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Quo vadis MDC-T?

31 Jul 2017 at 05:48hrs | Views
Opposition MDC-T faces a constitutional and leadership crisis due to the deteriorating health of its leader Mr Morgan Tsvangirai, who is battling cancer of the colon.

Mr Tsvangirai was diagnosed with the condition last year and has been making frequent visits to South Africa for gruelling chemotherapy sessions and indications are that the ordeal is taking its toll on the erstwhile firebrand trade unionist.

Unverified reports from South Africa say his doctors gave him little chance against the condition, but Mr Tsvangirai is on record as saying he is "responding well to treatment".

Mr Tsvangirai's last session was a fortnight ago and investigations by The Herald indicate that the party now faces imminent leadership and constitutional crises as Tsvangirai is now under pressure to set in motion succession and transitional mechanisms.

Uneasy questions have been swirling as to what happens in the event that Mr Tsvangirai becomes incapacitated or dies.

Party insiders say that Mr Tsvangirai, whom many think may not be able to stand for elections next year, is now under pressure from inside and outside to give way to a new leader.

"He is in a bad shape and will not be able go through the rigours of campaigning let alone stand as a candidate. He is not well," said a party insider.

The source said the issue of health, which for long had been the opposition's choice accusation against President Mugabe for his age, had ricocheted onto the opposition party.

"His (Tsvangirai's) own health has become an electoral issue. It is interesting!" said the source.

Insiders say that Tsvangirai has reluctantly been budgeting for the worst and would prefer to have Mr Nelson Chamisa — whom he co-opted alongside Mr Elias Mudzuri as a vice president last year — as his successor.

He has been seen to be trying to groom him and Mr Chamisa has been conspicuous at the signing ceremonies of Memoranda of Understanding with other opposition parties towards the mooted grand coalition.

Mr Tsvangirai has also been accompanied by Mr Chamisa on some forays outside the country.

"The problem with this scenario is that it presents a constitutional crisis and brings factionalism to a head. Thokozani Khupe who was elected at the last Congress will not take it lying down that Chamisa gets appointed ahead of her and the issue may split the party along tribal lines," added another source.

In terms of Section 9.21.1 of the MDC constitution, in the event of the death or resignation of the president, the deputy president assumes the role of acting president, pending the holding of an extraordinary congress that shall be held to elect a new president which extraordinary congress shall be held no later than a year from the death or resignation of the former president.

Party spokesman Mr Obert Guru played down concerns about his boss' health and refused to be drawn into the constitutional implications of the scenario.

He said: "(MDC-T) president Morgan Tsvangirai is on an extremely strong and satisfactory recovery path. God is on his side. We are perfectly happy with his state of health and indeed, his daily work rate is phenomenal.

"Many people half his age cannot cope up (sic) with his daily work schedule. All pointers are indicating that president Morgan Tsvangirai is going to take over power as Zimbabwe's next State President after elections next year."

Mr Douglas Mwonzora, a lawyer and the secretary-general of the party, refused to comment.

"The President is not dying," he declared.

However, legal experts and political analysts noted that the party was "sitting on a time bomb".

Harare lawyer Mr Misindo Dunira Hungwe explained that the co-option of Messrs Chamisa and Mudzuri, outside of the constitution of the party, could come back and bite the party in the succession race.

He explained: "There is no provision for three party deputies in the constitution. The two additional deputies were appointed unilaterally by Tsvangirai after the last congress.

"At the time of their appointment there had not been any constitutional amendment to allow for the appointment of additional deputies.

"If ever there is a purported amendment to that effect I have not yet come across same and further it would, in my view, be ultra vires the provisions of the constitution itself.

"The procedure for amendment of the constitution is outlined in Article 17 of the MDC constitution. It is to the effect that the constitution can only be amended by approval of at least two-thirds of the delegates present and voting at Congress.

"So in my humble view, the other two appointees hold office outside the provisions of the MDC constitution and would probably face legal difficulties in succeeding Tsvangirai immediately a his demise should the unfortunate happen."

He explained further: "Article 9 of the MDC constitution is the one that creates the offices of president, deputy president, etc. In terms of Article 9.2 (b) of same, it is the duty of the deputy president to act on behalf of the president whenever the president is absent from Zimbabwe or is for any other reason unable to perform his or her powers, functions or administrative duties. So in the event of incapacitation of Tsvangirai, the deputy takes over his duties. There is no time limit for this provided in the constitution. So theoretically this acting capacity can go on until the next congress at which new leadership can be elected.

"The poser then is, who amongst the 'deputies' would assume this role? There is no clarity on this point and it remains a grey area for the simple reason that there is no provision for more than one deputy in the constitution: the only deputy who currently holds the position by virtue of election at congress as required by the constitution is Khupe. So one may argue that she is the only one entitled to lay claim to the power to act in the event of Tsvangirai's incapacitation. Had there been provision in the constitution for the appointment of more than one deputy, then perhaps the constitution would have made specific provision for the ranking of the said deputies or at the very least provided for the procedure for use in determining who acts as president should the need arise."

Mr Hungwe clarified that the same issues that arise regards incapacitation also arise in the event of death because the succession issue is to be resolved in terms of the constitution as provided by Article 9.21 of the constitution which deals with the issues of death or resignation of the president.

South African-based political analyst and University of Witwatersrand doctoral fellow Blessing Vava says the opposition party is "sitting on a time bomb".

"The triumvirate vice presidency poses a danger for the party, and clearly shows there is confusion and ambitious leaders who all want to succeed Tsvangirai," said Vava.

"It is a very unhealthy set up and it is only Tsvangirai who is the glue of that party, once he is gone it might be difficult to hold the pieces together."

He tipped Mr Chamisa to take over the reins "basing on his charisma and popularity, and also his youthfulness might be an advantage for the party as it tries to target first time voters and the young people".

However, noted Vava, "It's not going to be easy and we can't rule out another split."

Source - the herald
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