Morgan Tsvangirai, leader of the MDC-T, was reported to have resisted pressure to step down before he left for medical treatment in South Africa last week. This amid claims that his wife joined forces with a military backed faction in order to influence the former president’s succession.
Sources said that Tsvangirai had to postpone his trip by 5 days after his wife, Elizabeth Macheka, allegedly kept his passport from him and demanding that he first signed documents that would reportedly have ensured the position of new party leader of the MDC-T to Nelson Chamisa.
In an attempt to justify her actions, Macheka told the previous prime minister’s family that the military had assured her that Tsvangirai would still receive his pension and other benefits for serving in the inclusive government from 2009 up until 2013 if he let Chamisa have the power.
The story unraveled on 4 January when President Emmerson Mnangagwa and deputy president, Constantino Chiwenga, visited Tsvangirai at his home in Harare where he was resting as he is suffering from colon cancer.
The president took Tsvangirai’s passport after promising him that he would be reissued with a diplomatic passport. He was scheduled to leave for treatment in South Africa on the same day.
Sources claim that the passport was released to Macheka the next day where she refused to give it back to Tsvangirai. Cause for concern regarding his deteriorating health, called for the intervention of several diplomats as well as members of MDC-T.
Tsvangirai’s son, Edwin, confirmed that he had missed his appointment in South Africa due to the fact that he did not have his passport, but he brushed off Macheka’s role in the situation, calling it a misunderstanding. “It appeared as if she had confiscated it but that was not the case. There was just a mix-up and it was resolved.”
Tsvangirai’s brother, Manasa, also downplayed the situation, asking if it was wrong to give your wife your passport. He further denied allegations that Tsvangirai’s deputies, Chamisa and Mudzuri, were vying for his post, tearing the party up as they went along.
Luke Tamborinyoka, spokesperson for Tsvangirai, dismissed allegations suggesting that the military was busy influencing the MDC-T’s leader’s succession as malicious. “That is nonsense. The president is in South Africa. I just spoke to him and he is alright. That is hogwash and anything else is hogwash,” he said as he dismissed allegations that Macheka tried to prevent her husband from travelling.”
Tsvangirai issued a report last week stating that he would be handing over to a younger successor, but this was met with unhappiness from the youth and women’s assemblies, saying that they will not accept their leader stepping down.
MDC-T spokesperson, Obert Gutu, also denied this statement which fueled speculation of Chamisa’s faction trying to stampede Tsvangirai out of office. This caused both factions’ supporters to accuse the other of trying to capture Tsvangirai’s family.
It is said that Chamisa is enjoying the backing of Tamborinyoka, party secretary Murisi Zwizwai, deputy national chairperson Morgan Komichi and Macheka herself, who have allegedly been having meetings at Macheka’s home in Borrowdale.
Mudzuri’s faction, on the other hand, seems to be enjoying support from other MDC-T vice-president, Thokozane Khupe, secretary general Douglas Mwonzora, Gutu as well as the women’s and youth assemblies.
Gutu, meanwhile, refuted any claims that might imply that Tsvangirai’s succession has divided the party into several different factions thereby weakening the party altogether. “There is nothing like factionalism in the MDC. There is no fighting.”
He went on to say that the vice-presidents are merely in charge of their own sub-party within the party that functions as a whole.
“Each of the VPs has their own cluster that they are superintending over. We just read about these clashes on social media but in reality there are no factions.”
Whilst Tsvangirai is taking medical leave, Mudzuri is currently the acting MDC-T president while Chamisa is in charge of mobilizing the MDC-T alliance.