PRIME Minister and MDC-T leader, Morgan Tsvangirai has endorsed Thokozani Khupe as his Presidential first running mate in elections set to take place next year, a senior party official has revealed.
This puts to rest reports that Khupe has fallen out with Tsvangirai following “defections” by some party members from her Makokoba constituency who recently joined the Welshman Ncube led MDC.
The MDC-T has however dismissed the defections as stage managed and a smear campaign against the deputy PM.
MDC-T secretary general, Tendai Biti told journalists on Friday after the party’s national council meeting in Harare that by virtue of being Tsvangirai’s deputy, Khupe would automatically become the first running mate.
“We accept the principle of two running mates,” he said. “Our president (Tsvangirai) said he does not want the burden of selecting himself the running mates and as far as we are concerned Khupe is there already as the MDC vice president.”
Biti said the second running mate would be selected in an open, fair and transparent manner.
“We are a party of excellence. Unlike other parties, our leaders are elected in broad daylight in a democratic process like what happened during our congress in Bulawayo last year,” he said.
To accommodate two vice presidents and in line with the Zanu PF tradition, the proposed draft introduces the concept of two running mates for any aspiring President. It would be entirely up to the aspirant to pick running mates, a system borrowed from the Americans.
In the event that a candidate dies after being elected President, the first running mate would automatically take over as the new leader of the country, a development expected to effectively address the contentious issue of succession especially within Zanu PF.
Biti is himself believed to be eyeing to become Tsvangirai’s second running mate, although he has not yet confirmed this.
He is likely to face stiff competition from Ian Makone, a senior secretary and close confidant of the PM as well as MDC chairman and speaker of Parliament, Lovemore Moyo.
However, Biti accused the media of creating sideshows by being obsessed with the issue of presidential running mates, blurring the real substance of the proposed constitution.
He said the media should create a platform for debate and educate people on the several good provisions proposed in the draft constitution.
Biti cited the section which addresses the issue of illegal arrests and detentions, and other gross violations of human rights by the police.
“The draft changes fundamentally the way police behave and any arrests or detention which contravenes this section are illegal,” Biti said. Any person illegally arrested or detained will be entitled for compensation by the arresting officers in their personal capacity.”
He said the draft stipulated that police officers must immediately inform the person they were arresting of the crime he or she was being charged of committing. Biti said any arrested person must be brought to court within 48 hours and have access to legal representation, failure of which the arrest would become illegal.