Youth assembly fears MDC split

HARARE - Our senior reporter Mugove Tafirenyika speaks to MDC national youth assembly secretary-general Lovemore Chinoputsa about the intense jostling for the president’s position in the MDC to replace Morgan Tsvangirai, who has hinted at his possible retirement anytime soon.

Q: Since Tsvangirai’s announcement that he was considering retirement, things have not been well in the MDC youth assembly, where you, in particular, have been accused by your colleagues of receiving bribes by some party leaders angling to succeed Tsvangirai.

A: There are no divisions among us. As far as I know, the youth assembly is very clear that our candidate for this year’s election is Tsvangirai. I don’t recall any meeting that we sat to discuss his succession so I don’t know where the issue of division is coming from when the matter has not been discussed.

Q: The divisions were probably triggered by Tsvangirai’s statement that seemed to suggest that he was going to take a rest.

A: For now, Tsvangirai remains our president until such a time he decides that he is stepping down.

Q: Probably I must be a bit clearer about where I am coming from. There are allegations that you were paid money, something like $ 8 000 to buy a car by some politicians to influence the youth assembly not to back MDC vice president Nelson Chamisa from taking over should Tsvangirai quit.

A: There is no reason for the youth assembly to block anyone, especially someone who is a former leader of the of the assembly. If he presents himself for leadership, it will be debated according to what the youth assembly of the day thinks about him. I want to say that we are never going to be focusing on personalities

On the issue of money and canvassing for support, if it has happened, it has not reached my ears and I have not received anything from anyone for that purpose.  We are not going to allow ourselves as the youth assembly to be bought.

People might not have expected that the assembly would refuse being manipulated but we agreed when we were elected at congress that we were not going to be bullied by anyone.

So, probably when we begin to speak to issues of principle, leaders may think we have dumped them or we no longer move with them. The fact is that it was the decision of the youth assembly that we were not going to favour anyone as a matter of principle and they better get used to this.

What we have been saying as the youth assembly is that why can’t we consider succession issues after elections to avoid destablising the party before people vote.

This could lead to a split and we don’t want that to happen. There is jostling across the factions already and it is not safe.

Q:  But how do you hope to avoid looking for his successor when it is Tsvangirai who caused that by revealing his intention and even saying its “imminent”?

A: For me, “imminent” may mean anytime, even two, three years.

Q: But it could also mean today, immediately?

A:  When he finally gives us the leeway, we will start the process, but now, he has not clearly said he is going. We are not running away from the reality that one day or the other he will go. When he said that, he was considering that option, he was merely stating the obvious that at some point, not necessarily now, he will hand over power to the younger generation although he did not specify how young is younger.

Q: There are three VPs in the party, including Thokozani Khupe, Chamisa and Elias Mudzuri. Who among them would you prefer as youths?

A: The fact that the VPs are there speaks to their capacity and that Tsvangirai has confidence in them. We have seen the work that they have done, so they are really capable. So, when the time comes, they will be considered in terms of what they offer.

Q: All the internal contradictions in the MDC will certainly have an impact on the health of the MDC Alliance. What has been the effect so far?

A: The Alliance came into being on the basis of principle and not Tsvangirai, so it is that principle that speaks to our desire to avoid vote splitting, that is what guides us. So, despite what is happening in the MDC, the Alliance is very sound.

All we need to do in the MDC is to follow our constitution in terms of coming up with new leadership should the need arise.

Q: What does the MDC constitution say?

A: The constitution says the president should be replaced within one year if he leaves office by incapacitation. The MDC is a democratic party and anyone who wants to be president should subject themselves to the people, who will then make a determination on who should lead. But  it’s not limited to the three vice presidents, its open to anyone in the party who has ambition  and is qualified.

When the time comes, we are going to sit down as an institution and interrogate those people who will have expressed a desire to lead.

We will definitely not shy away from making a decision on who we will back as an assembly of the youths.

We are going to sit down, reflect on every candidate and come up with the person we think is ideal  and we will give reasons for our choice.

We will, however, not block individual youth assembly members from making their own personal decisions in terms of who they want, so this is going to be an open process.


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