Zvamaida Murwira and Nqobile Tshili
MDC-T co-vice president Engineer Elias Mudzuri was yesterday barred from convening a press conference at Harvest House – the party’s headquarters – as the battle for the heart and soul of the opposition party continues to unfold.
Currently, both Eng Mudzuri and Mr Nelson Chamisa are claiming to be the interim leaders of the MDC-T as the party’s president, Mr Morgan Tsvangirai, continues to fight colon cancer in a South African hospital.
As tensions continued to mount in the MDC-T, Eng Mudzuri yesterday had tentatively scheduled a meeting for 2.30pm at Harvest House.
Journalists milled around the entrance of the party’s national headquarters for over an hour after the press conference was expected to start.
They however dispersed after they were advised by some party officials to pick up the press statement at Eng Mudzuri’s Milton Park residence, where he was reportedly holed up in meetings with the party’s “elders”.
In the statement, Eng Mudzuri said besides him, the only other person to speak on behalf of the party was its national spokesperson Mr Obert Gutu.
Eng Mudzuri, without mentioning names but in apparent reference to his fellow MDC-T deputy president Mr Chamisa and presidential spokesperson, Mr Luke Tamborinyoka, said some officials have fraudulently authorised themselves to speak and act on behalf of his boss Mr Morgan Tsvangirai.
Last week, Mr Tamborinyoka announced that Mr Chamisa had been appointed the MDC-T acting president until the return of his boss, Mr Tsvangirai who is receiving treatment in South Africa.
The same week, Eng Mudzuri insisted that he was still the party’s acting president dismissing Mr Chamisa’s appointment as dubious and fraudulent.
Mr Gutu joined in the fray affirming Eng Mudzuri’s position while indirectly accusing Mr Tamborinyoka of being captured by a faction fronted by Mr Chamisa.
The MDC-T is divided into factions led by Mr Tsvangirai’s three deputies, Mr Chamisa, Eng Mudzuri and Dr Thokozani Khupe.
Yesterday, Eng Mudzuri dismissed communication posted on Mr Tsvangirai’s Twitter account in the past week.
He said because of Mr Tsvangirai’s medical condition, the MDC-T leader was no longer able use social media accounts such as Twitter and Facebook.
“Now fast track to the so-called current impasse and you will realise how glaringly unusual one can claim the same position via a dubious Twitter announcement.
“Those are unofficial channels of communication which we have since confirmed to be fraudulent and patently unknown to MDC-T channels of communication. It’s a stinking conspiracy,” said Eng Mudzuri.
He said those who were tweeting using Mr Tsvangirai’s account were mocking their leader and in violation of the MDC-T constitution.
“When I was appointed acting president, it was done so by president Morgan Tsvangirai openly in the presence of the party presidium and in the full knowledge of the entire national party leadership to ‘act’ until the president’s return,” he said.
“For the record, president Morgan Tsvangirai has not tweeted for months because he hasn’t been well neither does he have access to any of his communication gadgets at the moment. This is abuse of the highest order.”
Eng Mudzuri said going forward he and Mr Gutu would be communicating the party’s positions.
“Henceforth all communications of the party and that of the acting president shall be the responsibility of the national spokesperson and the acting president until further notice,” said Eng Mudzuri.
He warned MDC-Alliance members against interfering in the MDC-T internal matters.
“We also called upon our alliance partners to desist from interfering with MDCT party business as this is ultra vires the spirit of the alliance agreement,” he said.
“For the record, no alliance partners even in the past two weeks ever met president Tsvangirai in South Africa or outside. Section 2.0 of the agreement clearly states that the alliance partners shall remain and operate as independent parties.”
Eng Mudzuri said no one should declare themselves an automatic replacement to Mr Tsvangirai but the party’s constitution will be followed in selecting the next leader.
Both Mr Chamisa and Mr Tamborinyoka could not been reached for comment yesterday.
MDC- Alliance spokesperson Professor Welshman Ncube said although he has no mandate to discuss matters in the MDC-T, the alliance was happy with Mr Chamisa as its chairperson.
“In the alliance president Tsvangirai (Morgan) gave us Nelson Chamisa to work with and represent him at our alliance rallies. There is no dispute about that, he was the one who was seconded to work with us. He has faithfully attended all meetings, as far as we know he has not been affected by issues that are happening in the MDC-T. Within the alliance is a full steam ahead,” he said.
Mr Gutu, who is understood to be backing Eng Mudzuri, declined to comment when asked why there was change of venue.
But sources within the opposition party yesterday said Mr Chamisa had now captured Harvest House.
“Chamisa has indeed captured Harvest House and some youths around it. These are really trying times for the party and from the look of it, these issues were likely going to spill in the courts,” said a source.
The current challenges confronting the party, sources said, were likely to be discussed tomorrow during the national council meeting that has been called by Mr Chamisa to ostensibly consolidate his hold on the opposition.
“He held a party caucus with MPs last week where he threatened them that only those who subject loyalty to him will not be challenged during primary elections. He eventually met provincial chairpersons, where he also warned them to submit themselves to him. Tomorrow (Tuesday) he is meeting the youth league before he convenes a national council meeting the following day,” said another source.