HARARE – An ally of MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai has warned that the MDC Alliance could suffer a humiliating defeat at this year’s polls if its torchbearer does not regain fitness before the harmonised elections due by end of July.
Outspoken MDC legislator Eddie Cross told the Daily News this week that concerns over Tsvangirai’s health cannot be brushed aside anymore because the emotive subject has the effect of making or breaking the MDC Alliance’s prospects in the harmonised elections.
The Alliance — comprising seven opposition parties — is led by Tsvangirai, who is currently battling cancer of the colon.
Cross said the coalition could be the next government if Tsvangirai, who was due to fly to South Africa on Friday for his routine medical check-up, could recover his usual strength and vitality and if the Alliance becomes an effective force with coherent policies and credible leadership.
“But there are few signs of this happening at present and time is running out,” said Cross, a confidante of the MDC leader.
Pressed to clarify his comments, Cross was cryptic in his responses.
He said: “If this issue is addressed now — in the next few weeks, it would not be serious, but if it is not addressed and it happens, it will be serious”.
Cross said Tsvangirai’s serious medical condition was clearly inhibiting his capacity to fulfil his obligations.
He said it was crucial for the MDC to do a medical assessment of his condition before making “such a judgment — as of now the consensus is that he can run as the candidate of the Alliance.”
“While Tsvangirai maintains his position as leader of the Alliance and MDC-T, there is no succession. I agree with (Tendai) Biti and Welshman Ncube that he is the best candidate for the entire opposition and is the only leader with the national following to lead them to victory in July 2018. If he decides he cannot stand, then the Alliance (not MDC-T) has to identify a new candidate for president and MDC-T a new president for the party — they may not be the same person,” said Cross.
Aged 77, Cross is a Member of Parliament for Bulawayo South.
An economist by profession, he is one of the founding members of the MDC.
Cross has earned a reputation for being open-minded and forthright, which has earned him friends and foes alike.
Last year, he escaped disciplinary action by a whisker after he made comments about Tsvangirai’s health which conservative members of the MDC felt were too intrusive.
Ever since the dramatic fall of former president Robert Mugabe in November last year, Cross has been exhibiting mild admiration for Emmerson Mnangagwa who succeeded the ex-Zanu PF strongman who was forced to resign after 37 years in power.
Regarding his latest remarks, the MDC has dismissed the lawmaker saying he was merely expressing his personal views.
“I have already made the party position abundantly clear. The MDC is more than ready to take on the ‘new’ Zanu PF and defeat it resoundingly in this year’s elections,” party spokesperson, Obert Gutu, told the Daily News on Sunday.
“. . . Cross is airing his own personal views and I speak for and on behalf of the party,” added Gutu.
On Mnangagwa, Cross said the 75-year-old former Zanla guerrilla knows full well that his following in the country was very limited — he is no orator, his own party is going to campaign against him in some areas and the problems he has inherited from Mugabe are almost insurmountable.
“It is a huge challenge to overcome in seven months,” he averred about Mnangagwa’s chances of winning next year’s elections.
Cross said Mnangagwa would be a hero if he delivers a recovery in the economic fundamentals and restores civil liberties and the rights of all Zimbabweans and clears the way for a free and fair election.
“But it’s a big call and skeptics are not in short supply. Failure might destabilise the State and destroy any chances of a recovery and with it his presidency,” he added.
While acknowledging the MDC Alliance has a huge task to defeat Mnangagwa and his Zanu PF party, Cross said Tsvangirai must be given every chance to win a free and fair election — “nothing else will give him the tools he needs to put Zimbabwe back together again”.
“What I have said to the MDC Alliance is a warning — do not underestimate him (Mnangagwa). He is a very skilful operator and a superb organiser.
“Just look at how the “coup” was managed. He had everyone watching as he played out the farce on the global, continental and regional stage. Remember 2013 — an election in which the Ngwena team just rolled over the MDC,” he said.
The MDC legislator is also skeptical about prospects of the opposition uniting to confront Zanu PF as a single force.
Asked if the grand coalition would be achievable by the time of voting, he said: “No — not a chance. There are a dozen people contemplating running for president and several groupings of parties — of which the MDC Alliance is the only significant player.”