HARARE – President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government on Sunday came to the rescue of ailing MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai when it deployed armed police guards to stave off the former prime minister’s alleged relatives who had wanted to raid his Highlands home of household property.
The visit to Tsvangirai’s residence by his relatives comes as they have been caught up in the ugly MDC infighting which has seen his wife, Elizabeth, being denied access to him on account she is trying to influence the ascendency of one of the party’s vice presidents, Nelson Chamisa, to succeed her ailing husband.
Tsvangirai is said to be in a critical but “stable” condition at a South African hospital where he has been receiving treatment for cancer of the colon, which has kept him out of active involvement with the MDC for over four months.
Acting police commissioner-general Godwin Matanga did not deny that the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) had deployed armed guards to Tsvangirai’s residence but told the Daily News that the Police Protection Unit (PPU) did not directly fall under his office.
The PPU was the one deployed to Tsvangirai’s residence.
Home Affairs minister Obert Mpofu said he could not confirm the incident as he was yet to get a briefing.
“I have not been given any details regarding that. I haven’t been briefed about that yet. I can only do that after getting the brief,” Mpofu told the Daily News yesterday.
Sources within Tsvangirai’s own security told the Daily News that three people who claimed to be the former PM’s relatives turned up at his Highlands mansion on Sunday unannounced and asked to gain access into the main house to “pick some things”.
Tsvangirai’s immediate family members, Elizabeth and his children were said to be in South Africa when the relatives pitched up at the residence.
However, sources within the deeply-divided Tsvangirai’s family, said most relatives had turned against Elizabeth and the impromptu visit last Sunday, at a time they knew there was no one at the residence, served to underline this.
“They sent people to Tsvangirai’s house who claimed to represent the family and wanted to take things out and they were denied entry by the security who became suspicious and demanded to know what exactly they wanted to take out,” said the source.
“They only left after Tsvangirai’s security called the police otherwise they wanted to get in by force. Nobody ever got to know what exactly they wanted to take out because they insisted that they wanted something inside.
“It later became clear that they wanted to transfer property to Tsvangirai’s old Strathaven home where he used to stay with his late wife, Susan, before the inclusive government in 2009,” added the source.
The Daily News yesterday exclusively revealed that Tsvangirai’s family members are refusing to allow Elizabeth, to see him at the top-notch 190-bed Wits Donald Gordon Medical Centre (WDGMC) in Johannesburg, South Africa.
Close relatives of the MDC leader accuse Elizabeth of backing 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.
Tsvangirai’s wife enjoys cordial relations with the youthful acting MDC president.
Tsvangirai wed Elizabeth (nee Macheka) in September 2012.
The Daily News was told a war of words which almost degenerated into a fist-fight erupted at the hospital last week, when Tsvangirai’s family members tried to bar Elizabeth from seeing him, with physicians drawn into the complicated family situation.
Tsvangirai’s son, Vincent, was reportedly restrained from assaulting his step-mum after clashing with Elizabeth.
He reportedly vowed that she will never be allowed near his father as long as he lives.
Elizabeth did not deny the ill-treatment and told the Daily News: “I will only talk when all this is over, when my husband is out of hospital. Right now I am concentrating on my husband’s sickness. Whatever is happening, I have no comment. When my husband is fully recovered, I will make a statement.”
A senior MDC official who declined to be named alleged the Tsvangirai family was being manipulated by a top MDC financier (name withheld) with ulterior motives for choreographing the succession in the MDC.
“His wife was told to go away and could not see her husband. It is spousal abuse,” he said.
He accused the family of abusing an ailing Tsvangirai for their own interests, along with a cabal of MDC leaders pushing their proxies to succeed the MDC leader.
The MDC is being devoured by factional fights which have intensified ever since Tsvangirai hinted that he was thinking of quitting active politics due to his failing health.
Tsvangirai’s health deteriorated at the weekend with party and family sources urging the nation “to brace for the worst”.
The once-dogged labour union leader has been in and out of South African hospitals for cancer of the colon treatment in the last months.
As his health continues to worry his supporters and family, his senior officials in the MDC have been going at each other hammer and tongs with different factions punting their preferred candidates to succeed the former PM.
On Wednesday, his two deputies Elias Mudzuri and Thokozani Khupe and secretary-general Douglas Mwonzora, were accused of hobnobbing with the defeated Zanu PF G40 faction and former vice president Joice Mujuru, who now leads the National People’s Party (NPP) which has so far refused to join the MDC Alliance.
This was after they undertook a trip to Cape Town for a workshop which was rubbished by the party which described their journey as a “shame”.
And on Thursday, the infighting within the MDC degenerated into comical scenes as the VPs publicly clashed while Tsvangirai’s spokesperson, Luke Tamborinyoka, was forced to call an urgent press conference to tell journalists that he was still in charge of communications and had indeed been instructed by the former PM in the inclusive government to communicate the appointment of Chamisa as acting president.
“I want to place it on record that I am the official spokesperson of the president and what I place on the market are his views as instructed personally by him. That position has not changed.
“I also want to place it on record that there is a purported statement from the office of the president that seeks to nullify what the president himself directed that I communicate. For the record, that letter is on a fraudulent letterhead with a scanned signature of the president, which signature is readily available online.
“The office of the president has not released such a letterhead to anyone and the president, who is currently in SA, has not asked for it for him to place his purported letter. In short, the so-called letter is fraudulent and bogus,” Tamborinyoka told journalists.
He said Chamisa had already assumed his responsibilities in an acting capacity as directed by Tsvangirai.
At the same time, a letter purportedly written by Tsvangirai dismissing Chamisa’s appointment as acting president, emerged. Tamborinyoka said it was a hoax.
“I have been advised of communication being circulated within the party and public generally, regarding changes to MDC authority levels. The communication is false as I have made no such changes in the roles and responsibilities of the MDC vice presidents.
“The letter serves to confirm that the authority I vested in you as president of the MDC party still stands and any other pronunciations are null and void and invalid,” Tsvangirai allegedly said in the letter that was copied to Chamisa, Khupe and Mudzuri.
MDC spokesperson Obert Gutu appeared to confirm the authenticity of the letter when he said Tamborinyoka had not been authorised to hold his press conference and maintained that Mudzuri was acting president, not Chamisa.
“I don’t know who authorised him (Tamborinyoka) to call for the conference. In the interim, I maintain that I have been authoritatively advised that Mudzuri remains the acting president of the MDC. I am not going to attend Luke’s press conference because I have got absolutely no appetite to witness a circus,” Gutu told the Daily News.