HARARE – MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai is not stepping down from his position as party president after his disputed poll loss to President Robert Mugabe.
Amid calls from some quarters in the MDC for the former Prime Minister to step down, speculation has been rife that all is not well in the opposition movement which is still reeling from the July 31 election outcome.
Luke Tamborinyoka, Tsvangirai’s spokesperson, described as “beerhall talk” claims that the former trade unionist mulled stepping down soon after the poll.
“He has never wanted to run away from his mandate given to him by the people at the congress in 2011,” Tamborinyoka said. “Being the democrat he is, he has said leadership renewal is not a sacred issue nor taboo. However, such an issue should be done through successive national council meetings. Be that as it may, it is true that he has called for debate on the succession issue but at the right platforms.”
Tamborinyoka said the post election narrative was not about removing Tsvangirai, but “appreciating how Mugabe rigged elections.”
“The issue of leadership renewal is something that should come from the people, and only debates at beer binges are suggesting that Tsvangirai should go,” Tsvangirai’s spokesman said.
“The post election narrative is how Zanu PF stole this election and not leadership renewal. But people are free to talk, that is why no one has disappeared after saying Tsvangirai should go.”
Exiled MDC treasurer general Roy Bennet and former Marondera Central legislator Ian Kay are among top MDC officials who have publicly called for leadership renewal in the former ruling party.
But with the MDC’s elective congress due in 2016, Tamborinyoka indicated that his boss, if he loses the elections, “has no intention of overstaying his welcome”.
“He has never at any point considered quitting but if he is voted out he will leave office. It is cheap beerhall talk to say he is ready to quit, but come elections he will not stay a minute longer if someone is given the mandate,” said Tamborinyoka.
Now in his 14th year as the leader of the MDC, critics say he has failed to deliver Zimbabwe from Mugabe’s 33-year-old rule.
In public, Tsvangirai appears to have the backing of the party’s top decision making body and millions of its supporters who maintain that the 61-year-old leader is still “the face of the struggle.”
Names that have been touted as probable successors to the coveted MDC presidency include party secretary general Tendai Biti and organising secretary Nelson Chamisa, who both have publicly stated their loyalty to the former trade unionist.
In an interview on Thursday, Chamisa said the party’s executive is fully behind Tsvangirai saying “he is the voice of the struggle, he is our best foot forward he is the only game in town at the moment.”
“We are in the middle of a mortal combat with challenges that are so clear in the country, we need to democratically fight for democracy and good governance fight and ward off illegitimacy fight and ward off this bad governance we cannot do that by fighting ourselves. President Tsvangirai is an embodiment of who we are so we can’t start fighting ourselves hoping that we will win the war that way,” said Chamisa, who is in charge of organising the opposition movement that has been bedevilled by discontent.
The MDC youth assembly yesterday also threw its weight behind Tsvangirai, saying their president carries “a brighter future full of opportunities for everyone.”
“He has the answers to the cries and challenges faced by the youth, mostly to do with job creation, genuine and sustainable youth upliftment, provision of good health facilities among others,” the MDC Youth Assembly said in a statement. “Any other utterances in the corridors of rumour are null and void.”
“The Assembly encourages all the Zimbabweans who voted for the MDC in the recent elections to remain resolute, Dr Tsvangirai shall lead us to Canaan soon.”