HARARE – Zimbabwe’s opposition party, MDC is heading for a split. That’s as two vice presidents clash over who should take over from the party’s ailing leader, Morgan Tsvangirai.
Zimbabwe’s main opposition was embroiled in a power struggle on Friday over who is in charge of the party months before key elections, as leader Morgan Tsvangirai receives cancer treatment in hospital.
Two vice presidents of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party clashed openly over who is acting leader while Tsvangirai undergoes chemotherapy in neighbouring South Africa.
Both Nelson Chamisa, 40, and Elias Mudzuri, 60, have claimed on social media to be in charge as the party prepares to take on the ruling Zanu-PF in the first polls since Robert Mugabe‘s fall.
“It is only the acting president who has the authority to talk to him (Tsvangirai) and act on his behalf, it is myself and no one else,” Mudzuri told South African television.
“People must respect authority as given by my president and make sure they work towards bringing hope to Zimbabweans and winning the 2018 elections.”
A senior MDC official from Chamisa’s camp, who asked not to be named, told AFP that Mudzuri was “fraudulent”, and that Chamisa was the party’s current leader.
Thokozani Khupe, the third MDC vice president, has boycotted recent party meetings.
Tsvangirai’s spokesperson, Luke Tamborinyoka on Thursday described the “stampede in the cockpit” as “needless and unnecessary”.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa, a Zanu-PF veteran, has said that elections would be held before July.
Under Robert Mugabe, who ruled since 1980, elections were marred by vote-rigging, intimidation and violent suppression of the opposition.
Mugabe, 93, resigned following a military intervention in November.
Meanwhile, family members of opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai are reportedly blocking his wife Elizabeth from visiting him in hospital after they accused her of backing one of the party’s three vice presidents to succeed him.
Tsvangirai is being treated for cancer at the Wits Donald Gordon Medical Centre in Johannesburg. There have been conflicting reports on the state of his health, with some suggesting he was “battling for his life”.
“Close relatives of the MDC leader accuse Elizabeth of backing MDC vice president Nelson Chamisa to succeed Tsvangirai and fear she could put pressure on him to facilitate his ascendancy to the throne without following the party’s constitution,” the private Daily News reports.
Chamisa is just one of three MDC vice president’s vying for control of the party in Tsvangirai’s absence. On Wednesday, Tsvangirai’s spokesperson said Chamisa had been made acting president. But this was shot down by party spokesperson, Obert Gutu, who said former Harare mayor Elias Mudzuri is still in charge.
Mudzuri was appointed acting president in January when Tsvangirai left for his latest round of treatment. In a tweet Friday Mudzuri, who is himself currently in South Africa, claimed to have met Tsvangirai and said he was due to meet him a second time on Friday.
“I am still the Acting President until his return. Please stay focused on strengthening the party and winning elections. Ignore falsehoods,” Mudzuri said.
Elizabeth Tsvangirai told the Daily News she would only issue a statement once her husband was out of hospital.
“Right now, I’m concentrating on my husband’s sickness. Whatever is happening, I have no comment,” she said.