Pressure on Zimbabwe opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai
to quit has risen as senior members of his party debate whether
to call an early congress to decide on his future after losing
three presidential elections.
Tsvangirai, 61, has led the Movement for Democratic Change
(MDC) since it was formed in 1999 to challenge President
Robert Mugabe - the sole ruler since the former Rhodesia
gained independence from Britain in 1980 - and his ZANU-PF
But the ex-labour union leader has failed to dislodge the
89-year-old Mugabe in three elections, although none of them
was free or fair according to the MDC and Western observers.
MDC deputy treasurer Elton Mangoma sent an open letter to
Tsvangirai this week asking him to step down, arguing that he
had failed to push through reforms while in a four-year
power-sharing government with Mugabe.
"It is my unbending resolve that leadership renewal...could
be the only avenue to restoring the credibility of the party
lest it risks being confined to history," Mangoma said.
He also accused MDC officials in the unity government formed
after a disputed election in 2008 of accumulating personal
Friday's debate by the MDC executive ended with a decision
not to hold an early party congress because there was "no
leadership crisis" now, but leaving open the possibility of
the larger, MDC national council to decide the matter at its
next sitting, party spokesman Douglas Mwonzora told Reuters.
Previous moves to bring forward the congress have failed in
the last six months. The next 3,000-member congress, normally
held every 5 years, is set for 2016. Even if it were
advanced, analysts predict a drawn-out leadership contest
that is likely further to weaken or divide the MDC.
The MDC, evicted from the coalition government after its
crushing defeat in last year's parliamentary election, is
split over whether to dump Tsvangirai before the next vote in
While accusing ZANU-PF of violence and vote-rigging to keep
power, some MDC officials say Tsvangirai has been damaged by
sex scandals and often outsmarted by Mugabe, Africa's oldest
Tsvangirai's camp says Mangoma is a Trojan horse for MDC
Secretary-General and former finance minister Tendai Biti,
who denies he is manoeuvring to succeed Tsvangirai, but who
has not come out publicly in his support.
Diplomats say Tsvangirai's foes may have made a tactical
blunder by disclosing that he has been offered a $3 million
golden handshake, making it difficult for him to accept.
"They should have handled some of this stuff privately to
preserve his dignity," said an diplomat from a neighbouring
country. "They might actually wake up a lot weaker if he digs
in and the whole thing turns into a mess."