Tsvangirai succession row worries MDC Alliance

Zimbabwe's main opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai speaks during an interview with the Associated Press at his home in Harar. Picture: Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi/AP

HARARE – The MDC Alliance is fretting over the uncertainty surrounding Morgan Tsvangirai after he indicated that he was mulling stepping down.

Tsvangirai was selected to be the presidential candidate for the MDC Alliance on August 5 last year, whose constituent members include the People’s Democratic Party, led by Tendai Biti; the MDC led by Welshman Ncube; Transform Zimbabwe (TZ), headed by Jacob Ngarivhume; Zanu Ndonga led by Denford Masiyarira and the Multi-Racial Christian Democrats led by Mathias Guchutu.

According to the Political Cooperation Agreement (PCA) signed by Tsvangirai’s party, along with seven other smaller political movements, no one outside his party 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.

In terms of the supreme law of the land, the governing party has the prerogative of appointing a successor should it happen that a serving president dies or gets incapacitated while in office.

What the provisions of the PCA entail therefore is that the MDC would still select Tsvangirai’s successor in the event that he exits office for whatever reasons after winning the 2018 polls.

The agreement further states that all the parties under the MDC Alliance, though maintaining their names, will use the MDC open palm symbol and will also campaign for the chosen presidential candidate.

They are, however, free to campaign using their own promotional material or regalia.

“The parties agreed that their alliance shall operate as the MDC Alliance and the parties shall use a common symbol during the 2018 harmonised elections, being an encircled open palm incorporating the image of the alliance presidential candidate and the name and logo of each party underneath,” the PCA also reads in part.

The MDC leader was diagnosed with cancer of the colon in May 2016 and has been undergoing treatment in South Africa that has left him frail.

The MDC Alliance had a scheduled conclave yesterday amid jostling for his post within the MDC.

On Friday, Elias Mudzuri — the MDC’s acting president made it clear that he was ready to step in, in the event that the MDC leader — who is also the MDC Alliance presidential candidate’s health fails him.

On Wednesday, Nelson Chamisa told News24 that Tsvangirai remained the party’s “best way forward” but if he was to retire, he would be ready to take over from the veteran politician.

MDC vice president Thokozani Khupe has also reportedly threatened to quit the party if the Constitution is not followed in picking Tsvangirai’s deputy, according to organising secretary Abednico Bhebhe.

TZ president Ngarivhume — who was the MDC Alliance spokesperson before the appointment of Ncube, told the Daily News on Sunday yesterday: “The current goings-on in the MDC are quite disturbing, and as Alliance partners, we advise them to settle their issues swiftly because for the Alliance to be effective, we need all our partner’s full concentration. I am confident they are doing that.”

He, however, maintained that Alliance members were autonomous and ran their own affairs.

“The Alliance is not an extension of the MDC and as such, it has mechanisms to protect itself against any challenges that may arise. We know each other very well as a team and we don’t interfere in each other’s internal affairs. We respect their autonomy.

“If there are any changes in MDC, we will wait for an official statement from them. As soon we receive the news, as an Alliance we can always sit down, discuss and re-strategise.”

Already, Tsvangirai has given Chamisa — one of his three deputies — the crucial task of leading the party’s selection process of parliamentary and council candidates for this year’s crunch elections.

This is apart from Tsvangirai having also significantly chosen Chamisa to stand in for him and to handle all the party’s business within the MDC Alliance — as the former prime minister in the government of national unity valiantly battles colon cancer.

The MDC leader, who was Zimbabwe’s prime minister in an uneasy coalition government with the ousted Mugabe from 2009 until 2013, has been undergoing repeated cycles of chemotherapy treatment that have left him frail.

Observers have intimated that the former prime minister’s poor health could potentially result in a deadly succession race in the MDC.

MDC insiders also said in the event that Tsvangirai was not fit to campaign and lead both the Alliance and his party, the MDC would not hold an extraordinary congress to choose his successor.

MDC Alliance spokesperson Ncube has confirmed to our sister paper the Daily News that Chamisa would lead Tsvangirai’s campaign rallies ahead of the elections.

“If we are going to have MDC Alliance rallies, Chamisa is going to represent Tsvangirai,” Ncube said last week, adding that it is not a new development because “in the last three months Chamisa was representing Tsvangirai at MDC Alliance principal’s meetings”.

The promising MDC Alliance is anchored around the spirit of the original MDC ahead of this year’s crucial polls, supported by a number of other opposition parties. – Daily News



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