The absence of a party leader and a clear succession path often leads to political parties losing political direction.
This is exemplified by Zimbabwe’s main opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC-T) led by Morgan Tsvangirai, who has died at 65.
Despite its efforts to conceal infighting over who will succeed him, evidence points to a party in disarray.
Before his death, media reports about his worsening condition had fuelled the latent tussling to replace him.
There have been spirited efforts to douse the flames of infighting, but matters came to a head at a recent rally in Chitungwiza.
The infighting over who should take over from Tsvangirai has been heightened by the party’s curious arrangement of having three vice-presidents.
One, Thokozani Khupe, was elected at the party’s 2014 congress while Nelson Chamisa and Elias Mudzuri were appointed by Tsvangirai.
At the rally Chamisa clashed with Mudzuri over who should speak first.
This spectacle pushed the leaders of the alliance to convene an urgent crisis meeting to address the bickering within the party, among other things.
The internal party wrangles were also exposed by differences over the attendance of the party secretary general, Douglas Mwonzora as well as Khupe and Mudzuri at a meeting held in Cape Town, South Africa to map a grand opposition alliance against the governing ZANU-PF.
In the absence of a unifying father figure like Tsvangirai, the prospects and stability of the party now stand in question.
This comes at a time when the party, more than ever, needs to consolidate his vision of a united opposition party that will one day unseat ZANU-PF.
Sadly, its disunity can only be playing into ZANU-PF’s hands.
In an effort to douse deep seated factional clashes which were threatening to tear the party apart, Tsvangirai played his game well – for a while – by having the three acting presidents.
By doing so he managed to forge a modicum of unity by balancing competing factions and interests among the top three leaders.
Others would have wished that Tsvangirai could have used such an opportunity to call for a congress to facilitate leadership succession.
But cosmetic efforts at balancing factional politics through rotational leadership didn’t hide deeper issues over succession.
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