MDC-T bigwigs, among them secretary-general Tendai Biti, deputy treasurer general Elton Mangoma, Youth Assembly chairperson Solomon Madzore, Youth secretary-general Promise Mkwananzi, Elias Mudzuri and Harare provincial chairman Paul Madzore snubbed party leader Morgan Tsvangirai’s rally in Harare yesterday.
The snub, which critics claimed signalled a possible split in the country’s main opposition party that has been rocked by internal strife over calls for Tsvangirai to step down to pave way for leadership renewal, came amid name-calling with those that did not attend yesterday’s Glen Norah C rally referred to as rebels.
On Saturday, Mangoma and Biti were beaten up by angry MDC-T youths aligned to Tsvangirai.
Yesterday, a party activist at the rally was assaulted on allegations of being alligned to Mangoma.
The rally was attended by known Tsvangirai sympathisers who took turns to rebuke Biti, Mangoma and others as rebels who should leave the opposition party.
These were organising secretary Nelson Chamisa, deputy chairman Morgen Komichi, vice-president Thokozani Khupe, Obert Gutu, Youth deputy president Costa Machingauta, Youth spokesperson Clifford Hlatywayo and Morgan Femai, who was introduced as the party’s leader in Harare, among others.
Tsvangirai condemned the violence that took place at the party headquarters — Harvest House — saying such acts tarnished the image of the opposition.
“After the meeting, there were skirmishes and others had to flee the violence. Let me tell you that I condemn such actions and I don’t want anyone in the MDC to be possessed with the demon of violence,” Tsvangirai said, claiming the party was infiltrated by some agents who wanted to sow divisions within its ranks.
On calls for leadership renewal particularly that he should step down as leader, Tsvangirai said: “Don’t fight against the wall. The MDC was formed by the poor working class of this country, let’s not forget that and if you want to bring other ideas like using money, we will never agree on that. I thank God for the character that I am, but don’t take it as a weakness. People said I should take all the powers and be a dictator, but I said I should not be like (President Robert) Mugabe and can’t impose myself, but want people to have a better life.”
The ex-premier added: “We had an objective when we started this party and me leading while you follow and if you want to lead, it doesn’t work that way. We were elected at a congress and we will go to the next congress like that, anything else is undemocratic. Don’t be greedy, wait for congress to come and say what you want. I also want competition, not the hostile takeover. It’s wrong and those who purport to be democrats should act democratically.”
Tsvangirai took a swipe at journalists, saying they were creating a perception that he was refusing to step down.
“People may write what they want in the newspapers. There are perceptions created by our journalists. We love them, but I think the media has lost it. They say Tsvangirai doesn’t want to step down amid calls for him to step down, instead of me giving you power, you want to take it violently from me,” he said.
He said it was time to re-energise the party’s power base and urged mass action against the mismanagement of affairs by the Zanu PF government.
“We were demobilised in the Government of National Unity. We are now taking up the struggle, but we must first deal with the issue at Town House. Chombo (Local Government minister Ignatius) is defending something that cannot be defended. You have to act and not sleep in the house while the country is burning and only blame Tsvangirai.
Don’t be cowards. Why are you afraid of going to jail?” the MDC-T leader asked before calling Yvonne Musarurwa, Tungamirai Madzokere, Morgen Komichi and other party cadres who spent months incarcerated for political reasons.
“You have to liberate yourselves and stop being cowards. We should have a programme of action and the organising department should support that programme, we have no guns but just Zimbabweans protected by the Constitution of the country. Only through action can we get solutions, we need unity of purpose. We must now declare that we will unite for a purpose.”
On funding, Tsvangirai said it was now time for people to fund their own struggle and not to wait for donors as this caused problems.
The MDC split in 2005 with secretary-general Welshman Ncube and vice-president Gibson Sibanda leading another faction following a disagreement over contesting Senate elections, while a top official Job Sikhala formed another MDC splinter group.