HARARE – MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai whose illness has thrown the country into a state of panic, is now stable and on the path to recovery, local media said.
Tsvangirai’s inner circle revealed yesterday that while the MDC president’s condition was worrisome when he made the urgent trip to South Africa on Friday after he suddenly fell ill, he is now out of danger.
According to the Daily News, Tsvangirai was accompanied to South Africa by his wife, Elizabeth, and a few aides.
It was his second trip to the neighbouring country inside two months, with the first, around mid-July, being a routine medical check-up.
Tsvangirai, the only opposition leader with a realistic chance of unseating President Robert Mugabe and his Zanu PF party who have controlled the levers of power for the past 37 years of majority rule, was diagnosed with colon cancer in June last year.
While it is not clear if his illness is related to the cancer, the MDC leader disclosed to the media recently that he had been undergoing chemotherapy treatment in South Africa, whose health system ranks far much better than Zimbabwe, and other African states ruined by corruption and underfunding.
Tsvangirai’s spokesperson, Luke Tamborinyoka, confirmed yesterday that his boss was recuperating.
“…Tsvangirai, who flew to South Africa for a routine medical procedure, is in a very stable condition contrary to morbid media reports that he is critical and is battling for his life.
“True to form, the people’s leader is more worried about the plight of Zimbabweans than his own condition.
“This morning, he was assuring Zimbabweans he will be home soon; urging the nation to cooperate with the on-going nationwide exercise to acquire birth certificates and national registration documents that will enable them to exercise their right to vote.
“He urged Zimbabweans to turn out for voter registration in their multitudes so as to deal with the multiple cancers afflicting the nation that include corruption and a clueless leadership that is concentrating on succession battles at the expense of the plight of the ordinary people,” said Tamborinyoka.
According to Tamborinyoka, Tsvangirai is his old self again and he even called on people “to vote wisely next year so as to deal with the multi-layered afflictions of the country’s political economy.”
“He urged the nation not to panic about his health, saying he will be home soon to play his part in canvassing for massive participation in next year’s watershed polls,” said Tamborinyoka.
This comes as social media was awash with “get well” messages after it was revealed that the opposition leader was battling for life at a South African hospital.
Zimbabwe goes for elections next year with Mugabe —Tsvangirai’s archrival — having already launched his Zanu PF party poll preparations.
However, doubts are now lingering over the state of health of the 65-year-old veteran opposition leader who has been undergoing chemotherapy since last year.
Even though he was showing signs of recovery, he was airlifted to South Africa in the early hours of Friday — with the family hiring a private plane as his health was critical.
Tamborinyoka told the Daily News late on Friday: “There is a lot of morbid speculation around Tsvangirai…but he did a first by publicly announcing that he was suffering from colon cancer. Suppose that he went to South Africa for his routine medical check-up, why are you not saying he was flown to South Africa and not airlifted. Did you want him to go to South Africa by donkey? Maybe you could say when he went to Bulawayo for the MDC Alliance rally he had been airlifted?”
Tsvangirai who has been able to unite at least six parties under his wings — was on Friday supposed to attend the MDC Alliance workshop in Kadoma but because of sickness, he could not make it with his deputy, Nelson Chamisa, filling in for him.
Yesterday, MDC Alliance partners and analysts canvassed by the Daily News rallied behind Tsvangirai saying he was the best candidate the opposition has despite the struggles with his health.
Amid doubts on whether Tsvangirai will last the distance given his ill health, People’s Democratic Party (PDP) spokesperson, Jacob Mafume, said for the opposition Tsvangirai, is the best foot forward.
“He is still the face of the opposition. We do not have any information that points to the contrary; we in the Alliance will not speculate. We do understand that he is still the face of the opposition and he will continue to do so until the elections,” said Mafume.
Political analyst, Maxwell Saungweme, said the opposition suffers the same curse of politics of personalities and cultish system.
“As Mugabe is to ruling party, Tsvangirai is to opposition. Without Tsvangirai in the immediate term, the opposition can’t stand against Mugabe.
“This is a tragedy of Zimbabwean politics that the system creates strong men at the helm and diminutive political figures as deputies and surrogates who are miles away from the strong men at the helm,” said Saungweme.
He said the MDC is the only meaningful and strong opposition party that commands a reasonable followership while Tsvangirai is both the MDC and opposition brand.
“All other opposition parties are too small such that if you put their numbers together, they won’t command 30 percent of the votes. So no one in the opposition at present has enough clout to stand against Mugabe. Unfortunate as it is, but it’s the truth,” added Saungweme.
Political analyst, McDonald Lewanika, said the MDC had three deputy presidents, all capable of steering the ship in Tsvangirai’s absence.
“I think anyone can get seriously ill at any point, and without knowing the seriousness of the condition and the ability of physicians in South Africa to deal with it, speculation about the impact of Tsvangirai’s illness on next year’s elections is unwarranted.
“Tsvangirai leads a party with structures, I am sure, (Thokozani) Khupe, Chamisa and (Elias) Mudzuri can handle party business while Tsvangirai receives treatment.
“The impact of this incident on coalition talks and elections can only be ascertained once the actual condition, its cause and possibilities of recurrence are known,” said Lewanika.
In the recently signed Political Cooperation Agreement (PCA) there is a clause that seemingly looks beyond the increasingly frail opposition leader.
According to the PCA—which is the basis of the MDC Alliance—no-one outside the Tsvangirai-led MDC can take over from him in the event that he dies or gets incapacitated before next year’s polls.
Crucially, the deal secures the MDC’s leadership of the MDC Alliance in the event that a vacancy occurs at the top before or after the elections.
“In the event of a vacancy occurring for the presidency for whatever reasons before the election then the Alliance partners shall select another candidate and if such vacancy occurs after election then the provisions of the national Constitution shall apply,” reads part of the PCA.
Spokesperson of the MDC Alliance Jacob Ngarivhume, who is also leader of Transform Zimbabwe (TZ), told the Daily News that at the start of the principals’ retreat, Tsvangirai was in the driving seat and offered guidelines on the coalition.
“I cannot confirm whether he is well or not, we were with him at the workshop and as the leader, he was giving direction and he did that very well. We have no reason to panic and we are satisfied because we were with him and we are satisfied with his health. As principals, we are meeting on Thursday and review what we discussed during the Kadoma workshop,” said Ngarivhume.
Ngarivhume said during the workshop, the Alliance partners wanted to develop a working frame for the opposition and also develop a strategy so they could get together as the principals and set up the administrative structure of the coalition ahead of 2018 elections.
Apart from the MDC and TZ, other parties in the MDC Alliance include PDP led by Tendai Biti, MDC led by Welshman Ncube, Zanu Ndonga led by Denford Masiyarira, the Multi-Racial Christian Democrats led by Mathias Guchutu and the Zimbabwe People First led by Agrippa Mutambara. – Daily News