THERE was a bloodbath at the MDC-T Bulawayo provincial offices yesterday after suspected “hired thugs” believed to have been sent by party leader Morgan Tsvangirai violently disrupted a meeting organised by his deputy, Thokozani Khupe, accusing her group of running a parallel programme and snubbing the coalition deal signed by other opposition leaders in Harare on Saturday.
By NQOBANI NDLOVU/RICHARD CHIDZA
Khupe, MDC-T national chairman Lovemore Moyo and organising secretary Abednico Bhebhe, had called the meeting to discuss the coalition agreement and its implications on the party’s preparations for next year’s elections when violence broke out, leaving scores of party supporters injured.
Curiously, the three top MDC-T officials were conspicuous by their absence at the Saturday signing ceremony and are on record voicing their anti-coalition sentiments.
Khupe has never hidden her disdain for a coalition, especially one that includes the western regions of the country, where she considers herself as a political matriarch. She has argued that the MDC-T needs partners in the northern and eastern parts of the country where the party has lost to Zanu PF in previous elections.
Bhebhe yesterday insinuated that Tsvangirai was behind the violent clashes, which left windows at the party offices shattered by the suspected “hired thugs”.
“We are a democratic party and democracy should prevail. We are all shocked somebody sent a team from Harare to come and beat us up. That team came in the name of the president (Tsvangirai). We are going to confront the president on why he will send a team to beat us up. We want to find out,” Bhebhe said in an interview.
But, MDC-T secretary-general Douglas Mwonzora, seemed to absolve Tsvangirai, saying the former Premier had been “disgusted” by the event.
“At the outset we condemn strongly this thuggish behaviour and would want the perpetrators brought to book. I have had occasion to talk to the president about this incident and he is extremely disgusted,” Mwonzora said, adding that the Bulawayo meeting had been sanctioned by the party.
“We are very much aware that the aim of this group was to undermine yesterday’s (Saturday) historic event and try to soil president Tsvangirai’s image. We have asked our affected leaders to file police reports and meanwhile, I have dispatched a high-level internal investigation team that must get to the bottom on this incident. We also want to understand the motive and who exactly is behind the thugs.”
Yesterday’s meeting, according to a leaked MDC-T memo, was supposed to be attended by national and provincial executive committee members from Bulawayo, Matabeleland South and Matabeleland North to “discuss the coalition agreement and way forward”.
Although journalists were barred from attending the meeting, Khupe was overheard shouting “Tsvangirai is nothing without us”.
“It’s clear we are nothing in the MDC-T. We are in this party at their benevolence. The MDC-T is what it is today because of the Matabeleland vote but this is how they treat us. This meeting was authorised by Bhebe and Moyo, who are they to then question why we are holding this meeting, and disrupting it. My heart bleeds over this incident, especially noting all our sacrifices that have made Tsvangirai what he is today,” Khupe said.
On Saturday, Tsvangirai was roundly endorsed as coalition leader by a group of opposition parties, who included People’s Democratic Party Tendai Biti, MDC’s Welshman Ncube, Jacob Ngarivhume’s Transform Zimbabwe, and Zimbabwe People First (ZimPF) fronted by Agrippa Mutambara.
In a thinly veiled attack on Khupe and her anti-coalition group, Tsvangirai on Saturday said there was no going back.
“There are some in the MDC who are against the coalition, they have been calling me asking why we have conceded some seats to other parties. I have told them point blank that the die has been cast and if anything all seats belong to the people of Zimbabwe. It means nothing to have all parliamentary seats without removing Mugabe. That will not translate to meaningful change to the people,” Tsvangirai said to the rapturous applause from the crowd dominated by MDC-T supporters.
In February this year, Khupe was quoted as saying: “I am not against any coalition, but for me, the question that we must ask ourselves is why we want a coalition as a political party. As a political party, when you want a coalition, you would have realised a gap in your party and as the MDC, where is our gap? It is clear our gap is in Mashonaland East, West and Central, where we have consistently not done very well. So, when looking for a coalition partner, you must look for a partner, who is going to be able to cover that gap.”