Tsvangirai and Mugabe holding Zimbabwe hostage

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There is a temptation to focus all our attention only on the political dynamics playing out in Zanu PF and ignore the same political dynamics in the opposition MDC-T, as they are big political players in Zimbabwe.

By Lloyd Msipa

It will be intellectually dishonest and unhelpful on our part to ignore the drama in the MDC-T as it has the same challenges as the drama in Zanu PF. One can even go a step further to say the current developments in Zanu PF are partly due to weakness and paralysis in the opposition which is affording Zanu PF members the breathing space and luxury to fight each other on the eve an election.

The MDC-T’s leader Mr Tsvangirai is unwell physically suffering from a terminal illness despite spirited denials by his officials. The MDC-T is currently pre-occupied with the health of its leader rather than shaping the national agenda. The MDC-T has become worryingly too in-ward looking and is having serious internal problems that can only be solved by a physically and mentally able leader who can inspire confidence to supporters first let alone voters. There is no donor who will put money into the MDC-T in its current form. The best they can do is pay Tsvangirai’s hospital bills. Who will account for the money if Tsvangirai collapses? Is it even possible to discuss national issues with a man who is concerned with his own health? The MDC-T needs to be realistic otherwise no-one will take them seriously.

Some of the senior members of the MDC-Tare saying Tsvangirai alone (Save Chete Chete) should be the MDC-T presidential candidate, just as Zanu PF is chanting VaMugabe alone will be the Zanu PF candidate. Why only these two men when Zimbabwe has 13 plus million citizens? The health of these two candidates (Mugabe and Tsvangirai) is the biggest issue under discussion ahead of the elections not even policies. It is like some collective suicide or idiocy that has gripped Zimbabwe. The socio-economic situation is so desperate that one would think Zimbabweans are pre-occupied with what policies will get the country out of the current quagmire and what sort of candidates.

To his credit Tsvangirai has Nelson Chamisa, Mudzuri and Khupe as potential successors. All he needs to do now is to take a courageous decision and rest. That he has to do in good time and start the process to elect a new leader. Once Tsvangirai endorses a candidate chances are that people will rally behind that leader.

Currently Nelson Chamisa is widely seen as a front runner to succeed Tsvangirai, but like in any relay race if Tsvangirai passes the button late it will not help his successor and his party. It was hoped that Tsvangirai would learn how not to do things in politics from Mugabe who is now fighting his widely believed heir apparent Emmerson  Mnangagwa in favour of a Minister who at one time believed strongly that diesel was oozing from granite or dolomite in Chinhoyi.

The point is that of the two parties the MDC-T has a better chance to handle succession and give Zimbabweans a refreshing candidate than Zanu PF. The question is why is the MDC-T not doing the obvious and give itself good time to prepare for 2018. In fact, settling the succession will avoid prolonged jockeying and infighting and dangers of further splitting and fall-out as is already happening.

Tsvangirai needs strong and thoughtful advisers now more than ever. The likes of Dr  Alex Magaisa would have been ideal advisors but insiders say Tsvangirai failed to make use of him as hangers on appeared to call the shorts. Self interests of Tsvangirai’s advisors is the greatest tragedy at the moment. They say “Save chete chete” because they want to benefit as individuals. Eddie Cross’s advice to Tsvangirai was on point, it is only humane to sympathise with the sick and allow them to rest. It will still be a test of how great a leader Tsvangirai can be if he does the right thing and steps downs. Tsvangirai has fought his fight, he has run his race. He has the chance to live behind a credible legacy if he steps down now and leaves a credible successor with time to put together a team to take his party to the next level. That will change the entire political discourse and even boost the voter registration process that is happening. In that respect Tsvangirai can still be a game changer at his death bed.

Lloyd Msipa is the Director of the UK based Think Tank- APPRI. He can be contacted at   lloyd.msipa@africapublicpolicyresearchinstitute.org