TOP aides of MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai have sprung to his defence amid growing pressure for his ouster as the party struggles with deepening divisions and internal dissent following its stunning rout in the July elections.
In an increasingly messy aftermath to the bitter defeat, MDC-T councillors have defied the party whip to vote for Zanu PF candidates in mayoral elections while top party officials have publicly called for Tsvangirai's removal as leader.
And clearly concerned, close allies and aides have rallied beind the MDC-T leader with national spokesman, Douglas Mwonzora saying the former premier would not be removed adding the leadership issue is, according to the party's constitution, a matter for its elective congress which is only due in 2016.
Tsvangirai's spokesman, Luke Tamborinyoka, has also weighed in, declaring that the former trade unionist retains the full support of grass roots supporters as well as the MDC-T's national council, the party's supreme decision-making body outside congress.
"The national council has twice reaffirmed its support for Tsvangirai as the leader of the people's party," Tamborinyoka wrote in an opinion piece this week. "The reaffirmation by the national council has shown that the organs of the party still have faith in his leadership."
Tamborinyoka accused Zanu PF of sponsoring calls for Tsvangirai's ouster, adding that "a fund has been created to destabilise and decimate the MDC; to decimate the character and person of Morgan Tsvangirai."
"(Tsvangirai's leadership) is not an issue among the grassroots supporters of the party and among the people of Zimbabwe. It is only a serious issue at Zanu PF headquarters and in the drunken discussions of pseudo-political analysts, power point revolutionaries and cyber activists," he wrote.
But opposition to Tsvangirai's leadership has come from the top echelons of the party with senior officials such as exiled treasurer general Roy Bennett and Ian Kay, the party's losing candidate for Marondera Central constituency, publicly opining that he should step down.
Bennett and Kay come from the white former commercial farming community, a key constituency for the MDC-T which is credited with helping finance the party since its formation in 1999.
They are also believed to have the private backing of other top officials such as former Energy Minister, Elias Mudzuri and secretary general Tendai Biti although Tsvangirai insists there are no problems between him and the former finance minister.
Still the critics say the ex-premier's critics say his defeat in the July vote where he managed just 34 percent of the vote against President Robert Mugabe's landslide 61 percent was a third time too many, having failed to topple the Zanu PF leader in the 2008 and 2002 elections.
Tsvangirai denies losing the July vote, accusing his rival of being a serial election cheat, a party position emphasised by Tamborinyoka who said: "The fact remains that our victory was stolen from us."
Even so, activists accuse Tsvangirai of culpability in the robbery he alleges with ex-commercial farmer Ben Freeth arguing that the MDC-T leader chose to look the other way and enjoy "the comforts of government" over the last for years instead of pushing for reforms that would help ensure free and fair elections.
Freeth said Tsvangirai did nothing as Zanu PF refused to allow the Diaspora to vote, blocked young Zimbabweans from registering to vote, and carried out a "dry-run for the vote fraud" through the Constitutional referendum and the special vote for the security services.
He added: "(Again) why did he still go ahead when he was not allowed to view the voters' roll - which he knew was a shambles - full of ghosts that would glide in on the day as they had in the constitutional referendum on March 16?
"And why did he participate in the elections when he had prior knowledge that Nikuv, an Israeli security company known to be an expert in election rigging, was on the Zanu PF payroll?
"After six bites at the election cherry he has surely had his chance! If we all manage somehow to get to 2018, can the people of Zimbabwe endure another crash in the desert because of his lack of judgment as a leader? It is time for a new leader of the opposition!"
Tsvangirai has led the MDC-T for 14 years and recently indicated he would seek a new mandate at the party's 2016 congress when, he added, those opposed to his continued stay at the helm can challenge him.
But critics say even if the party gets a new leader in 2016, it would be too late for them to put their stamp on the party with the next elections due two years later.
A defiant Tsvangirai however refuses to be forced out by "one or two people in the media".
"I am due to review my mandate in 2016, if there is demand for an extraordinary congress because of the so- called leadership crisis, so be it," the MDC-T leader said in a recent interview with a private television channel.
"I have actually been encouraged in council that the issue of leadership and organisational renewal must be debated by all structures throughout the country and the debate is going on.
"And if there is a demand for Tsvangirai to step aside, I will definitely oblige. I am not going to stay a day longer than the people's wishes. But let's make a distinction; I'm not going to step aside just because one or two people say step aside.
"It doesn't work in a democracy, it doesn't work like that. It is irresponsible; it is betrayal of the people to leave them in the lurch before you have actually set in process a debating issue and actually ensuring the party and the organisation is strengthened rather that weakened."