Four senior MDC-T officials are angling to take over from party leader Mr Morgan Tsvangirai, whom they blame for the opposition's failure to dislodge President Mugabe and Zanu-PF in six successive elections, it has emerged. A party congress is scheduled for 2016, but a confluence of factors could see that elective convention being called as early as next year.
Highly-placed MDC-T sources said the four contenders are deputy treasurer Mr Elton Mangoma, executive member Engineer Elias Mudzuri and two other very senior officials (names provided).
Mr Tsvangirai reportedly wanted an early congress as he thought he would win the July 31 harmonised elections, but he now wants it held as per MDC-T's constitution in 2016; while his rivals want one next year so that they have enough time to prepare themselves and the party for the 2018 general election.
Eng Mudzuri denied he was eyeing the MDC-T presidency, while Mr Mangoma refused to speak to this paper.
The other two contenders could not be reached for comment.
A senior official told The Herald, "He (Tsvangirai) now wants the congress to elect a new president of the party in 2016. Before losing (in the harmonised elections on July 31) he wanted the congress dates brought forward to next year with a view to consolidating his position ahead of 2018 . . . He thought he was going to win.
"However, this time Mangoma, Mudzuri and (the other two) have shown interest to contest him. This time there will be leadership change in the MDC."
The source said two of the contenders were in discussions to forge an alliance that would see either one of them going for the party presidency with the other as his deputy.
Another party official said the party had become too personalised around Mr Tsvangirai.
The "T" in the party's name is for "Tsvangirai", and his face is on the logo.
"Some members are saying the party has his name and face and this needs to be dealt with first. If he dies, there are fears that his family may claim the party's assets.
"The people want this issue resolved. Remember there are people who used to challenge anyone who harboured some interest to replace Mr Tsvangirai. The party is being taken as his personal project," he said.
Eng Mudzuri, a former Harare mayor, yesterday said he had no ambition to replace Mr Tsvangirai.
"That is rubbish, who is telling you that? It's not true that I have intentions to be president of the party. I have also not spoken to (the source who informed The Herald of the developments) about the so-called coalition.
"I insist that there is no leader who gives himself a post... you are given the post by the people. The people who are peddling that want to cause infighting in the party.
"It's only in Zimbabwe where people talk about the politics of inciting the people to fight against each other," he said.
Contacted for comment, Mr Mangoma said, "I cannot speak to The Herald until you retract a story you wrote about me. There is a letter that was written by my lawyers that you ignored. I do not even want to hear the story that you have."
Party spokesperson Mr Douglas Mwonzora said all MDC-T members were free to contest any position.
"The MDC as a democratic party is going to hold its congress in 2016 and anybody wishing to contest for any position is free to bid for that. It's not a crime to do that.
"However, the National Executive Council and the National Council of the party, ruled that the current MDC leadership will remain as it is until the 2016 congress.
"We are aware that there is concerted effort from the State media, acting as mouth pieces of Zanu-PF, to discredit the MDC by playing leaders of the party against each other. As for the president, he is the one who has the decision to stand on not in 2016," he said.
Some senior MDC-T officials, among them self-exiled treasurer-general Mr Roy Bennett, losing Marondera Central National Assembly candidate Mr Ian Kay, Bulawayo South MP Mr Eddie Cross and farmer Mr Ben Freeth have all called for leadership change in the party.
They point to Mr Tsvangirai's failure to lead MDC-T to victory in elections from 2000 and 2013 as a major indicator that he cannot deliver when it matters most.