THOUSANDS of MDC-T supporters thronged the open space in central Harare near the Rotten Row Magistrates’ Court to bid farewell to the late veteran trade unionist and opposition leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, but the event morphed into a near campaign rally for acting party president, Nelson Chamisa.
Chamisa is locked in a bitter internal power tussle with fellow vice-presidents Thokozani Khupe and Elias Mudzuri.
Khupe and Mudzuri sat stone-faced with the former even failing to acknowledge Chamisa after he gave the main speech in which the MDC-T acting president not only called for unity, but warned “the people will get rid of you if you do not listen to their voice”.
Time and again, the sea of red that covered what is commonly referred to as Freedom Square broke into chants of “Chamisa, Chamisa, Chamisa” and booed other senior leaders like secretary-general, Douglas Mwonzora and Khupe when they were introduced.
Tsvangirai’s eldest son Edwin implored the party to respect the family’s wishes and allow them to mourn their father.
“The struggle continues, but we hope you will respect the family and not draw us into political fights. We also hope the party establishes an academy to groom future leaders and cadres to carry the wishes our father forward,” he said.
The crowd demanded that one of the late MDC-T leader’s sons, Richard, who reportedly endorsed Chamisa as party president on Sunday speak. After consultations and a long wait, Richard, spoke sending the crowd into a frenzy.
“Our wish is that his [Tsvangirai’s] legacy be protected. It can only be protected through a free and fair election as well as a violence-free campaign,” he said while whipping the youth into delirium with his slogans.
Zambian Congress of Trade Unions representative, Clarkson Chimenda, called for unity in honour of Tsvangirai, who he said had chosen to “work with the devil”, in reference to former President Robert Mugabe.
“I had advised him not to join the unity government, but he was stubborn but democratic. He said the man [Mugabe] had tried to kill him arguing ‘revenge is God’s’. He told me he did not want to be president at any costs, but wanted proper democracy for his motherland.
“To Chamisa and the other leaders, do not share your chickens before you catch the hyena. Have a common goal to save Zimbabwe,” he said.
Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions president, Peter Mutasa said Tsvangirai was a national hero and president of Zimbabwe.
“Everyone knew that he won the elections in 2008. He is president of the republic. We will not allow anyone to distort our history.
“We will not impose a leader on the MDC-T, but respect its members’ wishes. However, we will impose an ideology on the party, which should be pro-working class,” he said.
Namibian opposition leader McHenry Venaani, of the Popular Democratic Movement, described Tsvangirai as a “doyen” in the fight for democracy.