Tsvangirai: Heroic leader who left mess for others behind him


Share on Whats App

I am going to pull a Lameck here and say that the leadership mess and subsequent tremors that visited upon the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) in recent months, were caused by none other than the late party leader Morgan Tsvangirai himself!

While it is true that Tsvangirai’s courage and commitment to democracy were exemplary and he acquitted himself well in general in his leadership journey, it cannot be denied that the genesis of the rabid jostling for power within the democratic movement can be traced back to his appointment of two additional vice presidents in a party that already had a congressionally-elected deputy president.

A question to ask upfront is: Did the appointment of two additional vice presidents solve or create problems?

It may have sought to address some capacity gaps, but it also created more problems than it solved. It pit colleagues against each other and bred competition rather than cooperation while unity became a casualty as stability was sacrificed.

It may have sought to provide alternative leadership to a party that had expressed itself a certain way in voting for a deputy, but the resultant infighting may yet breed long lasting fissures within the party. It’s doubtful that, that would be a legacy one would like to leave behind, but leave it he has.

According to Job Sikhala, an MDC party official, who spoke publicly and according to others who have whispered it in private or in hush hush tones, Tsvangirai did not have confidence in the competence of his top leadership. He felt it needed buttressing especially against the backdrop of his ill health.

While gap analysis and plugging of identified gaps and strengthening of capacities are all positive substance of leadership, the manner in which Tsvangirai dealt with the issue, left a lot to be desired. It stands to reason that the then president of the party, in the execution of said decision, left an awesome amount of loose ends and repercussions.

As I peel this onion of the decision and action Tsvangirai made to add more cooks to the broth, several anomalies emerge.

Firstly, it complicated the succession issue. Succession issues are problematic even in instances where there is one deputy, gets worse when there are two possibles, let alone when you have three. It was always going to come to this messy end. It was a recipe for disaster and yours truly pointed it out at the time.  That having three vice presidents was recipe for disaster.

Secondly, Tsvangirai unashamedly played the avoidance card. Time of reckoning was always going to come where one out of the three would have to be singled out and come out front. We were always going to arrive at this point of noise and fighting in the cockpit. Yet, Tsvangirai avoided making the decision.

Thirdly, Tsvangirai passed the buck. The responsibility to single out one of the three, he left for others to deal with. Now the three were left to battle it out.

In the same manner, fourthly, the burden of telling the top leadership in general and deputy president Thokozani Khupe in particular, at the time of making the fateful decision, that their capacity was not up to par, whether on grounds of lack of wide grassroots support, whether on reason of lack of nationwide appeal, or gender, or lack of whatever it was Tsvangirai and his kitchen cabinet looked at, Tsvangirai neglected and in hindsight dumped on others to deal with after he was gone. Dereliction of duty, anyone?

Fifthly, the same stroke of ‘supposed genius’ Tsvangirai used to elevate and strengthen some entities within the party, he also used to undermine and weaken others. There is no denying that following the addition of two other colleagues at the same rung of leadership as her, Khupe was undermined. To a considerable extent.

Number 6,  By introducing two more players at the deputy level, Tsvangirai was in essence saying that the party in general, and those that voted for Khupe as deputy at the 2014 congress, had in fact erred in supposing that Khupe could stand in for him in his absence. And that in the powers vested in him, he could undo it in a decision and have the decisions rubber stamped by National Council and other higher up structures.

Last and seventh point, we could say, Tsvangirai sought to ‘right a wrong’ he himself had facilitated, when in a moment in November 2014, he had moved to put the brakes on the ambitious Chamisa who had thrust himself in an almost successful bid for the party’s secretary general position. At the time he had wanted the young man stopped and cast out of power.

And in 2016 upon learning of his illness and facing his own mortality, had decided to bring the young man closer? If that could explain, Chamisa’s surprise rise to the presidium, what about Elias Mudzuri’s rise? How do we explain Mudzuri’s own rise to vice president? Just how many alternatives did Tsvangirai want to provide and who did he want to have to make the call? When? Certainly not himself, it turned out!

 It has now been up to others still around to tell or show Khupe that you are not up for the leadership.  Talk about an action delayed. An action postponed.

It was always going to come to this and were always going to arrive at this point, but the late Tsvangirai, may he rest in peace, would not be bothered with it during his time.

Apparently the dear leader did not care enough what happened to this resolve this recipe of the three, after all he would be gone.

It might have been a case of the end justifying the means, but here we are. The end is yet to be justified.

And can the ensuing internal ruptures be mended and healed? Time will tell.

Facebook Comments

About Peeling the Onion with Mai Juju

Recommended for you