Tsvangirai forgives rebels

HARARE - Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai yesterday extended an olive branch to internal rebels pushing for his ouster as he welcomed the party’s prodigal son Job Sikhala back into the movement.

The MDC leader told a press conference at the party’s Harvest House headquarters that all party officials needed to be in one big tent as the party fights for positive change in the lives of the people of Zimbabwe.

He said he was not a hostage to “revenge”, in the wake of a decision by his party to suspend a senior official who had asked the opposition leader to quit, a move which has divided a party recovering from a devastating election defeat last year.

Tsvangirai dismissed as exaggeration, the widely-held perception that the MDC was on the verge of collapse following his public fallout with ex-deputy treasurer-general Elton Mangoma and secretary-general Tendai Biti.

“There may appear to be a crisis in the cockpit but that is going to be solved by the leadership,” Tsvangirai said.

“If that is sorted out, I think that will permeate to the grassroots.”

The former premier diffused speculation that the absence of Biti at the press conference was Tsvangirai forgives rebels an indication that the rift in the party was widening.

Amid a messy public spat, Tsvangirai’s die-hard loyalists have been baying for Biti’s blood, with some of the leaders suspected of plotting the former premier’s ouster, now scared to visit the party’s headquarters.

Although the “rebels” who include youth leaders Solomon Madzore and Promise Mkwananzi were conspicuously absent at the press conference, Biti had chaired the party’s finance and administration meeting earlier at the same location.

“Today, we obliterate the premature obituaries of this great movement,” Tsvangirai said.

“We showcase the dexterity with which we have outmanoeuvred our political opponents who have underestimated our capacity to organise a common front of one big family of fighters for democratic change.

“We are not there yet but today’s reunion is a good start,” he said referring to the return of Sikhala and Joubert Mudzumwe — a seasoned trade unionist.

“We take this opportunity to send a clear message that our democratic struggle is still on track. We have agreed with these two gentlemen and many others that together, we are bigger, better and more formidable.

“Through this homecoming by our colleagues in the struggle, we confound sceptics and put to shame the perception of MDC as a party in turmoil and a movement in disintegration.

“This party is alive in spite of the negative energy that seeks to dampen the people’s spirits and to dash their hopes and aspirations.

“Some have mistaken the robust debate in this party as a sign of disintegration but I want to assure you that we continue working towards achieving unity so that we become bigger and better as a credible alternative.”

Sikhala, whose return to the MDC triggered celebrations by the party’s rank-and-file, asked Tsvangirai to forgive those who had sent him an open letter in January asking him to resign, in order to build a formidable movement.

Apart from revealing that he had tea with Tsvangirai on Wednesday, Sikhala said he met other MDC leaders who he said were complaining over issues of constitutionalism.

“Great statesmen are judged by their ability to forgive,” Sikhala said.

“I urge the president to have a heart like that of Nelson Mandela in order to forgive. It doesn’t help us to add, yet subtract at the same time. Let us be driven by the spirit of Mandela to forgive.”

In an apparent response to Sikhala’s call, Tsvangirai said he “cannot be captive to revenge.”

“Why should we be trapped in past grievances kuita sekuti takatorerana vakadzi (we don’t have to behave as if we are fighting over women),” Sikhala said.

The veteran trade unionist said his public call for all parties to unite was genuine, saying that he does not have a brief to go out and meet other leaders as demanded by other opposition forces.

Tsvangirai, who revealed that he has had meetings with Mavambo/Kusile/Dawn president Simba Makoni, said he was friends with National Constitutional Assembly leader Lovemore Madhuku and will engage him as well.

Sikhala said he had made the right decision, despite attempts by some in “business and politics and even the church” to cast aspersions on his path back to the party he founded along with others in 1999.

“Many people have been waiting for this day, when they are given a present that they have been yearning for,” said a beaming Sikhala.

Lavishing praises on Tsvangirai, whom he said was a democrat who was sincere about the unity of opposition forces, Sikhala said he has rejoined the party in order to reinvigorate it and ensure that it wins elections in 2018.

“We are taking the MDC back to the spirit of 1999 and we will be unstoppable,” Sikhala said.

“The hour is now. The dictator must start panicking. 2018 is far and many things are going to change. Hero basa vadictator tovuyako.” (Dictator, here we come).

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