HARARE – MDC President Morgan Tsvangirai’s Monday statement that he was considering exiting the political arena and pave way for a younger successor has been welcomed by social and political analysts, who actually assert he has left it too late, but counsel that congress must resolve the ongoing deadly power fights.
The two major wings of the country’s biggest opposition party, the women’s and the youth assemblies, have rejected attempts by Tsvangirai, who is battling cancer of the colon, to bow out on health grounds.
Tsvangirai’s statement has given 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.
The analysts said what is critical in Tsvangirai’ statement is the messaging of the intent to retire from active politics by the MDC leader, underlining the need for the younger generation to take over the party leadership.
They added that it is good when the young are given the opportunity to define the future of the country. Though Tsvangirai is the “face” of opposition in the new millennium, it is unfortunate that his health challenges have left him without much room to continue, even though he would have wanted to do so.
Political analyst MacDonald Lewanika said if the spirit is willing but the body is refusing, then anytime can be a great time for Tsvangirai to step down.
“If this were to happen, then the MDC would have to revert to its constitutional procedures and allow the moral owners of the party, the membership, to choose a successor.
“Given Tsvangirai’s democratic credentials and the legacy he would have established by voluntarily stepping down, it would be counterproductive for him to force a leader on his party.
“Like everyone else, he will have preferences but those preferences can only successfully hold the party together if they are the product of the people’s will and democratic process.
“At this stage, the MDC Alliance has little to do with this as it will first be an MDC affair, with the alliance having to choose an alternate leader or candidate later,” said Lewanika.
Political commentator Rashweat Mukundu said in light of Tsvangirai’s personal circumstances, it is probably the best time for him to retire and allow a new generation to take over.
“The MDC must allow the democratic process to take its path on the succession issue and thereby strengthen itself post-Tsvangirai.
“The threat to the MDC is a rupture caused by fighting for power and as the largest opposition, the party is needed to counter Zanu PF.
“But MDC could as well disappear with Tsvangirai if succession is not handled well.”
Political analyst Vivid Gwede said Tsvangirai knows best how fit he is to continue or not.
“So, when he makes such a hint it is to prepare the people’s minds and emotions to the times ahead, which is okay rather than pretences.
“It depends on how the general membership will take the question of generational renewal he has posed, supposing that they put the collective interests of the party and country before themselves.
“One of the cutting edges of the opposition was the youthfulness of its leadership at formation,” said Gwede.
Analyst Rejoice Ngwenya said it is a pity that Tsvangirai’s family and close associates have left it late.
“His health should have taken precedence over political grandstanding. I think the MDC brand is big enough to absorb time pressure, but certainly it would have been better had an Alliance candidate been branded in 2017.
“Ballot papers, election posters have not been printed and Nomination Court is still open! Ordinarily, succession issues are matters constitutional.
“My advice is that the party minimises conflict by simply reverting to an emergency electoral congress. That should resolve this.”
Ngwenya added that it is, of course, risky for Tsvangirai in that the electoral process may not produce a successor of his choice.
“But isn’t that the cost of democracy?”
Political analyst Maxwell Saungweme said Tsvangirai should have left power eight years ago.
“He actually overstayed. No question about that. Now it's even more critical for him to leave and health is not on his side.
“Let him concentrate on recovering. His life is more important for him now. In terms of elections what difference was it going to make to have a sick and tired Tsvangirai run when he can’t even make it for most campaign rallies?”
He added that Tsvangirai should leave selection if his successor to an extra ordinary congress. “Trying to impose someone among his deputies will further fragment a party already imploding from within due to discord and power tussles.”
Human rights activist Dewa Mavhinga said Zimbabwe and Africa must move away from the Big Man politics to build strong democratic institutions that are bigger than individual leaders and survive after a leader is gone.
“Tsvangirai should ensure that his succession is done in a manner respectful of democratic values espoused in the party constitution, including facilitating credible, free and fair elections by party members through appropriate structures to choose the next leadership after him.
“A peaceful, democratic succession will be a victory for democracy.”