HARARE – Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai, who has been shrugging off calls by his top lieutenants to step down, is receiving overwhelming support from the rank-and-file of the MDC during his ongoing meet-the-people meetings.
With an escalating push for leadership renewal under way, the opposition leader had found himself in a tough spot. Still licking his wounds from the July 31 presidential loss, the MDC leader has quickly got off the mat to prove his credibility not only to a weary electorate but also to his own fractious members.
In the wake of the presidential blowout, the MDC leader is doing everything he can to reassure the millions of citizens who cast their ballots for the opposition challenger of the MDC’s prospects in the next elections.
Tsvangirai has embarked on a nationwide tour of theMDC’s structures as he seeks to reinvigorate the party.
Amid reports top officials including treasurer-general Roy Bennett and former organising secretary Elias Mudzuri were leading rival factions reportedly seeking to replace the veteran trade unionist, Tsvangirai is winning endorsement from virtually all organs of the party. Secretary General Tendai Biti’s name has also been thrown into the fray.
So far, the Women’s Assembly, the Youth Assembly, diaspora branches and at least three provinces out of 12 MDC provinces have solidly backed Tsvangirai, rejecting calls for his ouster.
While officials such as Mudzuri have publicly stated their intention to challenge Tsvangirai in the next party congress to be held in 2016, the MDC party is coalescing around the 61-year-old leader like never before.
Bennett on the other hand says Tsvangirai should go and has won backing from former Marondera legislator Ian Kay. But Mashonaland East province has roundly condemned Kay, dismissing him from the party in a display of loyalty to Tsvangirai.
Luke Tamborinyoka, Tsvangirai’s spokesperson, described the atmosphere characterising the meetings as “electric”.
On Tuesday night, Tsvangirai visited Harare South, Epworth and Hatfield and yesterday he visited Mabvuku and Harare East.
Tsvangirai is on a mission to consolidate his support base ahead of the party’s congress.
“The atmosphere is electric and people are happy to speak to him directly,” Tamborinyoka said.
“Imagine people in the grassroots no longer speak to him through the provinces because he is meeting them directly. In all the meetings we have had so far, from Chivi, in Masvingo to Harare, there is consensus that the past elections were stolen.
“Everywhere we have been, people say they are behind MDC and will stand behind the leadership of Tsvangirai.”
The Daily News is reliably informed that Tsvangirai supporters are demanding an extraordinary congress in order to deal with the succession issue and “show the rebels their place.”
“Supporters want the blood of Bennet and Mudzuri; they want to deal with these people who have been publicly challenging Tsvangirai,” said a party insider. “In some meetings the likes of Biti have been protected by the president as some supporters demanded explanations from them.”
At one meeting in Chitungwiza, an MDC stalwart Felix Chihoro, a former Zengeza East chairperson, told Tsvangirai that they were solidly behind him.
“President we are much behind you,” he said.
“We are united behind you and we are not going to let you down.”
Structures are telling Tsvangirai that candidates were imposed from the national executive hence the party’s poor showing in elections. There is also a sense that the vote was stolen.
On Monday at a meeting in Warren Park, angry party supporters bayed for Mudzuri’s blood.
He was protected by Tsvangirai who told them that a person has a democratic right to express his views.
“All in all, the president is going to visit 210 districts where he will have a no holds barred meeting with the people. This is a listening tour where people’s voices will count,” Tamborinyoka said.