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Tsvangirai’s legacy under threat


Tsvangirai's legacy is now under threat. The day after his death, one of the party's Vice-Presidents, Nelson Chamisa, anointed himself Acting President of the MDC-T. Chamisa and his allies made the announcement from the MDC-T head office in central Harare while others in the executive were at Tsvangirai's residence in the suburbs discussing funeral arrangements.

According to Secretary-General Douglas Mwonzora, the MDC-T leadership had agreed to postpone discussions about succession until after the burial. Chamisa's swift takeover has angered others in the party executive.

Chamisa, who turned 40 on 2 February, claims that he has the support of the youth wing, which he used to chair, and Tsvangirai's endorsement to carry the party to the next generation.

Chamisa's takeover was evidently planned some time in advance. At memorial events for Tsvangirai last week, he was always accompanied by a rowdy group of youthful supporters wearing party T-shirts with Tsvangirai's face on one side and Chamisa's face on the other.

A pastor and a lawyer, he is a charismatic speaker and has tens of thousands of followers on social media. Despite the grandstanding, Chamisa is not guaranteed the party leadership.

Mwonzora and other executives have called for a 5 000-member congress to elect the new party president. They are mobilising disgruntled MDC-T rank-and-file members to vote against Chamisa, citing what they say is his breach of party rules.

When Tsvangirai died, the MDC-T had three vice-presidents: Thokozani Khupe, Elias Mudzuri and Chamisa. Khupe was elected at the 2006 congress; Chamisa and Mudzuri were appointed by Tsvangirai in 2016 but their positions were never confirmed in a vote.

Before Tsvangirai's death, Mudzuri claimed that Tsvangirai had appointed him to act as President in his absence. Khupe claims that she is the only legitimate Vice-President, as she was elected by the people.

On 20 February there were reports that youths working for Chamisa had attacked Khupe and tried to chase her away from Tsvangirai's funeral. Chamisa then used his funeral address as a campaign speech for the presidency.

To resolve the leadership issue, the MDC-T will have to hold a congress, either to legitimise Chamisa or to elect another leader backed by the party's structures. This will take time and funds, both in short supply.

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