Tendai Kamhungira 11 January 2018
HARARE – The announcement by veteran MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai that he
is likely to step down any time soon has come as a wake-up call for the
country’s largest opposition party which does not seem to have a natural
A legend of Zimbabwean politics, Tsvangirai carved his niche in the
political space after rising from being a mere trade unionist to become
the biggest rival of feared former president Robert Mugabe.
Over the years, he became a brand name in Zimbabwean society and was the
only person who managed to win an election against Mugabe since
independence in 1980.
In 2008, he won the first round of the presidential election although he
could not secure the margin needed to be declared a winner.
This led to a bloody run-off in which the MDC leader pulled out fearing
for the safety of his supporters.
Respected for fighting for democracy at a time the country was under
Mugabe’s iron-fisted rule, Tsvangirai’s health has deteriorated since his
announcement in 2016 that he was suffering from colon cancer.
He has been in and out of hospital, an aspect many said is the push factor
for his mooted resignation that will leave a void in the opposition as the
former trade unionist’s shoes appear too big to fit anyone.
Political analysts who spoke to the Daily News yesterday said the
Zimbabwean political space will never be the same again in the absence of
Tsvangirai, who had become the pillar of hope for a better society and
remained a force to reckon with over the years.
His departure could pose a serious dilemma on who should take over from
him, considering that he is deputised by three people, Nelson Chamisa,
Elias Mudzuri and Thokozani Khupe.
“…Mudzuri and Chamisa won’t make names like Tsvangirai. It’s all gone,”
political analyst Maxwell Saungweme said, following Tsvangirai’s
statement, in which he hinted on leaving the throne to a younger person,
which many believed could be Chamisa, aged 39.
“Tsvangirai certainly is playing a big role in determining his successor.
The appointment of Mudzuri and Chamisa were clear moves to show that he
wanted to determine his successor. Current assignment of roles also
indicates that the race is now more between Chamisa and Mudzuri. It looks
like Mudzuri is poised to take over to complete Tsvangirai’s term with
Chamisa expected to take over after,” added Saungweme.
The die has been cast between Chamisa and Mudzuri, according to Saungweme,
even though they both have their flaws.
“Whether it’s Chamisa or Mudzuri it’s clear ED (President Emmerson
Dambudzo Mnangagwa) will win elections this year. There is no doubt that
ED will win. But to get economy back ED needs opposition and to create a
sense of inclusivity that will dilute the huge political risk investors
are wary about. It’s not only about politics but also the economy. So we
are likely to see politics of cooperation of sorts with some form of
opposition’s corporation into government. So expect some coalition
government of sorts post elections, if we have the elections at all,” he
Some argue Chamisa is still too young to get the post of president,
despite his track record with the party, while Mudzuri seems to lack
Khupe has not been in good books with Tsvangirai over the MDC Alliance
issue, which would make it difficult for the veteran opposition leader to
leave the post to her, although she is the most senior and having been
appointed through a congress.
The other two were appointed following a resolution by the national
Tsvangirai has been the best foot forward in the opposition to an extent
that he was chosen to lead a coalition of seven political parties under
the MDC Alliance banner.
The alliance is set to battle it out with the ruling Zanu PF party in
elections expected later this year.
Another political analyst Alex Magaisa, said there is no doubt that
Tsvangirai was important to MDC, but said the party must have another
option beyond the current leader and his deputies.
“There is no reason why the field must be restricted to the three VPs. The
party must move from a focus on personalities and embrace politics based
on policies and substance. Whoever has the best vision, policies and
substance must lead.
“That Tsvangirai has been important to the MDC is not in doubt but it is
lazy to tie the party to an individual. The MDC must be able to survive
Tsvangirai and do even better after him. If it cannot survive him then
it’s not fit to govern,” Magaisa said.
However, another political analyst Shakespeare Hamauswa said Tsvangirai
will play a role in determining the one to take over from him, based on
the strengths and weaknesses of his three deputies.
“On the three, Chamisa will give a big blow to Zanu PF and can be the
best. Mudzuri can stabilise the party, I do not think he is a fighter to
face off the Junta-backed government. Khupe can still bring in some
advantages but her disadvantage is the political environment. Patriarchal
system is deeply entrenched in our system and that’s a major issue.
Recently, she has proved to be disloyal to her boss and the party,”
Analyst and civil rights campaigner Xwayani Hope Msipha said the success
of the successor to Tsvangirai would be vested in the ability to
articulate and lead a revived narrative against austerity and neoliberal
“The candidate must wrest the liberation polemic from the jaws of the
elite Zanu PF hegemony and unite the urban and rural poor towards a new
dawn. It’s a historic opportunity to proclaim the leadership of a new
Zimbabwe beyond the fac,ade of opportunism and self-aggrandisement
incubated by the resilient tyranny of Mugabe,” said Msipha.
“November 18, 2017 is a testimony of the potential of a united Zimbabwe.
While the rural areas watched as Harare took centre stage, they are living
exuberant lives now in the aftermath of Operation Restore Legacy, an
opportunity in itself to reignite the un-molested urban-rural solidarity.”