Running-mates clause debate divides MDC-T

THE running-mates clause in the Copac draft constitution is causing serious ructions and headaches within the MDC-T which insists the document must go to the referendum without amendments as all parties to the unity government had appended their signatures to it to signal approval.

Report by Elias Mambo

According to senior party officials, the party is deeply divided into three groups over the criterion for choosing the running-mates as jockeying for positions intensifies.

One group is lobbying for the handpicking of running-mates by party leader and presidential candidate Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, another prefers election by the provinces, while the third backs appointment by seniority.

The appointment option is preferred by the party’s top leadership. Under the running-mates clause, the first running-mate would automatically take over as president should the incumbent resign, die or is incapacitated.

The sources said MDC-T bigwigs are making strategic manoeuvres to clinch one of the two running-mate slots if the controversial clause in the draft constitution is adopted in the final governance charter ahead of elections next year.

The clause stipulates that a presidential candidate nominates two running-mates to contest elections on the same party ticket.

The running-mates would serve as first and second deputy presidents should their party’s candidate win the presidential poll.

If adopted, it would also effectively address the succession issue within different parties.

Contrary to earlier indications Tsvangirai preferred to handpick his running-mates, provinces are reportedly calling for Finance minister and party secretary-general Tendai Biti to be the first running-mate ahead of Deputy Prime Minister Thokozani Khupe and chairman Lovemore Moyo, sources said.

Other names being bandied about include national deputy chairman Morgan Komichi and former organising secretary Elias Mudzuri.

“Almost all provinces are calling for running-mates to be elected rather than handpicked which is against Tsvangirai’s wish,” said a source. Provinces such as Manicaland, Masvingo, Mashonaland West, Harare, Bulawayo and Matabeleland North and South want Biti to be the first running-mate ahead of Khupe and Moyo, sources said.

There are fears within the party that should Tsvangirai be allowed to handpick his own running-mates he might settle for his right hand man Ian Makone, the sources said.

However, MDC-T Harare provincial spokesperson and Justice deputy minister Obert Gutu dismissed allegations his province wants Biti nominated as first running-mate.

“We dismiss such rumours that are divisive in nature because we are pre-occupied with more pressing issues such as the constitution rather than expending our energies on rumour-mongering,” said Gutu.