HARARE – MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai has taken medical leave to recover from a yet-to-be disclosed illness which saw him being airlifted to South Africa last week amid claims that his health had deteriorated.
Tsvangirai is suffering from cancer of the colon but it is not clear if the emergency trip to South Africa was a result of complications arising from his condition.
The dogged former labour union leader’s absence has stalled progress in the MDC Alliance whose principals have deferred to Thursday next week a meeting that was supposed to be held today.
“The people’s leader is now fully recuperated but will not be at work for some days to come as he fully recharges his batteries ahead of the mammoth responsibility of providing leadership in galvanising the nation for the watershed polls next year.
“In the meantime, the three vice presidents will continue to execute their assigned tasks to ensure consistent and uninterrupted leadership to the various party programmes currently taking place,” said Tsvangirai’s spokesperson, Luke Tamborinyoka in a statement issued yesterday.
The 65-year-old’s medical emergency came unexpectedly at a meeting of principals of his MDC Alliance last week on Thursday evening in Kadoma.
Tsvangirai’s absence has created a power vacuum in the MDC as the party’s constitution has not been amended to reflect the current three vice presidents.
MDC constitution in Clause 9, 2, (9) 1 gives the role of acting president to the vice president.
It says in part: “the duty of the deputy is to act on behalf of the president whenever the president is absent from Zimbabwe and is for any reason unable to perform his duties”.
The MDC has three vice presidents — Thokozani Khupe, Elias Mudzuri and Nelson Chamisa — although Khupe is the most senior of the three, having also been elected at congress.
Mudzuri and Chamisa were handpicked by Tsvangirai months after he went public about his cancer condition.
Although MDC spokesperson Obert Gutu claimed that all is well in the labour backed movement—insiders told the Daily News that while Mudzuri and Chamisa have a good working relationship — there is no love lost with Khupe, who contemptuously regards the two as mere appointees who have no mandate from the congress.
“We have got three vice presidents and each one of them has got a specific designation. In practice, therefore, there is absolutely no gap at all.
“Party business is continuing as usual and we are actually, oiling our machine in order to post a resounding victory in next year's elections,” Gutu told the Daily News.
However, party business is not continuing as Gutu claimed with crucial meetings having to be postponed to allow for the party’s indisposed leader to fully recover.
For instance a critical MDC Alliance meeting that was supposed to be held today had to be postponed ostensibly because of logistical considerations but really because of Tsvangirai’s absence.
Spokesperson of the MDC Alliance Jacob Ngarivhume, who also leads Transform Zimbabwe (TZ), confirmed to the Daily News yesterday that the scheduled meeting had been postponed.
“We were supposed to have a meeting tomorrow (today) but the facilitators of the workshop said that they needed more time to compile their documents which are of importance and which were supposed to be discussed at the meeting.
“However, we are also happy that the meeting has been postponed as that will give our leader (Tsvangirai) time to recover. They had suggested that we hold the meeting on Tuesday but it will now take place on Thursday next week,” said Ngarivhume.
Tsvangirai is the leader of the MDC Alliance and in his absence his party is expected to second a leader, at least according to an agreement penned by the parties to the electoral pact.
While the MDC constitution is silent on the succession issue the political cooperation agreement (PCA) which is the foundation of the Alliance has a clause that deals with the thorny issue.
“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,” read part of the PCA.
While that means the MDC would choose Tsvangirai’s successor there is also a possibility that such a candidate will not have the universal buy-in of other electoral partners.
Apart from the MDC and TZ, other parties in the MDC Alliance, include the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) led by Tendai Biti, MDC led by Welshman Ncube, Zanu Ndonga led by Denford Masiyarira, the Multi-Racial Christian Democrats led by Mathias Guchutu and the Zimbabwe People First (ZPF) led by Agrippa Mutambara.
Both Ncube and Biti were senior in the MDC before they ditched Tsvangirai to pursue their own political paths.