Tsvangirai future uncertain

FOLLOWING his loss in last month’s elections, questions are beginning to be asked on what the future holds for former Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai.

Nduduzo Tshuma, Staff Reporter

Once described as a brave man and the face of progress, Tsvangirai has had three shots at toppling President Robert Mugabe, with the last being disastrous.

Now questions are being asked whether he has not run his race and if it is time not time to hand over the baton.

While epitaphs have not yet been written on the MDC-T leader’s political career, some party officials have, in hushed tones, started calling for leadership renewal within the party, saying Tsvangirai had been outwitted by Mugabe many times.

One of MDC-T founding members, Bekithemba Mpofu — the party’s first youth secretary-general — told Southern Eye that the party needed to urgently look at the issue of leadership renewal, as doing so at the 2016 congress could be late.

“As party members, we are devastated with what happened in the just-ended elections, in particular the level of rigging and irregularities that characterised the elections,” he said.

“However, we cannot continue to mourn over spilt milk and this is just but a test of leadership strength. We have five years before the next elections. We need to renew our leadership now in order to consolidate and position ourselves for 2018.

“If we wait until the next congress in 2016, it would be late to change or renew leadership for that election and we might find ourselves going round in circles (failing to renew leadership) each election season.”

Mpofu is now a respected academic in the United Kingdom.

Another founding member of the MDC-T said Tsvangirai should demonstrate that he was a man for change by stepping down now to allow his successor to consolidate the party’s power base in preparation for the 2018 elections.

“Secretary-general Tendai Biti or national organising secretary Nelson Chamisa, who turns 40 in February 2018, could be replacements for Tsvangirai,” he continued.

“When he steps down it might be an opportunity for MDC to consolidate. The sooner the better.”

A few names have been bandied around on who could replace Tsvangirai if he stepped down. Biti and Chamisa are the most prominent, although some have suggested civil society activist Brian Kagoro.

Political analysts told Southern Eye that the MDC-T and Tsvangirai needed to rebrand so that the party could remain a viable opposition movement.

Bulawayo based political analyst Godwin Phiri said the decisions made by the MDC-T in the next few months could determine their survival in the country’s political arena.

“Tsvangirai has been outwitted by Mugabe five times. The critical question is whether Tsvangirai offers cutting edge leadership to dislodge Zanu PF,” he said.

“They need to think forward and get a leader into office.

“It depends on how he recreates himself to become a more viable opposition leader. The next three months will determine whether the party survives or not.”

Phiri said the MDC-T would have to come up with sound policies that would ring with the people.

“The change mantra might not be sellable in 2018. The party, therefore needs to rebrand, failure to which they will fizzle out or the people will reject them,” he said.

“The 2016 congress will also determine the issue of the party’s leadership.

“The other thing now is that some of the MDC-T senior officials had become used to government posts — the question is: Are they willing to go back to the trenches and abandon the good things in life?”

A senior analyst at the International Crisis Group, Trevor Maisiri, insisted Tsvangirai still had the leadership mantle to lead MDC-T in the 2018 elections, although the party had its work cut out.

“It is a question of him picking himself up and having to carry out serious introspection within his party and his own leadership,” he said.

“I believe that if the MDC-T is outside of the government, it will be more difficult for them to rebuild and prepare for 2018. Being outside of State power in African politics closes off doors to both political relevance and visibility.”

Maisiri said outside State power, the MDC-T will have clearly drawn lines of political hostilities with Zanu PF.

“That may not help them, as Zanu PF can use its hold on State power to close off whatever political space there is for the MDC-T in the country,” he said.

“But by sharing some level of State power with Zanu PF, that will allow some dialogue and co-existence, which the MDC-T can use to continue with their political re-organisation without much wrath from Zanu PF.” 

While Tsvangirai may have faced up to Zanu PF for more than a decade, his four years in power left many asking whether he was the right man for the country’s top job. The MDC-T leader was linked to a string of women and immediately adopted a luxurious lifestyle, tarnishing his image both at home and abroad.

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