman Ncube and Mr Tendai Biti.
Yesterday, images of the three were posted online as they met United States Ambassador Harry K Thomas in another sign of a strengthening alliance disguised as MDC Alliance activities.
Some in the party are suggesting a possible return of Prof Ncube and Mr Biti into the MDC-T fold with their members.
Prof Ncube, insiders claim, in the event of his return to MDC-T, is likely to deputise Mr Chamisa if his bid to take over from Mr Tsvangirai succeeds, a development that will see Dr Khupe being thrown out in the cold.
MDC-T insiders claim that Dr Khupe’s position has been weakened over the years and she no longer enjoys the support she used to have in the Matabeleland region largely due to her stance against the formation of an opposition coalition.
Dr Khupe’s political fortunes took a nose dive in 2016 when Mr Tsvangirai appointed Mr Chamisa and Eng Mudzuri, a move seen as a dilution of her powers.
Her allies have in previous times argued that her gender and ethnic background, hailing from Matabeleland region, have played a huge role in disqualifying Dr Khupe’s claim to the MDC-T throne, an argument seriously debated within the party.
Dr Khupe, perhaps in her first unambiguous stance, has declared that she is the rightful heir to Mr Tsvangirai’s presidency.
The declaration posted on her Twitter account, interestingly, coincided with Mr Tsvangirai’s announcement of Mr Chamisa’s appointment as MDC-T acting president.
Dr Khupe hinted in the same post that Mr Tsvangirai’s condition had become so dire that only divine intervention could save the opposition leader.
“Three consecutive MDC-T congresses have elected yours truly as Deputy President to President @mrtsvangirai (Mr Tsvangirai) & other officers primarily to avoid a leadership vacuum at such an eventuality, & to shut any that may be artificially created by those with hidden agendas,” posted Dr Khupe.
“I was MDC-T acting president for months in 2008 on the basis of our constitution which has remained unchanged & clear on the roles of elected officers of congress. It does not give any extensive powers to any one office bearer such that without them the party is dysfunctional.
“Those of us sincerely concerned about the Zimbabwean voters & their MDC-T must impress upon the 2014 congressionally elected leadership at their level to take decisive corrective measures against the use of president @mrtsvangirai’s name to propagate unconstitutional-ism.”
On Mr Tsvangirai’s health, Dr Khupe posted, “Special thanks to those who understand how excruciatingly painful it must be for caring family, friends, relatives & close colleagues agonising over president @mrtsvangirai’s pain without anything humanly possible to abate it, except to pray,” she said.
Read carefully, Dr Khupe’s words carry with it part protest and part desperation as it has become apparent that MDC-T presidency is fast getting out of her sight.
More critically, the MDC-T succession race threatens to end Dr Khupe’s political career if she fails to overturn the advantage Mr Chamisa now enjoys in the wake of the latest developments and other circumstances.
Mr Chamisa, the youngest of Mr Tsvangirai’s deputies, is set to take over from his ailing boss, unless something extra ordinary happens.
Outside the MDC-T internal contestations however, the party whether led by Mr Tsvangirai or Mr Chamisa or who ever in that case, remains greatly divided and it will take a miracle for sanity to prevail before the holding of elections this year.
Compared to Mr Tsvangirai, Mr Chamisa doesn’t command the support that his boss has enjoyed in his years leading the opposition.
And with the national elections drawing closer, it seems the ruling Zanu-PF has no reason to lose sleep over contest from opposition parties.