26 January 2014

Zimbabwe: Leadership Renewal - Tsvangirai Outfoxes Rivals

Photo: MDC-T
MDC-T President Morgan Tsvangirai addressing a rally (file photo).

MDC-T president, Morgan Tsvangirai appears to have upstaged his rivals calling for leadership renewal as several senior party members and ordinary supporters still stand by him despite his numerous shortcomings.

There have been intensified calls within the party ranks following MDC-T's electoral defeat by Zanu PF in the July 31 elections for Tsvangirai to quit and facilitate leadership renewal as some feel the former Prime Minister has nothing new to offer after leading the party for over a decade.

His critics also cite his sexual escapades with several women since the death of his wife, Susan in 2009 as a major weakness.

But the support that Tsvangirai received on Friday when he was delivering his State of the Nation address in Harare indicated that those calling for his ouster may have a tough time ahead.

Tsvangirai told the gathering that he was not going to resign without fulfilling the "people's project" despite attempts by his enemies to humiliate and barter him in a police station, torture and kill innocent Zimbabweans calling for democratic change.

"All they can achieve is to slacken my pace but I can assure you they will not in any way weaken my resolve and determination for national service and sacrifice," said Tsvangirai. "I will continue to boldly stride with confidence and greater willpower in my quest to bring real change, democracy and positive transformation in Zimbabwe."

Senior MDC-T officials that attended Tsvangirai's address include Khupe, Biti, organising secretary Nelson Chamisa, MP Willas Madzimure, former justice deputy minister, Obert Gutu, party's deputy national chairman, Morgan Komichi and several other MPs.

The venue, a huge conference room at Crown Plaza hotel, was packed with diplomats, business executives and hundreds of party activists as well as supporters, including elderly women.

They cheered and ululated as he spoke, showing support for their leader. Some could openly be heard castigating those calling for Tsvangirai's resignation.

"With such support you think we will allow those misguided elements to remove our president," asked one party supporter. "Let them form their own party."

If the crowd was not rented or bussed from areas around Harare, then those calling for his resignation should brace for a big fight.

Last week, party deputy treasurer Elton Mangoma joined the fray, also suggesting that Tsvangirai declare his intention to step aside to necessitate leadership renewal.

In his position paper titled Restoration of Hope and Confidence: a cause for leadership renewal, delivered to Tsvangirai last week, Mangoma suggested that the former PM leaves office and an interim leadership, under vice-president Thokozani Khupe takes over.

"This to me is the most ideal approach that will strengthen the party towards the next elections," wrote Mangoma, who also suggested that the party constitution be changed to create the position of founding president to accommodate Tsvangirai.

Mangoma yesterday confirmed that he had indeed written a position paper to Tsvangirai and had hand-delivered it to him.

"I am not denying; that is a fact. I gave him my advice, what he does with it is up to him. I owed it to him to give him that advice. How he will respond, I will not say."

Mangoma would not explain the contents of his paper saying they were meant for the MDC-T leader.

Asked whether he wanted Tsvangirai to relinquish power, Mangoma said: "If you read it, you will know my position."

In the 1 303 word paper, Mangoma asked Tsvangirai how he would achieve reforms that the party failed to push through while in the inclusive government when he had executive power.

Mangoma also queried how the former PM would respond to accusations that he used his time in the inclusive government "for personal aggrandisement, personal wealth accumulation".

"How do you put closure to the issue of women in your life and ensure that these will not continue to erode your and the party's brand?" asked Mangoma.

Tsvangirai's relations with his wife, Elizabeth Macheka have been murky. He has had several brief stints with different women including businesswoman, Locardia Karimatsenga Tembo.

MDC-T spokesperson, Douglas Mwonzora said the party was not concerned by a few shrill voices calling for Tsvangirai's resignation as the former PM still commanded a lot of support.

He said the MDC-T had over 600 000 card-carrying members and the opinions of one or two were not representative of the generality of the party.

"What is on the ground is very clear, he commands a lot of support," he said. "Morgan Tsvangirai is an enigma. Of course there are people who are hopeful and they are free to do so in a democratic party."

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