10 April 2014

Zimbabwe: UK, U.S Embroiled in MDC-T Succession Battle

WASHINGTON and Number 10 Downing Street are said to be at odds over who should take over from Movement for Democratic Change (MDC-T) leader Morgan Tsvangirai as the leadership renewal agenda gains momentum in the main opposition party. Since losing the 2013 harmonised elections, the MDC-T has been ravaged by internal discontent which is threatening to make the party burst at the seams.

A highly-placed source told the Financial Gazette that the governments of the United Kingdom and the United States were both seized by the need to replace Tsvangirai but were split over who should replace him. While the Americans want Elias Mudzuri, a former Harare mayor, to take over the reins of the currently tumultuous party, the British would rather have secretary general Tendai Biti replace Tsvangirai. However, both the British and the US embassies have denied the involvement of their governments.

In a statement to the Financial Gazette, the UK embassy said the issue of who should lead political parties in Zimbabwe was not a matter for the UK government. "We do not have a position on who should lead MDC-T or any other political party in Zimbabwe," said the British Embassy. The US embassy also denied any involvement in the MDC-T's affairs. "The US supports democratic principles and process, not parties or personalities," said US Embassy spokesperson, Karen Kelley.

Although the MDC-T has always denied it, ZANU-PF alleges that foreign interests are deeply engrained within the rival party, with a substantial part of their funding having been coming from western coffers. What, however, has become a source of major concern to the pro-Tsvangirai group is why the US and UK governments feel the need to impose a leader on the people. "My concern is why do they want to choose a leader for the people. This should be the right of the people," the source said.

Sources claim that representatives from the British and American embassies have been summoning some top and influential members of the party to pick their brains and sound them out in consultative meetings. Sources further say Mudzuri's possible appeal to the Americans could be his short stint in the US at the prestigious Harvard University. "They also cite his successful term of office as mayor of Harare," a source said.

Early in the year, Mudzuri went to the US, in a visit that sparked speculation that he had gone to fundraise in preparation for his interest in the presidency of the MDC-T. On the other hand, the British are said to have been impressed by Biti's successful term as finance minister in the inclusive government. But of concern to both the US and the UK, acording to sources, has been the possibility of a split in the party. Political analyst, Earnest Mudzengi, expressed regret at the two missions' efforts to influence leadership within the MDC-T.

"I personally do not know about specific developments relating to how the UK and the US are trying to influence the leadership composition of the MDC. However, if there are such efforts, they are unfortunate," said Mudzengi.

"This would amount to interference in the processes that should be a preserve of the MDC-T and its membership."

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