Cape Town – Ailing Zimbabwean opposition leader, Morgan Tsvangirai's spokesperson, has said that the former trade unionist is "the only appointing authority" within the embattled Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party.
In an interview with News24 on Thursday, Luke Tamborinyoka reiterated that Nelson Chamisa had been appointed the acting party leader until Tsvangirai, who was currently receiving medical treatment in South Africa returned home.
"The president appoints the acting president and it's him who has appointed Advocate Nelson Chamisa. He [Chamisa] will act until the president returns. Meanwhile,the president remains unwell but stable," said Tamborinyoka.
This came amid conflicting reports this week regarding Chamisa's appointment as the acting party president.
According to New Zimbabwe.com, Tsvangirai had denied appointing Chamisa as the acting leader of the party.
The report quoted Tsvangirai as saying that Elias Mudzuru, who was also one of his three deputies remained the party's acting leader.
Tsvangirai denied issuing a statement through his spokesperson announcing Chamisa's appointment, the report said.
"I have been advised of communication being circulated within the party and the public generally regarding changes to MDC-T authority levels. This communication is false as I have made no such changes in the roles and responsibilities of MDC-T VPs," the ailing opposition leader reportedly said in a statement.
But, in what appeared to be a widening rift within the party, Tamborinyoka said he was the only officially appointed spokesperson of the long time opposition leader.
He said that there had been needless furor over his statement communicating Tsvangirai's position that Chamisa was now the acting party leader.
Tamborinyoka, however, downplayed fractures within the opposition party, saying that "diversity of opinions does not amount to rifts. its democracy".
"I wish to state that the stampede in the cockpit is needless and unnecessary. The president remains unwell but stable. Our behaviour and deportment in these trying times for our president must enhance the towering brand of Morgan Tsvangirai and not seek to undermine it. Unfortunately, this needless stampede is disrespectful of his wife and family as well as the towering edifice brand Tsvangirai that has inspired Zimbabweans over the years," said Tamborinyoka.
Meanwhile, former finance minister, Tendai Biti's party had reportedly thrown its weight behind Chamisa.
"We categorically state that we support his (Tsvangirai's) decision to appoint advocate Nelson Chamisa to represent him as the acting leader of the alliance even if it means acting up to the time of the nomination court and beyond unless advised otherwise by Dr Morgan Richard Tsvangirai," New Zimbabwe.com quoted PDP secretary general, Settlement Chikwinya as saying.
PDP was one of several opposition parties that rallied behind Tsvangirai as the face of a recently formed coalition to challenge the ruling Zanu-PF party in the forthcoming polls.
Indications were that internal feuding over Tsvangirai’s successor was threatening to tear the party apart ahead of crucial general elections in which new President Emmerson Mnangagwa has vowed a clean sweep.
According to All Africa.com, Elias Mudzuri and Chamisa have in recent days clashed over who was senior - given that they were both acting in different capacities, with critics arguing that Tsvangirai could have exacerbated the situation by giving the two almost identical powers.
Chamisa was the party's principal regarding the coalition while his counterpart was appointed the party's acting president last month.
Also, another co-vice president, Thokozani Khupe, was reportedly at loggerheads with Chamisa.
Khupe was, all along, the only vice president until Tsvangirai appointed both Chamisa and Mudzuri last year.
Social media users took to Twitter to air their views, with some jokingly calling for a military intervention similar to the one that resulted in the ouster of ex-president Robert Mugabe.
Some users also pointed out similarities in Mugabe and Tsvangirai's short comings in dealing with their successions.
Is there anyone who can target the criminals around Tsvangirai? This is getting farcical pic.twitter.com/l4Y1tIFveU
— Nqaba Matshazi (@nqabamatshazi) February 8, 2018
Tsvangirai & Bob both failed dismally at succession management. There's now a circus in MDC-T, and Bob left by coup!
— Chofamba (@Chofamba) February 7, 2018
We can't blame the Junta.. Tsvangirai sidelined Khupe way before the Junta. MDC was undemocratic way b4 ED. Welsh left because Morgan didn't follow council decisions. People ignored these makings of a dictator out of Mugabe hatred. The culture runs deep in the "Democratic" partys
— Fermion (@JOE23RANCHO) February 8, 2018
MDC-T succession/leadership issue getting really messy. Who is the annointed heir? Chamisa or Mudzuri? Two conflicting statements in one day??????????????? Does the MDC-T need to hire the army to remove the 'opportunistic criminals' around Mr. Tsvangirai? pic.twitter.com/dIWMoZDx3y
— Violet Gonda (@violetgonda) February 7, 2018
It only makes sense that @nelsonchamisa acts in both capacities. There is 100% logic and zero politics in that move. This was again communicated officially by @luke_tambo and is the order of the day. Now, I know that the fake letter could come from anyone bent on destruction...
— Morgan Tsvangirai (@mrtsvangirai) February 8, 2018