Tsvangirai, Khupe in showdown over VPs
THE MDC-T standing committee meeting in Harare yesterday ended abruptly as party leader Mr Morgan Tsvangirai clashed with his deputy Ms Thokozani Khupe over the appointment of Mr Nelson Chamisa and Engineer Elias Mudzuri as additional deputy presidents.
Mr Tsvangirai two weeks ago announced the appointment of Mr Chamisa and Eng Mudzuri which he said had been directed by the party’s national council, the highest decision making body between congresses.
However, Ms Khupe and key members of her faction who didn’t attend that meeting distanced themselves from the appointments in simmering tensions that led to yesterday’s showdown.
It is said that the Khupe-led faction interpreted the appointments by Mr Tsvangirai as a ploy to erode her powers and influence in the party.
Party insiders said that the highly charged meeting lasted under 20 minutes as Ms Khupe was joined by the likes of party national chairman Mr Lovemore Moyo, spokesperson Mr Obert Gutu, secretary general Mr Douglas Mwonzora and national organising secretary Mr Abedinico Bhebhe who argued that the appointments were illegal.
Mr Tsvangirai on the other hand, stood his ground defending the appointments and was backed by Mr Charlton Hwende, Bulawayo East legislator Ms Thabitha Khumalo, Mr Murisi Zwizwai among other officials.
Yesterday’s meeting, according to insiders, was meant to introduce Mr Chamisa and Eng Mudzuri to the standing committee as the newly appointed vice presidents, as part of a process to operationalise their positions.
Mr Gutu yesterday declined to comment on the matter saying: “Meetings of our national standing committee are private and confidential. It will be remiss of me to tell you what happened in that meeting.”
However, sources said sparks started to fly when Ms Khupe protested the presence of Mr Chamisa and Eng Mudzuri in the meeting, arguing that they were not members of the standing committee.
“Soon after prayers and as Tsvangirai was outlining the agenda of the meeting, Khupe protested the presence of Chamisa and Mudzuri, saying they were not supposed to be part of the meeting resulting in a heated exchange between the leaders,” said an MDC-T source.
“Khupe argued that the appointment of the two was illegal and they shouldn’t be allowed in the meeting. Tempers flared as the meeting was divided into two camps with the national chairman, Gutu, Mwonzora and Bhebhe supporting Khupe while Khumalo, Zwizwai, Thabitha and Hwende among others rallied behind Tsvangirai.
“Ms Khupe said the party would not continue having illegal decisions as Tsvangirai tried in vain to justify the appointment of the two.
“In the melee, Hwende also accused Mwonzora of hiring thugs to beat him up, allegations that the secretary general vehemently denied. ”
Sources said Mr Chamisa and Eng Mudzuri sat quietly in the meeting as Mr Tsvangirai and Ms Khupe squared off while Mr Morgan Komichi and Ms Paurina Mupariwa also did not take part in the argument. Mrs Theresa Makone was absent. “After a heated exchange of almost 20 minutes, Tsvangirai adjourned the meeting saying they were failing to get anywhere over the matter.
“He said the issue of the appointments would be referred to the party’s national council and national executive for discussion and endorsement,’’ said the source.
“Tsvangirai didn’t mention when exactly the two organs will meet but they are expected to meet as early as next week.”
Some party members last week approached the courts seeking the reversal of the two appointments of Mr Chamisa and Eng Mudzuri, arguing that Mr Tsvangirai breached the party constitution.
Mr Tsvangirai, diagnosed with colon cancer recently, through the appointments is said to be trying to manage the party’s succession wars that threaten to tear apart the country’s main opposition party.
Mr Chamisa is believed to be leading a faction engaged in a succession war with another faction led by Ms Khupe.
Last night, there were reports of a planned urgent chamber application in the High Court seeking an order to interdict Mr Chamisa and Eng Mudzuri from taking up the positions.