T leader Mr Morgan Tsvangirai's intimation of a possible imminent retirement from active politics is stoking tensions in the party, as rival camps have started bickering on whether he should bow out immediately or continue leading the fracturing opposition party.
Mr Tsvangirai's spokesperson Mr Luke Tamborinyoka yesterday accused party spokesman Mr Obert Gutu of encroaching into his turf after the latter sought to dismiss a statement from the party leader that hinted he could step down. Mr Tsvangirai's announcement on Monday followed his disclosure over a year ago that he had been diagnosed of cancer of the colon, for which he is undergoing regular medical treatment and check-ups in South Africa.
Mr Tamborinyoka posted a scathing attack, thought to be aimed at Mr Gutu on social media site, Facebook, accusing him of usurping his responsibilities as Mr Tsvangirai's spokesman.
"President Morgan Tsvangirai speaks for himself, as he did through his statement on Monday or through his official spokesperson, as happened after he met with President Mnangagwa last Friday," said Mr Tamborinyoka.
"Any other channel parroting a purported MT (Morgan Tsvangirai) position is the black market. And the black market is not only unofficial, but illegal." On Tuesday, Mr Gutu had indicated that a national organising and election directorate meeting chaired by acting president Engineer Elias Mudzuri had made it clear that Mr Tsvangirai was not retiring.
"Contrary to recent Press reports that suggested that President Tsvangirai will soon be stepping down from the leadership of the party, the fact of the matter is that President Tsvangirai remains the leader of the MDC and he is the MDC presidential candidate for the 2018 elections," said Mr Gutu in the statement.
The meeting was snubbed by senior party officials including co-vice presidents Advocate Nelson Chamisa and Ms Thokozani Khupe - individuals believed to be pushing for Mr Tsvangirai to hand over the baton to someone else for health reasons.
Sources in the party said Adv Chamisa and other party officials like deputy national treasurer Mr Chalton Hwende snubbed the meeting which they felt would scupper their plans. Adv Chamisa dismissed the assertions yesterday.
"It was a cluster meeting which is chaired by Eng Mudzuri," he said. "I am responsible for policy, while Ms Khupe is responsible for administration and Parliament. You are getting it all wrong; there was no obligation for me to attend because issues discussed fell in the purview of Eng Mudzuri." He declined to comment on the tiff between Mr Gutu and Mr Tamborinyoka. Another source in the party differed with Adv Chamisa.
"Adv Chamisa is directly responsible for candidate selection and ordinarily he should have attended the election directorate meeting," said a national executive member of the party. "Tsvangirai has specifically tasked him to be in charge of candidate selection. His failure to attend such a meeting raises eyebrows."
Another source said Eng Mudzuri's camp was of the view that the letter from Mr Tsvangirai was written by their rival camp in their bid to push for their favoured successor.
"You will realise that Mr Tsvangirai is not well," said the source. "Eng Mudzuri's camp, where Mr Gutu belongs, is of the view that the letter was conceived and written by Luke (Tamborinyoka) and his cohorts.
"You will realise that just before its release, Tamborinyoka issued a teaser showing how excited he was advising people of an imminent release of a letter purportedly from Mr Tsvangirai and 10 minutes later it was published. Clearly, the idea did not emanate from Mr Tsvangirai."