PANIC has gripped the MDC-T amid revelations that party leader Morgan Tsvangirai’s close associates have followed him to South Africa to monitor his condition after he was flown there as an emergency case last Friday.
Mr Tsvangirai was reportedly carried into a private plane on a stretcher bed at Harare International Airport around 2AM, although his office sought to downplay the incident, insisting the MDC-T leader had flown to South Africa for a routine medical check up.
While Mr Tsvangirai’s spokesman Mr Luke Tamborinyoka yesterday insisted that the opposition leader was well, party officials were concerned that he was in bad shape and his close associates, the Makone family, had joined him in South Africa.
The officials said it would be advisable to tell the truth about Mr Tsvangirai’s condition to avoid unhelpful speculation which could only hurt the party and cause panic among followers.
Mr Tsvangirai was airlifted to South Africa after his condition drastically deteriorated during a workshop in Kadoma.
He was recently diagnosed with cancer of the colon and has been receiving chemotherapy in South Africa for some time.
“We wish the president a speedy recovery but he is still in the woods,” said a senior MDC-T official.
He added: “Yes, he is responding to medication but his condition is not changing and that is our major worry. What is worrying us is that he keeps issuing statements through Tamborinyoka saying he is stable and urging people to vote yet it is clear he is not well. This attitude is not helpful.
“He has been going for routine check ups for some time now but the fact that he was hurriedly airlifted from a workshop in the company of a doctor is clear evidence that he is seriously ill. You cannot fool people like that.”
The official said MDC-T members were also irked by the manner in which Mr Tsvangirai’s illness was being handled by party officials.
“What has irked other senior party members is the way the president’s sickness is being handled by members of the ‘kitchen cabinet’ such as the Makones. They are ring fencing the president and want to appear as if they are the ones who love him more than any other party members.”
Another source said Mr Tsvangirai’s illness had plunged the whole party into confusion about the future if he were incapacitated beyond recovery.
“Remember we have three vice presidents and our constitution is silent on the issue of succession,” said the source, who sits in the MDC-T’s standing committee.
“Dr Thokozani Khupe is the deputy responsible for administration, Engineer Elias Mudzuri is responsible for organising and Advocate Nelson Chamisa is responsible for international relations,” said the source.
“None of them can claim to be superior to the other although those sympathetic to Chamisa are already touting him as the possible successor,” he said.
“The truth of the matter is that the constitution is silent about that matter and the appointment of Eng Mudzuri and Adv Chamisa was never meant to deal with the succession issue but factionalism that was threatening to tear the movement apart.”
He said it was important for Mr Tsvangirai to appoint someone senior to act in his capacity whenever he travels outside the country for whatever reason.
This, he said, would help in coordinating communication and give it more authority.
Throughout the weekend and yesterday, Mr Tamborinyoka insisted that Mr Tsvangirai was well and that he was urging people to register in readiness to vote in next’s elections.