Tsvangirai: Democrat Or Dictator?

By Sij Ncube

Harare, July 19, 2016 – MDC T leader, Morgan Tsvangirai’s elevation of Nelson Chamisa and Elias Mudzuri as co-vice presidents of the main opposition has once again brought his democratic credentials to the fore amid fears his latest gamble could lead to the party’s third split since formation 17 years ago.

Tsvangirai last Friday unilaterally fostered the two MDC-T national council members into the party presidium in which Thokozani Khupe was lone VP.

The former prime minister was adamant the development was meant to embolden the party while he recovers from colon cancer.  

In announcing the appointments, Tsvangirai said it was in line with a directive given to him by the party national executive council.

“The two will join Honourable Khuphe in assisting me in the execution of my responsibilities and preparing the party for the next election,” he told the press at his Highlands home last Friday.

But debate has ensured on the legality of the appointments and its possible effect on party stability amid speculation Khuphe was angry over the development.

Rumours and speculation of yet another possible split reminiscent to the two infamous splits of 2005 and 2013 are swirling with critics adamant Tsvangirai has once again returned to his alleged dictatorial tendencies.

While his spin-doctors have been at pains to defend the appointments claiming they were above board and reproach, critics however, point out that when Welshman Ncube and Tendai Biti broke away from Tsvangirai in 2005 and 2013 respectively, they cited dictatorial

Tsvangirai, the critics maintain, has a knack for making unilateral appointments at the risk of sowing seeds of divisions, tribalism and regionalism.

The critics added that if it is true Tsvangirai did not consult Khuphe or other members of the MDC-T’s top six, it dovetailed with claims by a former US diplomat “he (Tsvangirai) takes advice from the last person he has met” and needed hand-holding.

Political analyst Ricky Mukonza says Tsvangirai’s democratic credentials have been put to another severe test once more.

“The perception created by is that Morgan Tsvangirai is a dictator and it is his choices rather than a collective decision of MDC-T leadership that carries the party forward. In my opinion, elevating someone already in the top six would have a better move in the interim.

Alternatively, calling for a special congress would have been an option.

“As it stands, these two (Chamisa and Mudzuri) are seen as products of some elite consensus and not grass-root choice.”

Bhekithemba Mhlanga, an analyst based in the United Kingdom concurred.

“Tsvangirai is at it again,” he said, referring to his unilateral decision in October 2005 to pull his party out of the Senate elections which were being reintroduced by government then.

Supporters of Khuphe alleged Tsvangirai and his inner cabinet are bent on thwarting the rise of the Matabeleland based politician, charges the MDC-T leader flatly denies.

But Mukonza cautioned against underestimating the dynamics of Zimbabwean politics.

“Chamisa and Mudzuri are both Karangas, why settle for them ahead of senior cadres from other tribes.”

Questions abound how then does the MDC-T distinguish itself from Zanu PF that heavily relies on decisions of President Robert Mugabe.


The state media has also used the occasion to vilifying Tsvangirai over what it views as a hare-brained decision.