Why Tsvangirai appointed new deputies

MDC-T president Morgan Tsvangirai’s decision to appoint two additional Vice-Presidents — which has sparked accusations of regionalism, tribalism and phallocracy or gender bias — was motivated by the veteran opposition leader’s lack of confidence in his long-serving deputy Thokozani Khupe, it has emerged. He also feared that his deputy had ambitions of taking over the party’s leadership and was working against him, among other reasons, insiders said.

Elias Mambo/Herbert Moyo

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This comes as two MDC-T members Patson Murimoga and George Rice filed a High Court application challenging the recent appointments of Nelson Chamisa and Elias Mudzuri to the vice-presidency, arguing this was done in violation of the party constitution.

MDC-T insiders told Zimbabwe Independent that Tsvangirai’s decision to elevate Chamisa and Mudzuri to the vice-presidency was meant to neutralise Khupe’s influence, while also managing the party’s succession politics. A senior MDC-T official said Khupe was more so no longer guaranteed of succeeding Tsvangirai should the MDC-T leader, who is battling cancer of the colon, quit or become incapacitated, as she faces competition from the other deputies.

“In fact her position as vice-president is under threat because she could be challenged for the position by some senior guys such as Lovemore Moyo at the next congress,” said the official.

The official said Khupe and MDC-T secretary general Douglas Mwonzora had formed an alliance in a bid to take over power at Harvest House given Tsvangirai’s illness.

“They were positioning themselves to succeed him and even went as far as negotiating coalition arrangements with (Zimbabwe People First leader Joice) Mujuru and other opposition parties,” said the party official.

There were reports that Mujuru met with Khupe and Mwonzora in South Africa last month to discuss a possible coalition and explore ways of working together ahead of the 2018 general elections.

Another official close to Tsvangirai said the MDC-T leader had made the appointments to re-energise the party given his ill-health.

“He does not believe that Khupe has capacity to lead the party effectively at this crucial time when elections are around the corner. Chamisa has the energy and charisma to mobilise and Mudzuri’s experience and maturity will also be useful,” said the official. While officials refused to openly comment, Jameson Timba, the party’s shadow secretary for local government took to his Facebook page to publicly suggest that the appointments had been motivated by succession issues.

“Any organisation that fails to do succession planning is doomed to die with the death or incapacitation of its current leader. MDC is not one of such organisations,” Timba wrote on his Facebook post on Saturday, a day after the appointments.

“Let’s keep our eyes on the prize and the finishing line. Real power is in Munhumutapa building and not Harvest House. Our focus should be on strengthening ourselves internally to be able to get it,” Timba added two days later.

Tsvangirai’s decision has also been criticised as being tribal, while some critics argued it slowed down the advancement of women. Another senior official, however, said tribalism was not the issue, arguing Bulawayo and the Matabeleland region had four senior positions in the party’s standing committee, claims rejected by those against the appointments.