Zvamaida Murwira and Audrey Rundofa, Harare Bureau
MDC-T vice president Advocate Nelson Chamisa and Ms Elizabeth Macheka, widow of the late MDC-T leader Mr Morgan Tsvangirai, attended the funeral wake of the politician yesterday despite threats by family members that they would not be allowed near the event.
Adv Chamisa together with his co-vice president Engineer Elias Mudzuri are embroiled in a leadership wrangle as both were claiming to be acting presidents of the opposition party.
Mr Tsvangirai’s mother, Mrs Lydia Chibwe Tsvangirai, had threatened to commit suicide should Adv Chamisa and Ms Macheka be allowed to attend the funeral wake.
Adv Chamisa is under fire for hurriedly convening a national council meeting that conferred him as acting president on Thursday, a day after Mr Tsvangirai’s death.
This was despite protests by Eng Mudzuri and family members that he had not met Mr Tsvangirai for him to claim that he had been elevated to be acting president by the late party leader.
Both Adv Chamisa and Ms Macheka were at Mr Tsvangirai’s Highlands residence in Harare where President Emmerson Mnangagwa and his two vice presidents Retired General Constantino Chiwenga and Kembo Mohadi paid their condolences.
There was however, tension at the funeral wake as Ms Macheka could hardly be noticed in the lounge where dignitaries were when President Mnangagwa arrived.
Ms Macheka sat at a far corner with her father Mr Joseph Macheka while all the family members sat on another side.
During introductions, Mr Tsvangirai’s brother, Manase first introduced all other family members who included nieces, nephews, his brothers and other relatives, only to make reference to Ms Macheka last.
Mr Tsvangirai’s brother, Collins never referred to Ms Macheka’s role during the ailment of her husband in his 15-minute speech when he was asked to give an account of his brother’s ailment.
Instead, he constantly made reference to the role played by all other relatives like Edwin, Mr Tsvangirai’s eldest son, Mr Tsvangirai’s mother, Mbuya Tsvangirai and a niece but was silent on Ms Macheka.
This is despite the fact that Ms Macheka constantly travelled with her husband to South Africa for treatment.
President Mnangagwa was welcomed at Mr Tsvangirai’s residence by Minister of State for Harare province Cde Miriam Chikukwa and all the MDC-T vice presidents, Adv Nelson Chamisa, Engineer Elias Mudzuri and Dr Thokozani Khupe and other senior party officials. In the lounge, the three MDC-T vice presidents sat together adjacent to Ms Macheka.
After speeches, some party officials had to intervene to have vice president Dr Khupe give a vote of thanks.
This was after Mr Tsvangirai (Manase), who was director of ceremony, appeared to bring the event to an end after President Mnangagwa and family members had spoken leaving out a representative from the party.
Manase was already winding up when Mabvuku-Tafara MP Mr James Maridadi approached him and whispered to him before he subsequently invited Dr Khupe.
Earlier in his speech, Manase had requested a niece, Mrs Bryline Chitsunge to give an account of Mr Tsvangirai’s ailment and attendant hospital bills that had accrued.
Mrs Chitsunge implored mourners to desist from making the funeral “political.”
“My uncle’s wish was to see people united. My appeal to all of us is that can this event be non-political,” said Mrs Chitsunge without making any reference to Ms Macheka.
On Adv Chamisa, all the family members referred to him as vice president and not as acting president, an indication that they did not recognise him as party leader.
MDC-T vice president Dr Khupe avoided reference to the turbulences in the party but restricted herself to thanking Government for its assistance.
Meanwhile, Mr Tsvangirai’s body is expected to be taken to Humanikwa village in Buhera today for burial tomorrow (Tuesday).
The body was taken to his residence last night where it was expected to lie in state.
Members of the party and interested parties are expected to gather at the Robert Mugabe Square where several activists are expected to deliver solidarity messages before travelling to Buhera.