Tsvangirai’s health under the spotlight

The late MDC President Morgan Tsvangirai
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HARARE – A document signed by the MDC and some fringe opposition parties forming an alliance has unwittingly exposed deep-seated concerns within the country’s biggest opposition party that its leader Morgan Tsvangirai, who is suffering from cancer, may not be fit to last the distance if they secure victory in next year’s make-or-break elections.

By Fungi Kwaramba

The Daily News can exclusively reveal that the Political Cooperation Agreement (PCA) signed by Tsvangirai’s party, along with seven other small political movements on August 5, makes no secret of the MDC’s dominance in the whole arrangement.

Tsvangirai is basically calling the shots in the MDC Alliance so much that 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.

To some extent, by inserting that clause in the PCA, it confirms the apprehension in the MDC over Tsvangirai’s health.

The MDC leader was diagnosed with cancer of the colon in May last year and has been undergoing treatment in South Africa.

Although he has lost his hair, having gone through 10 gruelling chemotherapy sessions in his battle with the disease, Tsvangirai told the Daily News last month that he feels like he is almost close to regaining full fitness.

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

But apart from ring-fencing Tsvangirai’s position, the PCA hints at the possibility of a major overhaul of the country’s Constitution, promulgated in 2013, in the event that the MDC Alliance upstages Zanu PF at the polls.

According to the pact, Tsvangirai will appoint a “national State executive of vice presidents, ministers and deputy ministers” balancing regions, gender and including all political parties, in the event that he wins the elections.

It would appear that an MDC Alliance government would have three vice presidents or deputy presidents to accommodate influential figures at the top.

Tsvangirai already has three deputies in the MDC namely Nelson Chamisa, Thokozani Khupe and Elias Mudzuri, although these are no longer as influential as the eight principals in the MDC Alliance who now stand a better chance of getting coveted positions in the event that their coalition wins the forthcoming 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.

Party insiders said this has infuriated the other parties that are currently locked in negotiations with Tsvangirai on the formation of the grand coalition.

These include Joice Mujuru’s National People’s Party (NPP).

Last week, a high-level meeting held between Mujuru and Tsvangirai failed to end the bickering between them over the coalition.

Although the two politicians are desperate to avoid splitting the vote at the 2018 elections, the Daily News has it on good authority that there is really nothing at the moment to suggest that a deal could be inked anytime soon, especially in view of the gravity of the unresolved issues separating them.

By the time their meeting ended on Friday, Tsvangirai and Mujuru were still to agree on the fundamental issues.

These included the leadership of the grand coalition that would confront President Robert Mugabe’s Zanu PF at the forthcoming polls, and the allocation of seats among their aspiring legislators.

In fact, Mujuru is adamant that she deserves the opportunity to lead the coalition on account of her experience in statecraft, her liberation war credentials, and gender appeal.

The PCA also reveals how the alliance partners are desperate to reach out to the former liberation war fighters, who, in the past, taunted its officials as stooges of the west and its allies.

It promises to give the war veterans a ministry like the current arrangement.

Most of the alliance partners will fill positions in the other organs of the State although a lot will depend on whether the MDC Alliance would have secured enough numbers to push its agenda through.

For example, Biti’s PDP was offered the deputy speaker of Parliament post while Transform Zimbabwe would nominate all parliamentary chairpersons.

This would, however, require the MDC Alliance to have the numeric advantage in the National Assembly to get its people nominated into these positions.

The Ncube-led MDC would nominate the president of the senate while the Zimbabwe People First led by Agrippa Mutambara would select the deputy.

The parties agreed to establish a non-compete electoral alliance for purposes of contesting the 2018 harmonised elections.

Without specifying the method to be used in selecting the candidates, the agreement says “the party which is strongest electorally in a given constituency must field the candidate for the coalition”.

While the PCA has provisions to “accommodate any additional alliance”, it goes on to give Tsvangirai the carte blanche to select the other coalition partners. – Daily News