MDC-T leader, Morgan Tsvangirai yesterday swiftly moved to appoint his deputy, Nelson Chamisa, as acting party president, in a move that could be interpreted to spite the other two deputies, Elias Mudzuri and Thokozani Khupe, who allegedly sneaked out for coalition talks in South Africa without his blessings.
BY OBEY MANAYITI
Tsvangirai, in a statement by his spokesperson, Luke Tamborinyoka, said: “President Morgan Tsvangirai has, with effect from today affirmed vice-president Nelson Chamisa as the acting president of the party by operation of the constitution until the president’s return.
“This is in light of the president’s absence and that of the two other vice-presidents, who are both in South Africa. VP Chamisa also continues in his assigned duties as the acting chairperson of the MDC Alliance.”
This came amid reports that Khupe, Mudzuri and MDC-T secretary-general Douglas Mwonzora had not been cleared by Tsvangirai to join some opposition parties, including Joice Mujuru’s National People’s Party and a Zanu PF breakaway faction’s newly-formed New Patriotic Front, for a fresh round of coalition talks in Cape Town.
The talks were reportedly organised by former Zanu PF political commissar Saviour Kasukuwere, ex-Higher Education minister Jonathan Moyo and former Youth minister Patrick Zhuwao to form a broad coalition to challenge Zanu PF presidential candidate President Emmerson Mnangagwa.
MDC-T deputy chairperson, Morgen Komichi confirmed suggestions that the trio — Khupe, Mudzuri and Mwonzora — could have scored own goals and might face censure on their return.
The talks, couched as a coalition-building workshop, were reportedly funded by international civil society groups, whose mission was to force the opposition parties to rally behind Mujuru’s presidential candidacy.
On Monday, MDC-T leaders were reportedly involved in a series of meetings with other top leaders trying to dissuade the group from travelling to South Africa to attend meetings organised by the same organisations that were previously snubbed by Tsvangirai.
MDC-T sources also claimed that prior to their departure, Mudzuri, Khupe, Mwonzora and their allies secretly met at a top Harare hotel and resolved to organise countrywide anti-coalition rallies to counter programmes run by the MDC Alliance to deflate Chamisa’s leadership ambitions.
According to the sources in South Africa, the negotiations were likely going to push for Mujuru’s candidature on the basis of Tsvangirai’s ill health and succession fights in the main opposition MDC-T.
“What made people suspicious is the involvement of the former G40 kingpins. Kasukuwere was personally calling some leaders and he was openly pushing for Mujuru’s candidature. This made many uncomfortable and, as a result, the MDC Alliance discouraged its members from attending,” the source said.
Komichi told NewsDay that the top party members in South Africa were there in their personal capacities and not representing MDC-T.
“They were not sent by the party to go there. They are going there in their individual capacities. They were invited as individuals and they are going to participate in an academic discussion which will be held in Cape Town, South Africa,” he said.
“The party, MDC-T, was not invited because had the party been invited, we follow a clear procedure that the leadership meets as the standing committee and then the national executive committee and the national council, where it (invitation) will be adopted. After that, a delegation is sent to go and represent the party, but that was not done.
“Whatever is discussed there is not going to be binding to the MDC-T. As a party, we abide by the constitution and we follow resolutions of the national council.”
Komichi, however, said those that were refusing to embrace the MDC Alliance should be persuaded to do so and given time and not to be chastised.
The MDC-T war was mainly triggered by the formation of the MDC Alliance, which other top officials described as a plot to revive deadwood that, at one point, caused problems in the main opposition party.
“As head of mobilising and organising, I don’t want to believe that there are people who are anti (alliance). I want to believe that they are yet to understand the value and importance of the alliance. It is my responsibility to make those people understand the concept of the alliance by engaging them and dialoguing with them,” Komichi said, adding engagements were already in place.
The party’s youth assembly also took a swipe at Khupe, Mudzuri and Mwonzora, describing them as elements bent on derailing the alliance.
MDC-T youth leader, Happymore Chidziva, in a statement, said: “The national youth assembly takes great exception at the recent conduct of the party’s two vice-presidents, Thokozani Khupe and Elias Mudzuri, together with the party’s secretary-general, Douglas Mwonzora. It is our understanding that the trio are currently in Cape Town, South Africa, attending a coalition-building workshop.
“Their participation at such a forum directly violates a national council resolution, which exclusively mandated the president to deal with such issues. The president is on public record to have turned down a similar invitation to attend a similar workshop conducted by the same facilitators. The action by the trio shows great disrespect, not only for the national council resolution, but also shows disdain for the party president, who, in accordance with the national council decision, had refused to associate with such exercises conducted by non-Zimbabweans and abroad.”
The Tendai Biti-led People’s Democratic Party also appears to have warmed up to Chamisa’s candidature, with party secretary-general, Settlement Chikwinya saying they were ready to work with the MDC-T deputy leader even up to the date when the Nomination Court sits to accept presidential candidates for this year’s election.
“We categorically state that we support his [Tsvangirai’s] decision to appoint Nelson Chamisa to represent him as the acting leader of the alliance, even if it means acting up to the time of the Nomination Court and beyond unless advised otherwise by Dr Morgan Richard Tsvangirai,” Chikwinya said.
MDC-T spokesperson, Obert Gutu yesterday refused to comment, referring questions to Mudzuri.