MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai yesterday said he would remain at the helm of his party despite an internal call for him to quit after an overwhelming defeat in the July 31 presidential election against President Robert Mugabe.
Tsvangirai has dismissed the third consecutive defeat to Mugabe as fraud, but that has fuelled speculation he might step down from MDC-T leadership. He has led the party since its formation in 1999 when Zimbabwe’s economy began to crumble.
Mugabe (89) took more than 60% of the vote against 34% for Tsvangirai.
But Tsvangirai, who served as Prime Minister in a unity government with the Zanu PF party until last month, said no one had challenged him for the leadership and he would continue as MDC president until the next party congress in 2016.
“You don’t just wake up go into the streets and say Tsvangirai must go. There are forums that should make this decision,” Tsvangirai told journalists in Harare.
“I cannot, in the middle of a struggle, just abandon people. “To what objective? To satisfy who? To satisfy Zanu PF? To satisfy people with individual grudges against me?” he quipped.
MDC-T treasurer-general Roy Bennett, the party’s only white senior official, has so far been a lone voice in publicly calling for Tsvangirai to be replaced by a new leader.
Bennett, a former commercial farmer, told South Africa’s Business Day newspaper last week Tsvangirai’s continued leadership did not reflect the will of the party’s grassroots supporters.
Bennett has lived in exile in South Africa since September 2010 after an arrest warrant for contempt of court was issued against him for saying a judge trying him was not impartial.
He was later acquitted of terrorism charges, which he said were part of political persecution by Mugabe and Zanu PF.
Tsvangirai, a former trade union leader, has travelled the country in the aftermath of the election, reassuring demoralised supporters and looking ahead to the next presidential and parliamentary vote in 2018.
Pointing to flaws in the vote cited by domestic observers, Western governments, especially the United States, have questioned the credibility of the election result.
However, Mugabe, Africa’s oldest and one of its longest-serving leaders who has ruled Zimbabwe since 1980, has dismissed the criticism.
The election was endorsed as “free, peaceful and largely credible” by the regional Southern African Development Community, while the African Union raised concerns over the registration of voters.
Meanwhile, Tsvangirai yesterday unveiled his shadow Cabinet, which the party said would continuously review the performance of the Zanu PF government.
Tsvangirai shadow Cabinet
International Relations and Co-operation: Gorden Moyo
Tourism, Environment and Natural Resources: Thamsanqa Mahlangu
Finance and Economic Development: Tendai Biti
Defence: Gift Chimanikire
Health and Child Welfare: Ruth Labode
Basic Education: Concilia Chinanzvavana
Higher Education Science and Technology: Peter Matarutse
Local Government: Sesel Zvidzai
Transport: Elias Mudzuri
Communications: Nelson Chamisa
Mines and Minerals Development: Abednico Bhebhe
Energy and Power Development: . Morgan Komichi
Agriculture, Land and Water Development: Sipepa Nkomo
Justice Legal and Parliamentary Affairs: Jesse Manjome
Home Affairs: Lilian Timveos
Industry and Commerce: Tapiwa Mashakada
Labour, Employment and Social Security: Paurina Mpariwa
Women’s Affairs, Gender and Community Development: Lucia Matibenga
Youth, Sport, Arts and Culture: Solomon Madzore
Public Works and National Housing: Joel Gabbuza
Planning Commission:Jameson Timba