Panic grips MDC-T as Tsvangirai stays in hospital
By Lovemore Ranga Mataire
Harare – Cancer-stricken MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai, who was last week flown to an undisclosed South African hospital after falling ill during a party strategic meeting, has thrown into disarray plans for a coalition pact to challenge President Robert Mugabe in next year’s harmonised elections.
Despite insistence by the opposition party’s functionaries that Tsvangirai had gone to South Africa for routine medical procedure, reports indicate that the 65-year old was seriously ill with no prospects of returning home early.
Tsvangirai is the tentative opposition coalition leader comprising of various opposition political parties.
However, questions have always been raised over his fitness to lead the coalition after disclosing last year that he was suffering from colon cancer.
Tsvangirai’s spokesperson Luke Tamborinyoka said his boss whom, he spoke to over the phone, had given assurances that he was responding well to treatment and told Zimbabweans not to panic.
“President Tsvangirai said there was no need for national alarm about his condition, adding that several prophets of doom were keen on creating despondency by pouring cold water on the emerging convergence in the country on which Zimbabweans have pinned their hopes,” Tamborinyoka said.
Tambarinyoka said Tsvangirai had indicated that he would be returning to Zimbabwe soon to campaign ahead of the 2018 election.
Despite Tamborinyoka playing down the extent of his leader’s illness, some within the opposition party are already in panic mode and have started making permutations on possible candidates to take over from Tsvangirai.
An MDC-T insider said there was a clique of people ring-fencing the opposition leader from other members making his latest illness a closely guarded secret.
“We need to start preparing for the post-Tsvangirai era. It’s not that we are eager to see his back but we are conscious of the severity of cancer as an ailment. He was on oxygen and drip and had been vomiting heavily when he was air-lifted to South Africa. That shows how serious he is and it only makes sense to start preparing for the future,” said the MDC-T insider who spoke anonymously.
Touted names to replace Tsvangirai are Nelson Chamisa and Elias Mudzuri, his handpicked two deputies. However, it seems the young and energetic Chamisa has brighter chances of replacing Tsvangirai.
Another deputy, Thokozani Khupe, has faint chances given her recent spat with Tsvangirai over the structure of the proposed coalition with other opposition parties.
Chamisa, a former student leader and a recent University of Zimbabwe law graduate, is said to be popular among ordinary opposition members but is disliked by most executive members. He is viewed as Tsvangirai’s blue-eyed boy.
Sources said the MDC-T constitution is silent on who will take over in case of the president being incapacitated.
Constant squabbling of the coalition leadership has impacted negatively on the opposition party’s campaign. Already, the ruling Zanu-PF has kick started its campaign with some Presidential Youth Interface rallies which have drawn massive crowds.
Analysts have already dismissed the opposition party’s chances of winning next year’s elections given the constant leadership squabbles, poor organisational capacity and Tsvangirai’s uncertain health.