Zvamaida Murwira Senior Reporter
The MDC-T national council yesterday controversially elevated the party’s co-vice-president Mr Nelson Chamisa to be the opposition party’s substantive leader and gave a seven-day ultimatum to his counterpart Dr Thokozani Khupe to engage or face dismissal.
Addressing journalists after the national council meeting, MDC-T deputy national chairperson Mr Morgan Komichi said the party’s spokesperson Mr Obert Gutu had been suspended.
The party gave a seven-day ultimatum to Dr Khupe together with party national chairperson, Mr Lovemore Moyo and organising secretary Mr Abednigo Bhebhe to engage Mr Chamisa.
There is an ugly fight in the MDC-T over who succeeds Mr Tsvangirai, who succumbed to cancer of the colon in a South African hospital a fortnight ago and was buried last week at his rural home in Buhera.
All the three vice presidents — Mr Chamisa, Dr Khupe and Engineer Elias Mudzuri — claim that they were acting presidents of the party.
Dr Khupe argues that Mr Tsvangirai told her counterparts that she should act as party leader at all times in his absence.
The fights intensified at the burial of Mr Tsvangirai, where Dr Khupe, secretary general Mr Douglas Mwonzora and Mr Bhebhe were assaulted by party activists, who threatened to torch a hut in which they had taken refuge.
In his address, Mr Komichi said the national council had sat as congress to make Mr Chamisa substantive leader until 2019 when all party positions would be up for grabs.
“That in line with Article 18 as read together with Article 9.2.1 of the party constitution, the party through the national council has resolved that Honourable Nelson Chamisa is confirmed as the party’s substantive leader and the party’s presidential candidate for 2018,” said Mr Komichi.
“That the party has given seven days for engagement processes to take place with senior leaders VP Khupe, national chairperson Lovemore Moyo and organising secretary Abednigo Bhebhe after which the party has mandated the leadership to take the necessary action by operation of law.
“That party spokesperson Obert Gutu is suspended pending internal disciplinary processes and in the meantime deputy spokesperson Honourable Thabitha Khumalo becomes the acting party spokesperson.”
Responding through her personal assistant, Mr Witness Dube, Dr Khupe said she had not yet seen the resolutions, while Mr Gutu rubbished the suspension.
“I am a trained legal mind and I am not in the habit of responding to issues when I have not been formally furnished with the letter of suspension,” he said. “In the interim, I am extremely busy running my law practice and I am absolutely enjoying it.
“My political career is continuing. My conscience is clear and my focus cannot be better than what it is right now.”
Mr Gutu recently announced his decision to resign from the party citing endemic violence.
Mr Komichi said the party had named Harvest House, the party’s head office to Morgan Richard Tsvangirai House, in honour of Mr Tsvangirai.
Asked why the party had not resolved to go for an extraordinary congress, Mr Chamisa claimed that what they had done was within the party constitution.
“These are the leaders, these are the owners of the party,” said Mr Chamisa.
Yesterday’s national council meeting was carried out amid toying toying by MDC-T youths, who were singing praise songs for Mr Chamisa outside the party office.
Some party senior officials, who preferred anonymity, described the atmosphere as intimidatory for those with divergent views.