AS the body of Zimbabwe’s main opposition leader awaits repatriation home for burial, his party already faces nasty power struggles to replace a man praised by both allies and rivals for his tenacious fight for democracy.

President Mnangagwa

That fractured opposition gives President Emmerson Mnangagwa a virtually clear road to winning the first post-Robert Mugabe election in the months ahead.

After the death of Morgan Tsvangirai on Wednesday in neighboring South Africa after a battle with cancer, three deputies in his Movement for Democratic Change party are vying to succeed him. Tsvangirai had been the MDC-T’s only leader since its formation in 1999.

A day after his death, thousands of mourning supporters gathered outside party headquarters while its leaders met to choose deputy party president Nelson Chamisa, a charismatic 40-year-old, as Tsvangirai’s replacement “for the next 12 months.”

But complications emerged immediately as the other deputy presidents, Elias Mudzuri and Thokozani Khupe, as well as several other senior officials boycotted the meeting. After violence from party youth, they abandoned plans for their own parallel meeting at Tsvangirai’s home.

Some party members are disputing Chamisa’s appointment, saying Mudzuri, who was acting leader for a while as Tsvangirai underwent treatment, or Khupe is the MDC-T’s acting leader or rightful heir.

The opposition party once posed the sternest challenge to former leader Mugabe and his ruling ZANU-PF party since the southern African nation’s independence from white minority rule in 1980.

But with Tsvangirai gone, his party seems headed for an uncertain future at a time when a chance to seize power after Mugabe’s departure approaches. Mugabe, who led Zimbabwe for 37 years, made a dramatic resignation in November after the military moved in and inspired the ruling party to turn against him.

Now Mnangagwa, Mugabe’s longtime ally, is in charge and is reaching out to the international community after years of sanctions over alleged human rights abuses and rigged elections, hoping to bring in badly needed foreign investment to revive a collapsing economy.



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