What to do now that Tsvangirai is sick?

What to do now that Tsvangirai is sick?
Published: 24 September 2017 (503 Views)
Opposition MDT-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai's urgent admission into a South African medical centre has thrown Zimbabwe's political landscape wide open.

Tsvangirai has colon cancer, and has been undergoing chemotherapy in South Africa. His party is putting up a brave face that all is well and he will return home soon to continue the challenge against President Robert Mugabe's long reign, which enters its 38th year in 2018, when the country goes to the polls.

But amid doubts whether Tsvangirai will last the distance given his ill health, People's Democratic Party (PDP) spokesperson Jacob Mafume maintains for the opposition Tsvangirai is the best foot forward.

"He is still the face of the opposition. We do not have any information that points to the contrary; we in the alliance will not speculate. He will continue to be so until the elections," said Mafume.

Political analyst Maxwell Saungweme said the opposition suffers the same curse of politics of personalities and cultish system.

"As Mugabe is to the governing party, Tsvangirai is to the opposition. Without Tsvangirai, in the immediate term the opposition can't stand against Mugabe."

He said the MDC is the only meaningful and strong opposition party that commands a reasonable following while Tsvangirai is both the MDC and opposition brand.

"All other opposition parties are too small. No one in the opposition at present has enough clout to stand against Mugabe. Unfortunate as it is, it's the truth."

Political analyst McDonald Lewanika said the MDC had three deputy presidents, all capable of steering the ship. "Speculation about the impact of Tsvangirai's illness on next year's elections is unwarranted.

"Tsvangirai leads a party with structures. (Thokozani) Khupe, (Nelson) Chamisa and (Elias) Mudzuri can handle party business while Tsvangirai receives treatment.

"The impact of this on coalition talks and elections can only be ascertained once the actual condition, its cause and possibilities of recurrence are known."

In the recently signed Political Co-operation Agreement (PCA) there is a clause that looks beyond the increasingly frail opposition leader.

According to the PCA - which is the basis of the MDC Alliance - no one outside the Tsvangirai-led MDC can take over in the event he dies or gets incapacitated before next year's polls. Crucially, the deal secures the MDC's leadership of the MDC Alliance in the event a vacancy occurs at the top before or after the elections.

"In the event of a vacancy occurring for the presidency for whatever reasons before the election, the Alliance partners shall select another candidate and if such vacancy occurs after election the provisions of the national constitution shall apply," reads part of the PCA.

Analysts say the multi-party alliance would lack cutting edge without its 2018 presidential candidate. Tsvangirai's spokesperson Luke Tamborinyoka was quick to play down media reports he was battling for his life.

Since he went public months ago, Tsvangirai is a pale shadow of the tough opposition firebrand that emerged from trade unionism to keep Zanu-PF on its toes since 2000.

But in spite of his apparent frailties, his giant profile within opposition politics has been a source of hope for those keen to see the end of Mugabe's rule.

Analysts contend the fragile new opposition coalition is thin on politicians with the same charisma Tsvangirai has. He has resolutely kept the nucleus of the country's biggest opposition despite two crippling splits in its 18-year life.

Should the worst happen to Tsvangirai, it is further felt, none of the current crop of Movement for Democratic Change Zimbabwe-Tsvangirai politicians can emerge with the little time left to hold the party together, let alone galvanise enough support among other coalition partners. Tsvangirai's elimination through illness should naturally place former Zanu-PF and state vice-president Joice Mujuru closer to his position.

Mujuru has earned the respect of most of the current military commanders as she once worked with them as one of the Zanla forces commanders during the liberation struggle. She also sits on the shoulders of her husband, the late Solomon Mujuru, thereby cementing her relationship with most commanders in Zimbabwe's security establishment.

She, therefore, enjoys the support of most of the commanders within Zimbabwe's security apparatus. But the thought of a Zanu-PF descendant ascending to an opposition alliance dominated by MDC-T could be a bitter pill to swallow for opposition die-hards.

"Her history is questionable; her breaking from Zanu-PF was not on the basis of disagreeing with Zanu-PF but it came after being expelled," said Saungweme.

The next mainstream politicians with profiles that could fit are Movement for Democratic Change president Welshman Ncube and PDP leader Tendai Biti.

Mujuru and Tsvangirai have made the effort to work together come 2018. But they have disagreed over the presidential candidate, a post both want.

Mujuru has thrown in her lot with another political alliance, the Coalition of Democrats, which initially was supposed to be the big tent for all opposition forces.

But it still remains that Mujuru, as the presidential candidate of the Grand Alliance, with an ill Tsvangirai as the deputy, would be a game changer in Zimbabwean politics as this would present the opposition with the best opportunity to dislodge Mugabe's Zanu-PF from power.

- africanindy

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