The Movement for Democratic Change’s National Council, which is the top decision-making body outside congress, on Thursday endorsed Nelson Chamisa as acting president of the party at a meeting in Harare boycotted by vice presidents Elias Mudzuri and Thokozani Khupe.
Mudzuri, who claims to be the legitimate acting president, was supposed to attend a funeral wake of the late party leader Morgan Tsvangirai at his house.
Deputy party chairperson Morgan Komichi told journalists that Chamisa will be acting president for a year.
However, he did not say whether Chamisa, who was appointed by Tsvangirai together with Mudziri in controversial circumstances, will be the MDC-T’s candidate in the forthcoming presidential election.
While the National Council was making moves to put a lid on wrangling over the presidential seat, thousands of people gathered at the MDC-T’s Harvest House to express their sadness over the death of their leader, who succumbed to cancer of the colon.
Chamisa’s rise to the top was quickly questioned by Mudzuri and his group, who claimed that the 40 year-old presided over an unconstitutional National Council meeting.
Party secretary general Douglas Mwonzora said the National Council violated the MDC-T’s constitution and therefore the appointment of Chamisa was null and void.
Mwonzora said the MDC-T is expected to hold an Extra Ordinary Congress to elect Tsvangirai’s successor. He did not spell out the timeframe for holding the crucial event.
Meanwhile, in a condolence message, Chamisa described the death of Tsvangirai as a big blow to the party, which was formed in 1999 and has contested elections over the years.
In a statement, Chamisa said, “From humble beginnings, a giant was born. President Morgan Tsvangirai was a champion of the workers’ struggle, a doyen of democracy, a diplomat and a statesman---all rolled into one. Zimbabwe, Africa and indeed the world will always remember yesterday 14 February 2018 as a black Wednesday.
“… The party is at a loss for words. As a leadership, we are all still struggling to come terms with the death of this great patriot who nurtured some of us and became a pathfinder in the country’s struggle for democracy. It may have been befitting that he die on Valentine’s Day to signify the boundless love that he had for his country and its people. His death is not only a loss to the Tsvangirai family. It is a loss to the party and to Zimbabwe.”
He said Tsvangirai’s death was a loss for Africa, whose death equally leaves a yawning gap that will always be difficult to fill by any Zimbabwean.
“He taught this country democracy and the dignity that comes with tolerating political differences. During his short stint in government, he showcased that his criticism of the Mugabe regime went beyond mere rhetoric. He lived his words. He was bound to his ideals; a man of principle, a man of honour and indeed a humble man. President Tsvangirai showed it was possible to use government as an arena to infuse positive change in the lives of the people.”
He noted that “as he ebbs into the sunset, the only befitting tribute this party can pay him is by showcasing unity and togetherness. The spirit of oneness, convergence, accord and agreement will be in keeping with his legacy in this dark hour for the family, for the party and for Zimbabwe.
“President Tsvangirai had outgrown his family and his party. As we remember his mammoth contribution to the people’s collective struggle for positive change, we can only do so with the realization that he was a national hero.
“His towering contribution will continue to loom large for generations to come.
The story of Zimbabwe’s politics will never be fully told without due recognition to the towering brand of Morgan Tsvangirai---a man whose indelible footprints will endure until end of time. He shook the world. He marked a dispensation and moved hearts and minds.”
Many people, including President Emmerson Mnangagwa, sent condolence messages to the Tsvangirai family. Mnangagwa said Zimbabwe would fund Tsvangirai’s funeral as he was once the country’s prime minister.
He told the state-controlled Herald newspaper that ““We will make him State-assisted funeral. It will be taken by the State. We had him as prime minister for a period of five years or so, it’s very important that we as a Government we must pay our respects to one of us.”
According to the Herald, he described Tsvangirai as a national figure “who obdurately insisted on free, fair, credible and non-violent elections as a way of strengthening our democracy and our overall re-engagement with the rest of the world.
“On behalf of the ruling Zanu-PF party, Government, our nation, and that of my family, I wish to express deepest condolences to the Tsvangirai family on the sad passing yesterday (Wednesday) of Morgan Richard Tsvangirai, the former Prime Minister of Zimbabwe and leader of the opposition MDC-T party.”