Sunday 29 October 2017


A picture of Morgan Tsvangirai, Welshman Ncube and Tendai Biti holding hands after addressing a joint rally for the first time in over a decade seemed to re-energise those pushing for an end to President Robert Mugabe’s 37-year long rule.

The rally at the iconic Zimbabwe Grounds in Harare raised hopes that the splintered opposition had finally seen the light and was ready to join forces against Mugabe.

Tsvangirai, Ncube and Biti announced the formation of the MDC Alliance in August. However, two months down the line, hope has turned into despair.

A united front against Mugabe is now looking more like a farfetched dream and political analysts are pointing at Tsvangirai’s health problems as the main reason for the uncertainty.

Tsvangirai (65) last year revealed that he was receiving treatment for cancer of the colon. Despite his deteriorating health, he insists that he will be fit enough to challenge 93-year-old Mugabe in next year’s elections.

Tsvangirai is in South Africa for another check-up and his spokesperson Luke Tamborinyoka on Friday dismissed reports that he was critically ill as false.

University of Zimbabwe political science lecturer Eldred Masunungure said Tsvangirai’s health was proving to be the opposition’s biggest challenge ahead of the polls.

“Tsvangirai knows best his health condition and under normal circumstances, is best suited to respond, but from someone outside, what we see is his health doesn’t allow him to lead the gigantic electoral struggle going to next year’s election,” he said.
“It is best suited for the party to now look into a succession plan and allow Tsvangirai to rest and not continue to stress his body.”

Masunungure said Tsvangirai may not be able to take the strain of a rigorous campaign. The former trade unionist has given Mugabe his strongest challenge post the Unity Accord between Zanu PF and PF Zapu in 1987.

In 2008 Tsvangirai defeated Mugabe, but failed to reach the 50% plus one vote threshold to claim the presidency.

The Zanu PF leader went on to win a run-off poll unchallenged after security forces and the ruling party unleashed deadly violence against Tsvangirai’s supporters.

Dewa Mavhinga, a South Africa-based political analyst, said the MDC-T or MDC Alliance must start putting in place a succession plan considering Tsvangirai’s health.

“The MDC-T is a movement for democratic change which this year celebrates 18 years of existence under Morgan Tsvangirai’s leadership fighting the Zanu PF regime,” he said.

“It would be an important time for Tsvangirai, in light of health challenges, to begin to lay out a democratic succession process.
“It will be difficult because Zimbabwean politics are built around personalities and the MDC-T is closely associated with Tsvangirai but now could be the time to prepare the party for a leader who receives Tsvangirai’s blessings to continue the struggle for democratic change in Zimbabwe.

“Tsvangirai will then remain in the background as the godfather of democracy in Zimbabwe.”

Bulawayo South MP Eddie Cross ruffled feathers recently when he advised Tsvangirai to consider stepping down for health reasons.
Harare-based political commentator Rejoice Ngwenya believes Tsvangirai should pass on the baton to one of the MDC Alliance leaders if the opposition is to mount any meaningful challenge to Mugabe next year.

“For any politician, health is either an impediment or competitive advantage,” he said.

“Given the cumulative and incessant senility of Robert Mugabe, one would have hoped that Morgan Tsvangirai’s comparative youthful demeanour would be an advantage,” he said.

“His handler(s) should confront the reality of his deteriorating stamina.

“To fully exploit Zanu PF’s fractious state of affairs, worsened by Mugabe’s advanced state of age, Tsvangirai should do the honourable thing and pass on the baton to one of the able Alliance partners.”

MDC-T spokesperson Obert Gutu, however, said Tsvangirai’s health was the least of the opposition’s worries.

“President Morgan Tsvangirai is recovering extremely well and we thank God for his healing,” he said.

“Our leader will very soon be back at work but in the meantime, all party programmes are proceeding well. Zanu PF is collapsing and of course, we are excited that this fascist and commandist political dinosaur will soon be permanently confined to the dustbin of political history,” Gutu said.

“The MDC remains very popular with the majority of Zimbabweans because they appreciate that we are the only party with the necessary gravitas and skills to extricate Zimbabwe from the prevailing political and socio -economic hellhole.”

MDC Alliance spokesperson Jacob Ngarivhume weighed in, saying the alliance will win resoundingly next year because of Zanu PF infighting.

“Our chances are better than ever before and 2018 is the best chance ever for the opposition since 1980,” he said.
“Zanu PF is fragmenting and completely divided. The people are hungry for transformation and there is never a better chance than that.
“Tsvangirai is okay and the coalition is confident about his ability to tackle Mugabe who is in a far worse position.

“If you want to talk about health issues, take that question to Mugabe and his people. We don’t need a 94-year-old president anymore. We have suffered enough.”

People’s Democratic Party spokesperson Jacob Mafume concurred, saying the alliance would defeat Zanu PF in the crucial polls.
“We are on the way to victory and Zanu PF is no longer a coherent entity,” he said.

“It is now clear there is no hierarchy in Zanu PF but just the husband, wife and his sons. As opposition we will not lose to a torn-apart Zanu PF.”

Zimbabwe has over 50 opposition parties and so far three coalitions led by Tsvangirai, former vice president Joice Mujuru and ex-Energy minister Elton Mangoma respectively have emerged this year.

Mugabe, who is supposed to be standing for his last term in office, has repeatedly said he is not fazed by an opposition coalition and is confident of another victory.

The new MDC Alliance spokesperson Welshman Ncube said Tsvangirai was the only candidate while other principals were his foot soldiers.

“We are the foot soldiers who are going to be doing the work on the ground. His role would be when we organise meetings and rallies to come and motivate people and give the overall message of hope,” he said.

“There is no leader of any party or coalition who is always on the ground 24/7. This country runs from Plumtree to Mutare, from Beitbridge to Victoria Falls and the people on the ground are the foot soldiers, the district and provincial leaders who do the mobilisation work, not the candidate. The candidate comes in to motivate from time to time when star rallies and star meetings are done to provide leadership.” Standard


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