MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai reportedly resisted pressure to step down before he left for treatment in South Africa last week, amid claims his wife has joined hands with a faction backed by the military to influence the former prime minister’s succession.
Impeccable sources last week said Tsvangirai delayed his trip by five days after his wife Elizabeth Macheka allegedly held on to his passport demanding that he first sign a document that would have reportedly ensured that Nelson Chamisa, one of the MDC-T vice-presidents, was installed as the new party leader.
Justifying her actions, Macheka allegedly told the former prime minister’s family that the military had assured her that Tsvangirai would be given his pension and other benefits for serving in the inclusive government between 2009 and 2013 if he handed power to Chamisa.
The drama started on January 4 when President Emmerson Mnangagwa and his deputy Constantino Chiwenga visited Tsvangirai, who is battling cancer of the colon, at his home in Highlands, Harare. Mnangagwa took the MDC-T leader’s passport after he promised that he would be given a diplomatic passport.
On the day the passport was taken, Tsvangirai had been scheduled to leave for South Africa for urgent treatment.
It is believed the passport was released the following day to Macheka, who allegedly refused to hand it over to Tsvangirai for four days until the intervention of some former diplomats and the former prime minister’s political allies, some outside MDC-T that were concerned about his deteriorating health.
Tsvangirai’s son Edwin confirmed that his father failed to travel on time because he did not have his passport, but downplayed Macheka’s role in the fiasco, saying it was just a mix-up. “Mainini Eliza had his passport,” he said. “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 allegations that Macheka held on to the passport demanding that the MDC-T leader sign the alleged document.
“Is there anything wrong with you giving your wife your passport?” he responded rhetorically when asked about the delayed trip to South Africa.
Manasa denied reports that Tsvangirai’s deputies Chamisa and Elias Mudzuri were jostling for his post, tearing the party apart in the process.
“You cannot stop a bird from flying past you, but you can stop it from building a nest on your head,” he said. “There is mere speculation and we cannot stop people from doing that. But the reality is that there is nothing like that.”
“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.
Last Monday, a statement purportedly issued by Tsvangirai indicated that the former trade unionist was preparing to hand over power to a younger leader but the following day the youth and women’s assemblies reacted angrily, saying they woould not accept their leader stepping down.
Tsvangirai’s spokesperson Luke Tamborinyoka, who is believed to be fighting in Chamisa’s camp, dismissed the allegations that the military was trying to influence the MDC-T leader’s succession as malicious.
MDC-T spokesperson Obert Gutu also disowned the statement, fuelling speculation that a faction linked to Chamisa was trying to stampede Tsvangirai out of power. Gutu’s reaction drew fire from Tamborinyoka, who described every claim not coming from his boss as black market. Mudzuri’s camp accuses Chamisa’s faction of capturing Tsvangirai through his wife.
On the other hand, Chamisa’s backers accuse the rival camp of trying to capture Tsvangirai’s family.
Chamisa is believed to enjoy the backing of Tamborinyoka, party secretary for elections Murisi Zwizwai, deputy national chairperson Morgan Komichi and Macheka, among others and they are alleged to be holding meetings at Macheka’s Borrowdale home.
Mudzuri’s camp has the support of the other MDC-T vice-president Thokozane Khupe, secretary general Douglas Mwonzora, Gutu and the women and as well as youths assemblies.
Gutu refuted allegations that Tsvangirai’s succession had divided the party into factions.
“There is nothing like factionalism in the MDC. There is no fighting,” he said.
“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.”
Mudzuri is currently the acting MDC-T president after Tsvangirai took medical leave while Chamisa was tasked with mobilising the MDC-T Alliance.