VIOLENT clashes rocked MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai’s rally in Gweru yesterday where three party activists — suspected to be linked to a team of “internal party rebels” campaigning for leadership renewal — were assaulted and had their T-shirts torn.
BY EVERSON MUSHAVA/NQOBANI NDLOVU
This is the fifth time that violent scenes have occurred in Tsvangirai’s presence and came hardly a month after the ex-Premier declared a truce among warring factions in his labour-backed opposition party.
The first incident occurred in February at the party headquarters in Harare where suspended MDC-T deputy treasurer-general Elton Mangoma was assaulted for spearheading the anti-Tsvangirai campaign.
Similar violent scenes were witnessed in Mutare, Glen Norah and Zhombe where party members attacked their opponents and called for Mangoma, Mbizo MP Settlement Chikwinya and MDC-T secretary-general Tendai Biti to be expelled from the party.
The victims in yesterday’s attack said they were beaten up for wearing campaign T-shirts bearing Chikwinya’s face. Chikwinya is believed to be part of the group campaigning for leadership renewal alongside Mangoma and Biti.
Party spokesperson Douglas Mwonzora denied that violence had broken out, saying: “We challenge those who claim they have been assaulted to report to the police. There were plenty of people wearing Chikwinya’s T-shirts. There was no violence.”
One of the victims, Wedzerai Chirenda, said she had to ask for a blouse from sympathisers after her MDC-T T-shirt was torn.
“They assaulted me, Thomas Amonda and Stanley Nyirenda and tore our T-shirts. They only left me with a bra and I had to cover up my body with a blouse supplied by another supporter,” Chirenda said.
“They told us that Chikwinya campaign T-shirts were not wanted because he (Chikwinya) verbally assaulted the president (Tsvangirai). When we arrived, we struggled to get in at the security gate until a certain councillor called someone who said we should be allowed in. But we were welcomed by violence and our T-shirts were torn to pieces.”
The victims said they reported the incident to MDC-T organizing secretary Nelson Chamisa. Chamisa refuted the allegations.
But, Chikwinya yesterday said he did not attend the rally after he was warned by some party supporters of the impending attack.
“It was not a Tsvangirai-Mangoma issue, it is purely violence. They paint their target with the Mangoma brush to have the moral authority to attack,” Chikwinya said, adding that he suspected the violence was being sanctioned at the party’s highest levels.
The clashes occurred as Chalton Hwende, an MDC-T executive member loyal to Tsvangirai, posted on his Facebook wall that the Gweru rally was a platform to denounce the “rebels”.
The internecine violence also took place as Mwonzora and activist Patrick Murimoga have recorded a music album praising Tsvangirai and urging supporters to rally behind him.
The five-track album, titled Tsika Mutanda, was released against the backdrop of intense infighting following calls for Tsvangirai to step aside.
Senior party officials, among them Mangoma and some provincial chairpersons, have been suspended for supporting leadership renewal and not publicly declaring their allegiance to Tsvangirai.
On the album, Tsvangirai is touted as the only opposition politician with the capacity to unseat Zanu PF’s President Robert Mugabe. The MDC-T leader has, in controversial circumstances, failed to dislodge Mugabe in the last three successive polls each time claiming vote rigging.
“One of the songs says this struggle must have discipline, and it must have a leader and not many leaders and the leader of this struggle is Tsvangirai. The other song warns party members to be wary of those using money to destabilise the party,” Mwonzora, who was in Bulawayo to finalise the recording of the album on Saturday, said.
Songs on the album recorded at a private studio in Bulawayo include Nomakanjani, Musatengesa Musangano, Tsvangirai Mutungamiri, Tsika Mutanda and an instrumental.
The song Nomakanjani pledges undying support for Tsvangirai while Musatengesa Musangano and Tsvangirai Mutungamiri urge party supporters “not to sell out” by backing moves to topple Tsvangirai. Tsika Mutanda blames Zanu PF for all socio-economic ills bedevilling Zimbabwe.
Of late, Tsvangirai’s die-hard supporters have been falling over each other to pledge their undying support for him, with some equating him to the Biblical Moses who led the Israelites from slavery in Egypt to the promised land of Canaan.
Mwonzora joins the likes of the late Zanu PF commissar Elliot Manyika who also released an album pledging support for Mugabe and Zanu PF.