HARARE – MDC structures have declined Morgan Tsvangirai's plan to step down as party leader, insisting he must run for 2018 elections.
The two major wings of the country’s biggest opposition party, the Women’s Assembly and the Youth Assembly, yesterday said they reject attempts by Tsvangirai, who is battling cancer of the colon, to bow out on health grounds.
In his Monday statement, Tsvangirai said he was considering exiting the political arena and hand over the baton to a younger successor, giving rise to speculation that he could be considering the youngest of his three deputies, Nelson Chamisa, for the throne.
“I am looking at the imminent prospects of us, as the older generation, leaving the levers of leadership to allow the younger generation to take forward this huge task that we started together so many years ago with our full blessing and support,” Tsvangirai said.
But yesterday, Women’s Assembly chairperson Lynette Karenyi issued a statement urging Tsvangirai to remain at the helm.
Karenyi said the wing was not looking beyond Tsvangirai for a presidential candidate at this year’s general elections.
“The MDC assembly of women would like to express its unwavering support for … Morgan Richard Tsvangirai as the party’s candidate for national presidency in the forthcoming 2018 elections. The assembly of women expresses its support for Morgan Tsvangirai at a critical time towards ensuring that all party structures rally behind MT and express their support through engaging in mass voter education and registration,” said Karenyi.
She said they were confident the MDC leader would overcome his challenges and take part in the harmonised elections later this year.
“While as an assembly of women we recognise that MT is not in good health, we believe that he will get over his ailment. We continue to pray that he be in good health in time for the 2018 harmonised elections to lead Zimbabwe into a new era. It was during illness that Edgar Lungu set the precedent where despite his ill- health he was able, against all odds, to take power in Zambia.
“We would like to vehemently and openly express our support for and solidarity with president Tsvangirai during his time of physical pain. We have the same confidence that we had in him during congress, and remain the same now as we will tomorrow. We are rearing to go under his brilliant leadership.
“The assembly of women has always stood by MT even when other party members might be tempted to stampede him into making the unfortunate decision to throw in the towel. We are praying tirelessly for his total healing and we shall remain resolute,” said Karenyi, in the statement signed off with the praise slogan: Tsvangirai Chete, Kwese Kwese!
MDC youth assembly secretary general, Lovemore Chinoputsa, expressed the same sentiments, saying party youths were still backing Tsvangirai to contest in the forthcoming general elections.
Chinoputsa said the youth assembly had allowed Tsvangirai to rest and recuperate from his colon cancer afflictions so that the former prime minister becomes fit on time for the elections.
“The MDC Youth Assembly has noted president Morgan Tsvangirai’s New Year message and commit ourselves to rally our troops to the work at hand, which is to deliver real change to the people of Zimbabwe under the able leadership of … Morgan Richard Tsvangirai who shall lead us under the banner of the MDC Alliance.
“We have also noted the appointment of vice president Engineer Elias Mudzuri as the acting president. As true vanguards we stand guided by the president’s proclamation and we wish everyone in the party to focus on the task at hand by fully cooperating with the authority to ensure that our party programmes continue to run. Sabotaging the Acting President or any of the VPs on their assigned tasks will be tantamount to sabotaging our dear leader. Let us all be guided accordingly,” said Chinoputsa.
He added that Tsvangirai should not be victimised for being open and transparent about his health challenges.
“We, however, wish to warn against the criminalisation of the president’s openness and transparency. We believe that anyone can get sick at any time and president Tsvangirai deserves to be given an opportunity to recuperate without hurrying him to make lifelong decisions that have a bearing on our chances of wrestling the presidency from the incompetent Mnangagwa administration.
“We are convinced that with enough rest and proper medication, president Tsvangirai will take us through the elections and deliver the much-needed freedom, democracy and economic emancipation,” he said.
Chinoputsa insisted that the youths would not accept any other presidential candidate except Tsvangirai.
“He is, simply put, our presidential candidate in this year’s election. Under no circumstances will we allow that situation and position to change. History is replete with a number of people who stood as candidates while still under the weather but went on to recuperate and lead their countries to prosperity.
“As the president takes a deserved rest far from the madding crowd, we are kindly requesting every member of the party to respect his right to privacy and desist from any activities that will limit and dent his recuperation process. We kindly ask our leaders to let him rest fully and allow him to recuperate. Let us stay away from disturbing him.
"All our leaders are also hereby urged to desist from all forms of mudslinging and unnecessary factional fights that are driven by malice, hatred and personal interests at the expense of hard work that will deliver a new Zimbabwe. We are watching,” he further said.
Tsvangirai is understood to have flown to South Africa yesterday for his routine medical examination.
Asked if Tsvangirai was standing in the elections, his spokesman Luke Tamborinyoka said, “I don't want to comment beyond what he has said. He has hinted at something, he has hinted at a change of guard, he has not commented on the detail and mechanics. I can’t speculate beyond what he has said."
On the pronouncements by the women and youth wings that Tsvangirai must run, Tamborinyoka said: "There is an acting president, anyone who has a question, talk to engineer Mudzuri. We have channels of communication."
Efforts to get a comment from Mudzuri were futile as he was said to be chairing a meeting of one of the important organs of the party.