Death threats and living in fear in the split MDC

Elias Mudzuri
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HARARE – Battle lines have been drawn in the fractured MDC with factions lining up thugs to settle the leadership contest even as opposition party leader Morgan Tsvangirai is still to be buried, the Daily News on Sunday can report.

The MDC, thrown into mourning following Tsvangirai’s death on Wednesday last week, is sharply divided into three factions led by Nelson Chamisa, Thokozani Khupe and Elias Mudzuri — who are all vice presidents of the opposition party.

Chamisa was controversially appointed acting party president by the MDC national council on Thursday last week, but Khupe and Mudzuri, who both claim to be the bona fide acting presidents, are having none of it.

The Daily News on Sunday can report that the factional fights in the party have degenerated to levels where opposing camps are now threatening to unleash violence on their rivals ahead of Tsvangirai’s burial in Buhera on Tuesday.

Chamisa, accused of using violent MDC youths to block Mudzuri from entering the party’s headquarters recently, tweeted yesterday saying he now fears for his life after he swiftly ascended to the throne.

“I’ve taken note of incessant and increased attacks on my character by agents from across the political divide on account of lies, malice and propaganda. I’ve also observed a real threat to my safety and security after numerous attempts upon my life,” said Chamisa.

Party spokesperson Obert Gutu confirmed that the MDC, formed in 1999, was now on the edge with reports of possible violence.

“People should not fight when he is being interred. We know that there are some people who are planning such things. Let us first bury Save and then determine the way forward later. I am sad that they are planning violence on the day when the president will be interred, sometimes one wonders whether there is a third hand fanning these brawls,” said Gutu.

Save is Tsvangirai’s totem.

Asked who the acting president of the party is, Gutu said he did not want to be dragged into the wild dog fights now threatening the soul of the country’s biggest opposition party.

“I was brought up in a Christian family, in a traditional set-up. Why not first bury the icon and then talk of the leader later. I don’t want to raise emotions, I feel bad. We want to respect the icon, look I take this as a period of mourning and I don’t want to be caught in a political crossfire, this is a difficult period of mourning, let us not fight at this juncture,” said Gutu.

The MDC constitution is silent on who among the three vice presidents would automatically become the acting president in the event that the office holder becomes incapacitated, dies in office or resigns.

It says “in the event of the death or resignation of the president, the deputy president assumes the role of acting president, pending the holding of an extraordinary congress that shall be held to elect a new president… which extraordinary congress to be held no later than a year from the death or resignation of the former president”.

Yesterday, Chamisa said the issue of who is the acting president of the party had been settled by the MDC national council and there was no need to respond to issues raised through social media.

“This is a period of mourning. The national council sat and made a decision that was made public, if there is a problem you don’t go on social media,” he said.

Asked whether he was aware of possible clashes with rivals, Chamisa said it was possible some people would want to create sideshows.

“I know there are some people who would want to create side shows,” said Chamisa.

Those who are opposed to Chamisa say the national council has no authority to elect an acting president.

Mudzuri yesterday refused to be drawn into the debate while Khupe has since gone on record to highlight that the other two are vice presidents while she is the constitutionally recognised “deputy president”.

“I am the deputy president who was elected at congress and my president appointed two vice presidents. The national council cannot substitute congress. I am a deputy president, the constitution is clear (that) when the president is not there the deputy president acts and I am the deputy president,” said Khupe.

On Thursday last week, MDC vice national chairperson Morgan Komichi who chaired the national council said Chamisa was unanimously elected acting president for a period of 12 months.

The meeting was attended by 190 members out of 215.

In terms of the party’s constitution, an acting president will hold the for whenever the president is absent from Zimbabwe or is for any reason unable to perform his or her powers, functions or administrative duties.

It says the acting president will “perform such functions relating to the function of standing committees and other general matters as may be assigned to him or her by the national council”.

Informed sources within the MDC told the Daily News on Sunday that as things stand, “the MDC has effectively split and we are just waiting for the burial of the president and then make the big announcement”. – Daily News