By Gift Phiri
MDC vice president Thokozani Khupe yesterday poured scorn on the party’s national council’s decision to name Nelson Chamisa as successor to Morgan Tsvangirai.
Khupe broke her silence for the first time since she publicly opposed Tsvangirai’s plan for an opposition Alliance to take on Emmerson Mnangagwa at the forthcoming polls.
Tsvangirai’s longest serving deputy said the national council meeting that enthroned Chamisa at the party’s Harvest House headquarters in Harare was “unAfrican, uncultured and barbaric” and brought out the worst in the MDC.
This comes after Chamisa, 40, was chosen to lead the country’s largest opposition party, which was thrown into crisis by the death of the former prime minister in South Africa on Wednesday.
Tsvangirai had battled against colon cancer since 2016.
The decision to enthrone Chamisa was made by the national council — the MDC’s highest decision-making body in between congresses.
Of the 215 members in the national council, 190 attended the emotive meeting.
“Chamisa has been appointed to act in place of Morgan Tsvangirai for a period of 12 months, which is in line with the constitution of the party, so he is the president of the party,” vice national chairperson Morgen Komichi told reporters on Thursday.
Khupe and another MDC vice president Elias Mudzuri boycotted the national council meeting in a move that betrayed the intensifying infighting in the opposition party.
Khupe said she was not amused with the haste in which Chamisa moved to seize power.
Earlier, Khupe had clashed with Chamisa in angry scenes at Tsvangirai’s Highlands mansion, with the confrontation stunning mourners.
Khupe reportedly fumed at Chamisa, accusing him of being “power-hungry”.
“May I state on good authority that the family and indeed the majority of the party leadership stands distanced from any and all of the disturbing cheap politics we have witnessed since the passing on of president Tsvangirai,” Khupe said in a damning statement yesterday.
“As a deputy president who unanimously received her mandate to serve as president Tsvangirai’s second-in-charge at our 2014 MDC national congress, I would have failed in my duty and in reverence of his memory if I did not call to order the misguided comrades behind these unAfrican, uncultured and barbaric chain of events that have sought to draw attention away from the tragic loss to our party and country.”
Khupe said she would like to appeal to all party members, organs, and the people of Zimbabwe to “focus on the responsibility of preserving the memory of our departed founding president, and to calmly wait for further information on how we will proceed with the journey to the final resting place for the late president Tsvangirai.”
“This information will be made available by Tsvangirai’s family and I on our return from South Africa,” she said.
Khupe, who issued the statement as MDC vice president and leader of the opposition in the Parliament of Zimbabwe, said she was in South Africa to organise the repatriation of Tsvangirai’s body back home.
“I profusely apologise to all who may have been offended by the uncharacteristic representation of our party at such a time as this, and wish to assure the nation that MDC is guided by a constitution that was born in a Zimbabwean cultural context of Ubuntu/Hunhu — that sacred age-old code of self-dignity and respect for the departed,” she said.
Khupe said: “I left Zimbabwe this morning and have arrived in South Africa as I continue to work with the family in giving our fallen gallant hero a befitting farewell. Hopefully, we will be able to repatriate the body of the late Right Honourable . . . Tsvangirai back home in the next day or two.”
Relations between Tsvangirai and Khupe soured in 2016 when the late veteran leader appointed two additional vice presidents — Chamisa and Mudzuri.
The move was widely interpreted as a no-confidence declaration by Tsvangirai in his long-serving deputy, who heightened the stand-off by opposing the now late MDC leader’s legacy project for an MDC Alliance, arguing the MDC does not need an Alliance to win an election in the three Matabeleland provinces, sentiments that made her a force to reckon with among like-minded party faithful who include influential figures such as Lovemore Moyo, the party’s national chairperson and Abednico Bhebhe, its national organising secretary.
MDC secretary-general Douglas Mwonzora, who is rooting for Mudzuri to take over, has threatened to call an extraordinary congress after Tsvangirai’s burial to choose a new leader for the party.
He said he tried to stop the national council meeting but was snubbed.
Mudzuri has secured the support of Tsvangirai’s main family members.
On Monday, the so-called Order of The Vanguard — a militant youth group — stopped the former Harare mayor from addressing a press conference at Harvest House.
Since then, the Harvard-trained engineer has been conducting his business from Tsvangirai’s Highlands mansion and insists he is the acting MDC president.
Chamisa has, on the other hand, captured Harvest House.
Yesterday, Chamisa’s spokesperson Luke Tamborinyoka responded angrily to Khupe’s scathing statement, saying there was nothing unAfrican about the national council conclave.
“The national council met and took binding resolutions,” Tamborinyoka told the Daily News.
“All we are concentrating on now is giving the president a send-off befitting his dignity and stature. Anything else is an unnecessary sideshow. Brand Tsvangirai does not deserve all this. It’s very African to meet when you have a bereavement of an icon such as . . . Tsvangirai.”
According to the MDC constitution, the national council can convene to pick a new leader.
Article 18 of the amended MDC constitution, under Powers of the National Council, says: “The national council, notwithstanding anything contained herein shall have the absolute discretion of determining the manner and process of any selection, including the power of making any appointment for any position.”
Chamisa claimed in a statement yesterday that the MDC “has deployed vice president . . . Khupe to South Africa to collaborate with the family and work towards the repatriation of the body of our hero, president Tsvangirai.”
“I will remain at the president’s residence with some members of the Tsvangirai family to receive dignitaries and other mourners who will grace our president’s family home in honour of this gallant patriot,” Chamisa said.
He said following the decision of the national council yesterday, he has set up a special committee in charge of logistics and other matters to do with the funeral.
Led by the party’s deputy national chairperson, Komichi, the committee also comprises deputy secretary-general Paurina Mpariwa, deputy organising secretary Amos Chibaya, national youth chairperson Happymore Chidziva and national women’s assembly chairperson Karenyi-Kore.
It will work in close liaison with the Tsvangirai family. Daily News