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The leadership renewal debate reverberating within the troubled Movement for Democratic Change (MDC-T) has taken another peculiar twist with suspended deputy treasurer-general Elton Mangoma declaring this week that he is ready to assume the party’s apex position in the event that the movement’s membership repose its faith in him, the Financial Gazette can exclusively reveal.

All along, Mangoma – who joined the then united MDC in 2000 – had kept his ambitions close to his chest. His line of argument both in public and in private conversations with Morgan Tsvangirai, the founding father of the MDC-T, has all along been that the former premier has done his part and should now hand over power to a successor, especially in the wake of his widely publicised turbulent sex life and underwhelming performance in the unity government.

Tsvangirai has squared off with President Robert Mugabe on three occasions in 2002, 2008 and 2013, losing in all instances. His latest loss by a wide margin has made him a marked man in MDC-T circles. Since the July 2013 polls, Tsvangirai has been fire-fighting calls for leadership renewal, including from some of his trusted lieutenants.

By throwing his hat into the ring, Mangoma adds more mystery to his relationship with Tendai Biti, the MDC-T’s secretary general, whom it had been widely thought he was doing his bidding for. In a way, his open challenge also gives another perspective to the power dynamics in the MDC-T revealing the existence of other centres of power coveting the top post.

Former Harare mayor, Elias Mudzuri became the first MDC-T senior official to declare his ambitions when he told the media last year that if the people decide he should be the next party leader he would gladly accept.

While Biti and MDC-T deputy president Thokozani Khupe have been tight-lipped over the issue, it is common cause that they may not allow rank-outsiders to jump the queue in disregard of hierarchical considerations.

Mangoma spoke to the Financial Gazette on a wide range of issues. He was scathing in his attack of Tsvangirai, ending the interview by throwing his hat into the ring. Asked if he harbours any ambitions for the MDC-T presidency, he said: “It depends on what the people want. I have never gone out to be president of the party, but if that is what the people want, I will take up the opportunity. I will not turn it down”.

Pressed further, if he was indeed ready for the MDC-T presidency, Mangoma had this to say: “I will be ready whenever the people say it,” he said. “Let’s face it here is someone who says I have people. And then you say let’s go to congress and he says no, not yet. So who has the support? If he had the support wouldn’t he have said yes, be my guest. Let have it (congress) tomorrow. Now you want to purge, you want to intimidate,” he added, after being pressed further if he had the grassroots support to overwhelm Tsvangirai.

Mangoma stands accused of moving an agenda for leadership renewal and causing disharmony in the party, which earned him suspension from the party. He currently awaits a disciplinary hearing by an independent tribunal. He is, however, challenging his suspension in court, calling it unconstitutional and having countrywide consultations with the grassroots, all of which are flying in the face of colleague-cum-opponent.

Mangoma is one of the country’s first few black chartered accountants. He was former minister of economic planning and investment promotion in the inclusive government and legislator for Makoni North. Despite a press conference held last week Tuesday where Tsvangirai announced feuding party members had buried a hatchet following some internal turmoil pitting those for leadership renewal versus those in favour of the status it has since emerged that the reverse is true. The leadership renewal team is in fact proceeding with full steam ahead.

“There is a movement within a movement and we are not going to stop at anything,” a central member of the pro-leadership renewal group who spoke on condition of anonymity said.

“We are building and we are definitely getting out. But we are going to do it differently from Welshman (Ncube), differently from everyone else. We are fed up of lies, of duplicity, of personal indiscretions, of lack of decisiveness and of leading the children of Zimbabwe to nowhere. We have wasted people’s time… So we have to form an organisation with a compass to navigate us out of the present wilderness that we are in and Morgan Tsvangirai does not have the capacity.”

Leadership renewal calls surfaced soon after MDC-T lost dismally to ZANU-PF in the July 2013 harmonised elections. While some had expressed muted calls for leadership renewal, it was Mangoma who grabbed the bull by the horns and directly wrote directly to the party leader in a damning letter that was later leaked to the press and triggered a process that led to the author’s suspension.

“We are going ahead,” said Mangoma, hinting at a strategy that would see the renewal group emerge the winners. “I can tell you that 100 percent of the people in the Standing Committee do not support Tsvangirai.” The MDC-T Standing Committee has 13 people including Tsvangirai himself.

“All the other 12 do not want him to continue leading. We may differ on what or we want after, but we all do not want him to continue on,” he said.

Although the idea of Tsvangirai leaving the helm has seized a good many people within and without the party, the argument for his continued leadership has been that he is the only one in the party with enough charisma to appeal to the grassroots. His supposed grassroots support has had scales of public opinion tipping in his favour.

Source : Financial Gazette