MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai did not consult his deputy Thokozani Khupe before making the shock announcement on Friday that he had appointed Ellias Mudzuri and Nelson Chamisa as his other vice-presidents.
Khupe told The Standard yesterday that she had nothing to do with the appointments, a clear indication that MDC-T is headed for a roller-coaster ride over the leadership changes.
Tsvangirai claimed he wanted to strengthen the party’s leadership ahead of the 2018 elections, but there is speculation he is preparing to exit the scene after announcing last month that he is suffering from colon cancer.
Khupe, a long-time lieutenant of the former trade unionist, now appears highly unlikely to take over from Tsvangirai if he exits the scene. She appeared uncomfortable speaking about the subject after leading MDC-T supporters in a demonstration dubbed #beatthepot held in the streets of Bulawayo.
“If you want any comment on that issue [new VP’s], can you please talk to Morgan Richard Tsvangirai,” Khupe said.
The announcement of Chamisa and Mudzuri’s appointments was done at Tsvangirai’s Harare residence with only his wife Elizabeth and spokesman Luke Tamborinyoka flanking him at the table.
MDC-T secretary-general Douglas Mwonzora is outside the country and missed both the national executive and council meetings that recommended the expansion of the presidency.
However, close sources say Tsvangirai wanted to stem the growing factionalism in the party as senior leaders were jostling to succeed him and as some had even unofficially spoken to Zimbabwe People’s First about an alliance.
“Tsvangirai’s confidence in his lieutenants like Khupe and Mwonzora was waning as speculation grows that they are privately talking to Joice Mujuru about a coalition,” a close source said.
MDC-T spokesman Obert Gutu said he was not in the picture about the development since he was away in Victoria Falls when the national council meeting was held.
“I will touch base with the party when I’m back in Harare on Sunday [today] on the developments. I am currently away at the Law Society Winter School,” Gutu said.
Tamborinyoka was not reachable for comment.
Kent University law lecturer and former Tsvangirai adviser Alex Magaisa said the decision might have been influenced by the need to contain factionalism in the party.
“It could be that creating a triumvirate of vice-presidents is a political balancing exercise in the MDC-T succession race, as the leader tries to manage the ambitions of competing candidates and their factions,” Magaisa wrote.
He added that the appointment of Chamisa and Mudzuri was meant to contain factions in the party.
“Probably because they are the two more popular succession candidates who were not in the top echelons of the party. Far from promoting factional interests and fortunes of either man, these appointments may be aimed at containing them,” Magaisa added.
According to our Bulawayo bureau, senior provincial leaders are planning to hold an urgent meeting to discuss Tsvangirai’s decision.
Party officials in the city told The Standard they were not happy with Tsvangirai’s move, and have started deliberating on the way forward. standard