MUTARE — Movement for Democratic Change (MDC-T) leader Morgan Tsvangirai found his party’s election rally in Rusape, in Zimbabwe’s Manicaland province, boycotted by the party’s provincial leadership on Tuesday in protest against his entering into a coalition with another party.
Mr Tsvangirai has entered into a coalition with the Mavambo-Kusile-Dawn party, whose leader, Simba Makoni, a former finance minister for President Robert Mugabe, hails from Manicaland. Mr Tsvangirai has called on all opposition parties to come together to increase their chance of unseating Mr Mugabe.
Mr Makoni chose not to run as a presidential candidate, opting to support Mr Tsvangirai. In return Mr Tsvangirai has dumped his own party’s candidate to support Mr Makoni’s run for parliament in the Makoni Central constituency.
Mr Tsvangirai asked his candidate, Patrick Sagandira, to withdraw his candidature in favour of Mr Makoni. This move raised the ire of the province’s leadership.
While Mr Tsvangirai was addressing the rally, MDC-T’s provincial information and publicity secretary, Pishai Muchauraya, was addressing another rally in protest — barely 30km from Mr Tsvangirai’s own rally.
Provincial executive members, led by chairman Julius Magarangoma, snubbed the rally in Rusape.
Sources said the Manicaland provincial executive members, who boycotted the rally, had the backing of secretary-general Tendai Biti, who was planning to take over from Mr Tsvangirai during the party’s congress in 2016.
“The provincial executive members got an instruction from Biti to boycott Tsvangirai’s rally in Makoni Central. Biti is against the coalition and wants to humiliate Tsvangirai at all costs,” they said.
Addressing the rally, Mr Tsvangirai said: “I was sent by the national standing committee of my party to negotiate with other political parties — so that we don’t make the same mistake of splitting votes like we did in 2008.
“In Chipinge Central (constituency), because our members were fighting there, we put Reketayi Semwayo from Zanu Ndonga, and here in Makoni Central (constituency) there is Simba Makoni.”
Mr Tsvangirai was heckled by the crowd, however, who openly told him that their choice was Mr Sagandira and not Mr Makoni.
An adamant Mr Tsvangirai said there was no reason why Mr Sagandira would defy his instructions. “I called Sagandira and had a word with him … (He) thought I was joking with him and has remained adamant.”
Mr Tsvangirai said he was not imposing candidates, but advocating for change in the country through a united front.
Mr Sagandira said he would not stand down, which could lead to a split vote in the constituency. In the Chikanga-Dangamvura constituency, human rights lawyer Arnold Tsunga has also refused to step down to make way for Giles Mutsekwa, an ally of Mr Tsvangirai.