Acting MDC-T president Engineer Elias Mudzuri has joined the race to take over the reins of the opposition party from ailing leader Mr Morgan Tsvangirai, who is battling colon cancer.
Mr Tsvangirai hinted on early retirement from active politics for the first time since disclosing his condition in 2016, fuelling frenzied speculation that one of his deputies, Mr Nelson Chamisa, was set to take over by suggesting the need to hand over “the levers of leadership” to a younger generation”.
Eng Mudzuri threw his hat in the ring yesterday while addressing journalists after touring banks in the Southerton industrial area of Harare.
“In the unlikely event that he (Mr Tsvangirai) fails (to recover), I think you can see that we have able-bodied people in the MDC; it’s an organisation, one of us should be able to take over,” he said.
Pressed to state whether he was prepared to succeed Mr Tsvangirai as MDC-T leader, Eng Mudzuri stated: “I am saying I could take over. One of us should be able to take over; I am one of them, so am I not saying one of us?”
Mr Tsvangirai was diagnosed with cancer of the colon in 2016 and has been receiving treatment in South Africa since then.
Eng Mudzuri was last week appointed by Mr Tsvangirai to temporarily run the affairs of the party while the opposition leader continues to receive treatment. Mr Tsvangirai has led the MDC since its founding in 1999 but has lost all subsequent Presidential elections, with the 2013 poll loss being the most devastating, leading to immediate calls by his subornates for him to step down.
Mr Tsvangirai’s condition has intensified internal squabbles between supporters of Eng Mudzuri and those of his co-deputies Mr Chamisa and Ms Thokozani Khupe on who should succeed him.
Following Mr Tsvangirai’s announcement that he could soon retire from active politics, his spokesman Mr Luke Tamborinyoka clashed with party spokesman Mr Obert Gutu accusing him of encroaching on his turf after the latter sought to dismiss the statement that Mr Tsvangirai could soon step down.
Mr Chamisa and Ms Khupe also snubbed an election directorate meeting chaired by Mr Mudzuri in Bulawayo on Tuesday, with the two believed to be actively pushing for Mr Tsvangirai to retire.
The bickering over the succession and health of Mr Tsvangirai forced his family this week to issue a statement, saying matters concerning the opposition leader’s health would from now on be communicated to the public through Eng Mudzuri.
Eng Mudzuri however downplayed the power struggles in the party.
“There are no internal squabbles; where are the internal squabbles? You are creating it. I don’t know who is squabbling with whom. I have got all my colleagues; we are talking, we are forging forward. I don’t know which internal squabbles you are talking about,” he said.
He added that the MDC-T had the capacity to turn around the economy.
“The MDC is the best party in the country. It has got all its structures intact. It has an acting president and a president who has a vision, who knows exactly how to sort out this economy,” he said.
Eng Mudzuri was accompanied during the tour by MDC-T deputy national chairman Mr Morgan Komichi and youth assembly secretary-general Mr Lovemore Chinoputsa.
MDC-T presidential spokesman and director of communications Mr Luke Tamborinyoka told journalists that Eng Mudzuri had been directed by party leader Mr Tsvangirai to make the tour to see how the people were coping in the current economic environment.
The team toured four banks in the Southerton area, where people in bank queues said there seemed to be no respite to cash shortages for now.
They complained that banks had reduced withdrawal limits to only $50 per week, with the amount being dispensed in coins that were inconvenient to carry.
“The acting MDC leader also toured some industries such as Bak Logistics complex that have now been reduced to empty shells because there is no longer any production taking place in the country,” said Mr Tamborinyoka.
“He also spoke to vendors selling their wares in the Southerton area, who complained that the liquidity crunch and the state of the economy had affected their businesses,” he said.
As per norm in the MDC-T, there was no mention of the impact of Western sanctions on the economy, which they invited at the turn of the millennium to fight Zanu-PF’s land reform programme.