THE MDC-T leadership tussle took a new twist last weekend when youths aligned to leader Morgan Tsvangirai had to be restrained while verbally abusing Warren Park MP Elias Mudzuri for publicly voicing his interest in becoming party president during a party meeting in the capital.
Tsvangirai, who is facing a challenge from senior party officials holding clandestine meetings to plot his ouster through an early congress, came face-to-face with former Harare mayor Elias Mudzuri who wants to succeed Tsvangirai.
Last Saturday Tsvangirai met party structures in the suburb where youth members allegedly vented their anger on Mudzuri for his role in the leadership renewal debate in the media.
Senior party sources said Mudzuri was saved by Tsvangirai after the youths verbally assaulted him.
“It was not a physical confrontation, but there were verbal exchanges with youths openly castigating Mudzuri for his ambitions,” said a party official. “Tsvangirai saved Mudzuri from further abuse by telling the youths it was not wrong to discuss the leadership issue but it should be done through party organs and not the press.”
Since Tsvangirai’s controversial and crushing defeat to President Robert Mugabe and Zanu PF in the July 31 polls, senior MDC-T officials have been calling for the former premier to step down after conceding three consecutive defeats to Mugabe.
They accuse Tsvangirai of failing to provide leadership and being hoodwinked during the inclusive government era “when he seemed to trust Mugabe more than party officials”.
Those after Tsvangirai’s ouster also argue his personal indiscretions negatively affected the image of the party leading to the loss of supporters from both within and outside the country, including the donor community.
While Mudzuri has publicly declared he is eyeing the hot seat, observers say he lacks a critical mass to mount a serious challenge against Tsvangirai and his decision has created further divisions within the party.
Mudzuri’ s ambition has angered those who support Tsvangirai, especially the youths who still believe the 61-year-old leader is the only one who can unseat President Robert Mugabe from power.
MDC-T Harare provincial spokesperson Obert Gutu said the weekend meeting ended well with Tsvangirai openly declaring that he holds no grudge against Mudzuri.
“Tsvangirai addressed MDC structures in the three constituencies of Warren Park, Kambuzuma and Mufakose. The meeting was attended by the vice-national chairperson, senator Morgen Komichi, secretary-general Tendai Biti, national organising secretary Nelson Chamisa and MP for Warren Park, Mudzuri,” Gutu said.
“At the meeting Tsvangirai told the party cadres that he has always allowed them to discuss the issue of leadership renewal using the correct and relevant party organs instead of doing so through the press. Tsvangirai also said he has absolutely no grudge against Mudzuri and he will continue to play golf with him.”
MDC-T youth assembly national spokesperson Clifford Hlatywayo refused to comment on the issue, but urged party youths to focus on other things.
“Those are internal issues, but I believe the youth must focus on the bigger picture than internal politics,” he said.