Mourners attend the funeral of Movement For Democratic Change leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, in Buhera, Zimbabwe February 20 2018. Picture: REUTERS/PHILIMON BULAWAYO
Mourners attend the funeral of Movement For Democratic Change leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, in Buhera, Zimbabwe February 20 2018. Picture: REUTERS/PHILIMON BULAWAYO

Harare — Several senior officials belonging to Zimbabwe’s opposition Movement for Democratic Change were chased away from Morgan Tsvangirai’s burial in Buhera on Tuesday as the party’s succession fight reached unprecedented heights.

One of the vice-presidents‚ Nelson Chamisa‚ took control of the party presidency through a hastily arranged national council meeting a day after Tsvangirai’s death last week. This effectively shut out the other two deputies‚ Thokozani Khupe and Elias Mudzuri‚ who both claim leadership of the party.

At the Tsvangirai homestead in Hamunikwa village in the Buhera area‚ youths carrying bricks and other objects called for Khupe’s head and that of party secretary-general Douglas Mwonzora. The two were eventually escorted out of the premises by Zimbabwe Republic Police, for their own safety.

Khupe and Mwonzora differ with Chamisa in that they want an extraordinary congress to elect a new party leader. However‚ during the memorial service‚ attended by thousands in Harare on Monday‚ Chamisa took charge of proceedings and declared himself leader.

"We have done what is necessary to make sure there is no leadership vacuum in the party. We did what was perfectly constitutional‚" he said amid cheers from the crowd. Chamisa also warned that those who go against him would be expelled. "As leaders, you are like caps on a head and can be removed when the owner is fed up. So be careful."

The succession fight in the party has since sucked in members of Tsvangirai’s family‚ with some siding with Chamisa and others opting between Khupe and Mudzuri.

At the memorial service‚ Richard Tsvangirai Jr openly endorsed Chamisa as the rightful heir to his father’s role in the party. But his grandmother‚ Lydia Chibwe‚ on the arrival of her son’s corpse in Harare from SA, threatened to commit suicide if Chamisa and her daughter-in-law‚ Elizabeth‚ attended her son’s and burial and wake.

Chibwe refused to disembark from the hearse carrying Tsvangirai’s casket to the memorial service in Harare.

Of the three vice-presidents‚ only Khupe was elected by the party’s congress in 2014. The other two were appointed by Tsvangirai in 2016 when he felt Khupe had gained sufficient political capital to challenge him.

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