OPPOSITION MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai has reportedly gone into a panic mode amid reports that former Vice-President Joice Mujuru’s People First (PF) project had launched a massive membership recruitment drive countrywide targeting disgruntled members of his party and the ruling Zanu PF.
Top MDC-T insiders said Tsvangirai, who has dominated politics since transforming himself from a trade unionist to an opposition leader in 1999, fears that Mujuru could steal his thunder and emerge more popular ahead of the 2018 elections.
The officials told NewsDay yesterday that the former Premier summoned his party’s Harare provincial leadership on Sunday to his Highlands house “to discuss important issues”, including the shake-up caused by the emergence of Mujuru’s party.
“The party’s top eight across all structures, from the youth wing, main body and women’s assembly, was summoned to the president (Tsvangirai)’s home on Sunday and matters under discussion included reports of defections to PF. The leadership of the party is very worried not only about the reports, but also about the way PF has handled the issue,” a senior MDC-T provincial member said.
“PF has presented some activists, for example, the People’s Democratic Party, as coming from the MDC-T and that has impacted negatively on the party.”
MDC-T Harare provincial chairman Eric Murayi confirmed that he met Tsvangirai over the weekend, but “not as a group”.
“I am the one who met the president. If we had wanted to meet as a group, like you say, we would not have done that at his house. Harvest House (MDC-T headquarters) is more ideal,” Murayi said.
Although MDC-T spokesperson Obert Gutu could neither deny nor confirm, NewsDay understands that Tsvangirai had been forced into emergence meetings by Mujuru’s move.
“President Morgan Tsvangirai is an extremely busy man since he is the chief executive officer of Zimbabwe’s main opposition party. He runs the party on a day-to-day basis. As such, he is always meeting with various organs of the party. The MDC-T is the government-in-waiting and our party leader is very determined to ensure that party structures are well-oiled and well-drilled as we prepare to democratically take over State power,” Gutu said.
This comes amid reports that Tsvangirai was making overtures to directly engage Mujuru for a possible coalition.
The two leaders have not yet formally met over their proposed grand coalition although their emissaries have held several meetings aimed at finding common ground.
PF interim spokesperson Rugare Gumbo told NewsDay yesterday Tsvangirai had no reason to panic over Mujuru as they were both fighting a common enemy – Zanu PF. Gumbo recently said a meeting of the two leaders would be organised as soon as PF has been officially launched.
“They have not complained to me personally or officially to us, but they maybe complaining to some people. They (MDC-T) are not happy that their members are joining us, but it must be understood that whoever is now identifying with us has been attracted by our brand, the product we have put out to the people thus far.
“However, I must say the MDC-T has no need to worry because we are fighting the same enemy, the same system, but people will always make choices at any given time given what would have been presented before them. We are not approaching people. In fact, most of them are approaching us,” Gumbo said.
Media reports in the past two weeks have claimed a host of loyalists from MDC-T, Zanu PF and other opposition parties were ready to jump ship and join Mujuru’s fledgling, but yet-to-be-launched party. PF is currently a loose coalition of former Zanu PF stalwarts axed from the ruling party in brutal fashion in the run-up to and aftermath of the 2014 congress as succession wars gnawed at the former liberation movement.
It has also emerged that Hebson Makuvise – reportedly a relative of the former Prime Minister and one-time Zimbabwean ambassador to Germany during the inclusive government – has been meeting “disgruntled former MPs” as well as officials from PF to stem the tide.
The insiders told NewsDay that: “Makuvise has met (Didymus) Mutasa (former Presidential Affairs minister and ex-Zanu PF secretary for administration) and firebrand former Zanu PF Masvingo provincial chairperson Dzikamai Mavhaire over the defections. The issue is PF is an opposition party and should not be seen to be destabilising other opposition parties.
Instead, they should be seen to be strengthening the opposition.”
Gutu said Makuvise was a senior party staffer seconded to Tsvangirai’s office, hence was tasked with assisting the party leader.
“Ambassador Hebson Makuvise is one of the directors who work in the office of the president. Of course, he does assist the president in carrying out duties as assigned to him from time to time. Let me reiterate that the MDC-T is willing and able to collaborate with all other democratic political parties in Zimbabwe that are working to create a peaceful and stable country where all people can prosper,”Gutu said.
Mujuru’s PF has reportedly also rocked President Robert Mugabe’s Zanu PF party after her whirlwind tour of the country meeting interim party structures whose membership was a mixture of former and serving MPs from across the political divide as well as other influential activists from different political persuasions.-AMH