MDC-T hawks push for Tsvangirai ouster

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

TOP MDC-T hawks have reportedly scaled up the campaign for an extraordinary congress in February next year to force party leader Morgan Tsvangirai to step down on health grounds and allow the opposition party to choose a successor ahead of the upcoming general elections.

According to a local daily News Day; the campaign, being conducted clandestinely through social media platforms, has allegedly identified the party’s deputy president Nelson Chamisa and secretary-general Douglas Mwonzora, as front runners for Tsvangirai’s post.

Although the pair has denied allegations of angling to take over the MDC-T leadership, well-placed sources confirmed that the fights turned murkier recently as Tsvangirai was spending most of his time undergoing cancer treatment in South Africa.

According to a letter circulating on social media directed to the party’s national council, Mwonzora stands accused of mobilising for the special congress to engineer Tsvangirai’s fall.

The letter – #Mwonzoramustfall – also accuses the MDC-T secretary-general of being rebellious and secretly working with Zanu PF to undermine the MDC Alliance and Tsvangirai’s leadership.

The letter accused Mwonzora of featuring on a South African radio talkshow to call for an extraordinary congress to remove Tsvangirai as party leader.

“Douglas Mwonzora is a proxy of the Zanu PF military-backed Lacoste faction and he intends to weaken president Tsvangirai by calling him to step down, attacking the alliance agreement and making sure president Tsvangirai loses 2018 elections,” the letter read.

The contents of the letter were widely circulated after Mwonzora last week went public suggesting that the MDC-T should by-pass the MDC Alliance and field its own parliamentary and local government candidates in all contested seats across the country. He argued that the MDC Alliance was taking long to conclude negotiations on sharing of seats.

News Day says the remarks angered Tsvangirai, who immediately chastised his lieutenant for jumping the gun and overstepping his duties. It is understood that some MDC-T hawks then reportedly capitalised on the rift between Tsvangirai and Mwonzora and embarked on a campaign to have the former Nyanga North MP axed from the party, a move that would leave Chamisa unchallenged in the race to succeed Tsvangirai.

“The manifestation of a rebellious expedition by SG Douglas Mwonzora in the media shouldn’t go unchallenged. Actually, the surprising rebellion requires an appropriate response it deserves,” part of the letter circulating on social media reads.

Contacted by News Day for comment early this week, Mwonzora denied the existence of camps in the party and referred questions to Tsvangirai’s spokesperson Luke Tamborinyoka or party spokesperson Obert Gutu before dismissing the letter as a smear campaign by his detractors.

“It is just a smear campaign. I refer you to the presidential or party spokesperson. It is blatantly false and everyone in the party knows it,” Mwonzora said, before he took to social media to “set the record straight” and pledge his loyalty to Tsvangirai.

“I have full respect for him (Tsvangirai) and will do my best to make sure that he is successful. Some members have been deliberately twisting what I have said in interviews. They have deliberately bastardised my statements. Fortunately, all my interviews have been recorded and I have the recordings.”

Gutu declined to comment over the matter, saying he was out of the country.

“I am just seeing that statement circulating on social media. I don’t know about its source and/or authenticity. I kindly suggest that you check with SG,” Gutu said.

Efforts to contact Chamisa, who was understood to be in his rural home, were fruitless yesterday as he had not responded to questions sent to his mobile phone by the time of going to Press.

Tamborinyoka, who some sources claimed was in Chamisa’s camp, dismissed the allegations as a fallacy.

“I don’t want to dignify hogwash. I speak on behalf of the president and he has already spoken on the issue. I have worked with both Chamisa and Mwonzora, there are no camps in the MDC-T,” Tamborinyoka said.

“I suspect where this is coming from. Some of these characters soil their names through their own reckless and misguided statements. They should not use my name to clean their self-inflicted mess. My name is not toilet paper.”

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