27 October 2017

Zimbabwe: Zanu-PF, MDC-T Must Reconsider Their Candidates

Photo: IRIN
Morgan Tsvangirai, left, and President Robert Mugabe (file photo).

The opposition MDC-T is at a crossroads and there is need to sort out a number of urgent issues in relation to itself and the coalition ahead of the 2018 general elections, particularly the issue of the presidential candidate at the polls.

While for many it appears MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai is the undisputed presidential candidate of the opposition, there is uncertainty within his party and the coalition about his ability to withstand the rigours and test of a gruelling campaign given his current health situation.

It is sad to realise that as we approach the elections, Tsvangirai, who is the main hope for change in this country, may after all be in a worse off state than President Robert Mugabe.

An ailing Mugabe, at 93 clearly, faces health problems related to old age, while Tsvangirai, at the moment, is struggling with ill-health.

The MDC-T leader announced in June that he was diagnosed in May with colon cancer, which affects the inner walls of the large intestines. He has made several trips in the past five months to neighbouring South Africa for chemotherapy.

It is a pity that Tsvangirai is battling a debilitating disease at a time the country is heading for make-or-break elections. From the look of things it is clear that he is not fit for the toil and hassle that is characteristic of election campaigns.

Whilst those close to him, just like with those surrounding Mugabe, want to downplay the issue, it would be taking a risk for both Zanu PF and MDC-T to go into an election with ailing candidates.

Zanu PF will be taking a risk because its candidate Mugabe is 93 years old, frail and ailing -- creating uncertainty as to whether if he can even run in next year's polls.

With regards to Tsvangirai, it is clear that he has rapidly deteriorated over the past five months. While we all do not know what will happen to both of them in months ahead, it is wise for both parties to consider their candidates

seriously before the elections, more so for the MDC-T because its leader is being proposed as the alternative to years of misrule and inept leadership.

Is Tsvangirai fit enough to remain the coalition's presidential candidate? Even if we are not privy to his medical reports, the situation does not inspire confidence. Instead, you get the impression that this is a serious issue, which is being downplayed in order to manage things ahead of elections.

At the end of the day, if the two parties do not look at their presidential candidates seriously, the country risks going into an election with two leaders who may not for health reasons represent the future.

We just hope that Tsvangirai and his advisers are not going to start raising the Mugabeism argument that if he goes the party will collapse. It is worrying for leaders to start personalising institutions and the country, arguing that if they step down there would be chaos and everything would collapse.

Without being blinded by this personality cult, MDC-T and Zanu PF need to carefully reconsider their candidates. The country's future depends on it.


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