It now seems that jostling for the coveted post of the MDC-T presidency will continue after Tsvangirai’s death.
Prior to Tsvangirai death some of the party’s top leadership and grassroots membership alike had hinted that they would resist any move by him to appoint or anoint a successor.
Judging from the ongoing party fissures and following Tsvangirai’s passing things might actually get worse before they get better.
In particular, the latest decision in the wake of Tsvangirai’s death to appoint Chamisa as acting president for a year will likely further deepen divisions rather than building unity within the party.
In all this it is important to note that Tsvangirai’s long absence due to illness, and now his death, have created a leadership void. Internal party conflicts will take a long time to resolve. A few examples illustrate how tense the situation is.
In February, Tsvangirai appointed Chamisa as the acting president. But, in a dramatic change of events, Obert Gutu, the party’s spokesperson disputed the appointment, creating more confusion over who was in charge.
Mudzuri stuck to his guns saying he was still the acting president. But Khupe also argued that she was the legitimate vice-president by virtue of being elected at the last party congress held in 2014.
All these factors have led to a vicious leadership succession conundrum and power struggle that seems set to continue.
Smear campaigns, conflicting messaging, counter claims and mudslinging have become the order of the day within the once formidable MDC–T. All show a party at sixes and sevens, and pulling in different directions.
The misdirected energies will make it difficult for the party to reunite, refocus and embark on effective programmes and mobilisation ahead of the country’s July elections. If left unchecked this infighting will negatively affect the party’s prospects of unseating Zanu-PF. This will also have an impact on the process of democratisation of Zimbabwe, which Tsvangirai set in motion in the past decades. A weak and divided MDC-T will simply hand over power to Emmerson Mnangagwa, thus perpetuating Zanu-PF’s misrule.
In the end, Tsvangirai’s long absence engendered a leadership crisis and void. This underscores the dangers of leaders – especially party founders like Tsvangirai – not managing succession properly.