HARARE – The existence of multiple centres of power in the MDC occasioned by Morgan Tsvangirai’s absence has worsening tensions in the country’s largest opposition party.
Analysts warned this week that if Tsvangirai, the MDC leader, does not step in to give direction to his lieutenants, the party may split for the third time in 13 years.
They said the hullabaloo in the MDC may cost the party dearly at the polls.
Zimbabwe goes for elections not later than July 31 this year at a time when the MDC is divided along three factions led by its deputies — Nelson Chamisa, Thokozani Khupe and Elias Mudzuri.
Tsvangirai is currently in South Africa for his routine check-up as he is battling cancer of the colon, diagnosed in 2016.
In his absence, he appointed Mudzuri as the party’s acting president while Chamisa is his point man in the MDC Alliance — a coalition of seven political parties.
Mudzuri and Chamisa are, however, not as experienced as Khupe who has been Tsvangirai’s deputy since 2006.
While the other two deputies were only appointed to their positions in 2016, they seem to command more influence in the party than Khupe who has been a pain in Tsvangirai’s backside due to their differences on the MDC Alliance.
The political gamesmanship being orchestrated by Tsvangirai’s deputies who are plotting to succeed the former trade unionist in the event that he is unable to continue in his position due to ill-health have poisoned the environment in the MDC.
The lack of a clear successor in the party is also creating confusion over who among Tsvangirai’s three deputies can succeed him.
Political analysts canvassed by the Daily News said Tsvangirai should not have split his duties among two deputies as that has created two centres of power.
Social commentator, Rejoice Ngwenya, said the confusion in the MDC was a matter of personality rather than substance.
“Khupe has already expressed displeasure with both theAlliance and the two VPs, so she merely benefits and exploits the confusion. My take is that for the good of our opposition, these three should just tolerate each other so that the alliance brand maintains integrity and longevity,” said Ngwenya.
Ngwenya said the MDC conference of 2014 vested absolute authority in Tsvangirai to choose party deputies of his choice. That alone, removes any doubts about the legitimacy of Chamisa and Mudzuri as Tsvangirai’s deputies since they were appointed in line with the party’s constitution.
“Now, there is a world of difference between party business and Alliance business. Therefore ordinarily, there should not be confusion between Chamisa’s role as the Alliance’s representative and Mudzuri’s role as acting president,” said Ngwenya.
“However, since Tsvangirai was already playing this conflated role as both Alliance principal and president, it would have been, but not necessarily exclusive, better that he left these tasks to one person”.
Political analyst, Maxwell Saungweme, said Tsvangirai went for a convoluted structure because he did not want to appear to be anointing any of the three VPs.
“To address this (confusion) he should just throw the issue to the stockholders of the party at an extra ordinary congress and allow them to elect their leader. The set-up he left creates conspiracy theories, power struggles and factionalism,” said Saungweme.
Crisis Coalition spokesperson, Tabani Moyo, said the opposition was getting it wrong adding that what they need right now is to find the best electoral proposition to challenge Zanu PF on, having defined it in clear terms, then settle for the person with the best of abilities to pursue such a value proposition.
“It’s a waste of time in my view to say who is better between this and that without defining the narrative or framework within which defines the trait of the person to best push it forward.
“The elections are in five months, and the opposition is yet to engage the nation on its alternatives to the ruling party.
“If it can’t define such simple mechanisms, the big question is: does it have what it takes to be the government in waiting? Zimbabwe deserves better than the current child’s play,” said Moyo.
Moyo said Zimbabwe needs a vibrant opposition to keep the ruling party in checks and strengthen the country’s democracy.
Human rights activist Dewa Mavhinga believes the elephant in the room for the MDC at the moment was the question of timing to deal with the Tsvangirai succession issue, and an appropriate democratic and party constitution guided procedure, and not necessarily the allocation of roles and duties between Mudzuri, Khupe, and Chamisa.
“It will be critical, when the time comes, for the MDC to follow an open process that gives a fair chance to all eligible candidates who may wish to succeed Tsvangirai.
“With 2018 national elections said to be in about five months, the timing of the process is crucial to allow the opposition to rally being one candidate acceptable to all,” said Mavhinga.