Takunda Maodza/Nqobile Tshili—
MDC-T leader Mr Morgan Tsvangirai yesterday suspended two senior party officials and three members of the youth assembly for their involvement in the violence and assault of party bigwigs in Bulawayo on Sunday. The suspended officials are deputy secretary for Information and Publicity Ms Tabitha Khumalo and deputy Treasurer-General Mr Charlton Hwende, while the three youths were identified as Tafadzwa Chimombe (Harare Youth Secretary for Security), Stephen Chatindo of Ward 22 in Hatfield and Gift Taibu of Budiriro (both in Harare).
Interestingly, Mr Tsvangirai had tried to implicate the State and Zanu-PF in the barbaric assaults, but the claim found no takers even within the MDC-T, whose officials and party members seemed to know what exactly transpired.
Addressing a press conference following the violence, Mr Tsvangirai alleged it was “the invisible hand of the State as it had a huge motive to douse the successful script of the Alliance on Saturday.”
The assaulted senior officials were the party’s vice president Ms Thokozani Khupe, national chairman Mr Lovemore Moyo and organising secretary Mr Abednico Bhebhe.
The party members from Matabeleland are said to be against Mr Tsvangirai’s decision to surrender seats in the region to his electoral alliance partners.
Mr Tsvangirai’s spokesperson Mr Luke Tamborinyoka yesterday confirmed the suspension of the senior members and the youths.
“The president (Mr Tsvangirai) has suspended the party’s Deputy Treasurer-General Mr Charlton Hwende and Deputy Secretary for Information and Publicity, Hon Tabitha Khumalo, pending full investigations, for suspected crimes of omission and commission before and during the disturbances,” he said.
“He has also suspended three members of the Youth Assembly over the same matter. President Tsvangirai has already dispatched a probe team to Bulawayo and a full comprehensive investigation will determine any further action to be taken.
“Violence is not part of the culture of the party and president Tsvangirai, a victim of violence himself countless times since the party was formed, has moved in to take decisive action over the matter.”
Our Harare Bureau has since established that the youths implicated so far are all from Harare and this was confirmed by MDC-T secretary-general Mr Douglas Mwonzora last night.
“The names of the three are Tafadzwa Chimombe (Harare Youth Secretary for Security), Stephen Chatindo of Ward 22 in Hatfield and Gift Taibu of Budiriro,” said Mr Mwonzora.
He denied that the deputy national youth chairman, Mr Shakespear Mukoyi, was involved in the Bulawayo fracas.
“The person in the video is not Shakespear Mukoyi,” he said. “He is wearing a uniform similar to that of Mukoyi. The list is not exhaustive. We are looking at people whose activities we have concrete evidence on, like engaging in violence and so on. So, for the three we now have irrefutable evidence.”
Ms Khumalo yesterday professed ignorance over her suspension when contacted by our Harare Bureau.
“I am not aware of it,” she said. “I am out of the country and I will be jetting in tomorrow.”
Our Harare Bureau is reliably informed that it has become a tradition that Ms Khumalo is the first suspect whenever there is violence against Ms Khupe in Bulawayo, as the two belong to different factions.
“Whenever there is violence against Ms Khupe, naturally the first suspect is Tabitha Khumalo by virtue of her belonging to a rival faction which is against Khupe,” said a source.
“Equally, when there is violence against Ms Khumalo, the first suspect is the Khupe camp and it is an open secret in the MDC.”
An attempt by Mr Tsvangirai to blame the State and Zanu-PF for the intra party violence found no takers.
His former legal advisor during the inclusive Government, Dr Alex Magaisa, on Tuesday shot down the allegations.
Dr Magaisa said: “Whatever statement is made today, please avoid the ‘it’s ZANU PF/CIO line’. People know it’s cheap & expected. Surprise your critics.”
Another party official Mr Job Sikhala took to Facebook to state: “Do you want to tell me that Thokozani Khupe and Tsvangirai are now enemies to the extent that you think you are the protector of Tsvangirai from the evil Khupe?
“Come on manhi. Don’t be delusional… Anyone who is sent to beat (up) other party cadres thinking that you are protecting someone, you are wasting your time.”
The Women Electoral Convergence (WEC2018) also condemned the MDC-T violence.
WEC2018 convener Mrs Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga said the aggression on Ms Khupe and Messrs Moyo and Bhebhe was barbaric and hindered progress on WEC’s objectives to promote women involvement in next year’s harmonised elections.
“The founding members of the WEC2018 would like to register their disquiet over the barbaric attacks on the MDC-T vice president and other senior members of the party at a meeting in Bulawayo,” she said.
“The attack flies in the face of our attempts to promote women participation in the forthcoming harmonised election and are an anti-thesis to the promises the MDC-T leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, and his party made at the launch of the WEC.
“Tsvangirai is on record at the launch, promising women from different political formations that his party believes in creating a conducive environment for women participation in electoral politics in our country.
“As a grouping that is working towards enhancing women participation in the governance of our country and in view of the importance of women participation in the elections next year, we call upon Tsvangirai to condemn unreservedly the savage attack perpetrated by youths from his party against his deputy and colleagues, who like him are waging a struggle for the democratisation of our country.”
Mrs Misihairabwi-Mushonga added: “WEC2018 equally expected the international community, starting with their diplomatic missions accredited to Zimbabwe, to condemn in the strongest terms the dastard and violent acts witnessed at the MDC-T party offices with the same vigour and guile that is normally seen when such inhuman attacks are perpetrated by other political formations in the country.” “We want change,” posted Mr Hwende on Sunday.
Meanwhile, the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) has condemned intra-party fighting in the opposition movement saying the MDC-T should resolve political differences peacefully.
In a statement, the human rights defenders expressed concern over the undemocratic practices in the party.
“ZLHR deplores acts of political violence or calls to use violence to settle political scores by some members of political parties. Of concern is an unfortunate incident of intra-party violence within the MDC-T that occurred at the provincial party offices in Bulawayo on Sunday, 6 August 2017,” reads the statement.
“ZLHR condemns such acts of violence and urges the MDC-T party supporters and other political parties to refrain from resorting to violence as means of resolving differences.”
ZLHR urged MDC-T leaders and supporters to respect the principle of democracy which is premised on tolerance.
“Tolerance of differing opinions is a crucial aspect of democracy and these violent actions will further limit the right of people to exercise their constitutionally protected freedoms of peaceful assembly, expression and association, which are guaranteed under the Constitution and Zimbabwe’s international human rights obligations and are core values of any democracy,” read ZLHR’s statement.