Zimbabwe: Who Can Fit Tsvangirai's Shoes?

THE MDC-T will implode should it push out its leader, former Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai because there is no one charismatic enough in the party at the moment to rally disgruntled supporters, analysts have said.

Calls for Tsvangirai to step down have been getting louder by the day after July 31, when the party suffered a humiliating defeat at the hands of Zanu PF.

But Tsvangirai, who has maintained that the elections were stolen, said he would continue to lead the movement until the party's elective congress in 2016.

But analysts said although the MDC-T had numerous academics, experts and orators within its ranks, most of them lacked the political charisma needed to appeal to ordinary people to support the party.

Leading the pack of those touted to replace Tsvangirai are party secretary-general Tendai Biti and national organising secretary, Nelson Chamisa.

Other possible contenders are former deputy Prime Minister Thokozani Khupe, secretary for transport and former political commissar, Elias Mudzuri, former Minister of Economic Planning, Tapiwa Mashakada and former Minister of Energy and Power Development, Elton Mangoma.

Political commentator and author, Solomon Mwapangidza said there was a possibility that the MDC-T could disintegrate with the departure of Tsvangirai.

He argues that the MDC-T leader has been able to draw a huge following because he was charismatic, a character that lacked among most senior members of the party.

"The sole reason he has remained at the helm is his charisma. Charisma, by its very nature, does not always conform to logic," said Mwapangidza. "Charismatic leadership is not based on academic achievements or by moral high standing. A charismatic leader is catapulted to prominence by a grand act that he performs that endears him to the masses."

In the case of Tsvangirai, said Mwapangidza, the act was the calling of mass demonstrations in 1987/8 during his days as the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) secretary-general.

University of Zimbabwe political analyst, Shakespeare Hamauswa said Biti had a better chance of succeeding Tsvangirai if he stopped fighting the MDC-T leader to gain political power.

He said Biti lacked the popularity that Tsvangirai enjoys with the grassroots and he alienated himself from the workers, who are the backbone of the MDC-T, when he was Finance minister. Apart from that, said Hamauswa, Biti was "too radical" and can only appeal to the middle class and not ordinary Zimbabweans.

"He needs to calm down and stop being too radical. He does not need to fight Tsvangirai if he needs to gain political power, instead he must use him," said Hamauswa. "If they fight Tsvangirai, they [Biti and Tsvangirai] will go down into the political grave together. Biti must be patient."

On Chamisa, Hamauswa said, the former minister of Information, Communication and Technology, was "very intelligent but still immature" to lead a revolution that can unseat President Robert Mugabe and Zanu PF.

"He [Chamisa] is clever but not yet politically mature," he said. "He needs a bit of time."

Some analysts said Mudzuri had the qualities to take over from Tsvangirai, as he was politically mature and was not impulsive when dealing with sensitive matters.

His only disadvantage, they said, was that he was too "junior" on the party's hierarchy and it would be difficult to manoeuvre his way up.

On Khupe, Mwapangidza said: "Zimbabwe is not yet ready for a female opposition leader. The political terrain is rough."

Political analyst, Phillip Pasirayi said while there was need for renewal in the MDC-T, it must not target Tsvangirai, as he was still popular among the grassroots.

He said instead of attacking each other, the MDC-T must articulate pro-poor policies that demonstrates that they are a viable alternative to Zanu PF.

"It is not strategic at this point for Tsvangirai to step down as MDC president," he said. "The majority of the MDC supporters particularly at grassroots level still believe that Tsvangirai is the man who will take them to the Promised Land."

In the event that Tsvangirai steps down or is forced out, said Pasirayi, Biti or Chamisa would be the right candidates to lead the party.

Pasirayi believes that those who were pushing for Tsvangirai's ouster would soon be purged. He however said any careless handling of the MDC-T internal fighting could cause further fragmentation and the collapse of the party.

"Any careless response on these divisions affecting the MDC-T will cause further fragmentation, and we might end up with no party to talk about," he said.

It is feared that MDC-T will follow several other political parties that went into oblivion after failing to unseat Mugabe and Zanu PF from power since the country's independence from Britain in 1980.

These include the Zimbabwe Unity Movement (ZUM), the Zimbabwe Union of Democrats (ZUD) and the Forum Party of Zimbabwe.

The MDC-T has at least had three electoral attempts to remove Mugabe, unlike other political parties before it that faltered after just one shot.

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