Nduduzo Tshuma, Political Editor
ATTEMPTS by MDC-T leader Mr Morgan Tsvangirai to shift blame on the violence that rocked his party at the weekend is not only laughable but betrays the hypocrisy of the opposition leader accused by his lieutenants for engineering the chaos.
Mr Tsvangirai, in a desperate bid to clear himself of involvement in the manhandling of his deputy Thokozani Khupe, party chairperson Mr Lovemore Moyo and national organising secretary Mr Abednico Bhebhe tried to blame State security agents for the violent clashes.
“Our party has been a victim of State-sponsored violence for many years of our existence. We have never been perpetrators of violence and we have never adopted the Zanu-PF template of violence. We have lost over 500 of our supporters and leaders due to political violence,” said Mr Tsvangirai during a hastily organised Press conference in Harare on Monday in response to the weekend incident.
“I, for one, have been a victim of violence at the hands of the State, bashed in a police station, in many circumstances left for dead while there have been many attempts on my life. We are investigating this incident with the intention of taking stern action against any of our members who may have been involved in this dastardly act,” he said.
“At the same time, we are not ruling out the invisible hand of the State as it had a huge motive to douse the successful script of the alliance on Saturday.”
In an act of desperation, Mr Tsvangirai tries to present himself as a victim of violence at the hands of the State by falsifying history, when records show that Mr Tsvangirai wanted to storm a police station and unlawfully release members of his party arrested for violence.
However, Mr Tsvangirai’s attempts to clear his name in the whole fiasco came a little too late as Mr Bhebhe had already pointed a finger at his boss as behind the acts of violence.
Mr Bhebhe went on to say they would confront Mr Tsvangirai over the matter.
“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 party president,” he said.
“We are going to confront the president as to why he sent a team to beat us. We want to find out.”
Most importantly however, it was statements attributed to Ms Khupe that paint a picture of strained relations between herself and on a broader level the MDC-T leadership from Matabeleland and Mr Tsvangirai.
“It is clear we are nothing in the MDC-T. The party is what it is because of the Matabeleland vote, but this is how they treat us . . . My heart bleeds over this incident (skirmishes), especially noting all our sacrifices that made (Mr) Tsvangirai to be what he is today,” Ms Khupe was quoted as saying during the meeting.
Mr Tsvangirai, in his effort to deceive the people and bid to sweeten his little hand, forgets that the fall-out between himself and the senior leadership particularly from Matabeleland especially the manhandled three has been well documented.
He cannot erase from the memories of the people how his appointment of two additional vice presidents in the form of Mr Nelson Chamisa and Engineer Elias Mudzuri rocked the MDC-T boat and attracted protests from Ms Khupe’s sympathisers who accused Mr Tsvangirai of regionalism and trying to “dilute’ the powers of the former deputy Prime Minister.
From the appointment of Chamisa and Mudzuri, there has been a feeling within the MDC-T members in Matabeleland that Mr Tsvangirai was trying to manage the succession in his party and in the process making sure that Ms Khupe does not take over the reins of the party.
Reports within the party indicate that Ms Khupe and Mr Bhebhe actually confronted Mr Tsvangirai about the appointments expressing reservations over the move.
The relations between Mr Tsvangirai and his lieutenants were further strained by the formation of the so-called grand coalition grouping together opposition political parties to contest the ruling Zanu-PF in the 2018 elections.
Ms Khupe has publicly differed with her boss on the coalition arguing that there was no need to accommodate other parties in areas where the party has dominated since the formation of a united MDC in 1999.
These arguments were made against the background of then secret coalition negotiations between Mr Tsvangirai and MDC leader Professor Welshman Ncube where the former united MDC secretary general was offered some seats in Bulawayo as part of the deal.
This again was viewed by conspiracy theorists within Ms Khupe’s faction as calculated moves to weaken the party in Bulawayo and by extension their faction leader who is considered the party’s Queen Bee in the Matabeleland region.
Against this background, Mr Tsvangirai cannot mislead the people and try and paint a false picture of cordial relations between himself and his deputy.
But in statements that would convince some about Mr Tsvangirai’s alleged involvement in the Sunday violence were accusations he made the previous day, during the MDC Alliance launch, against unnamed officials within his party whom he said were against the coalition.
And as he made those accusations, Ms Khupe, Mr Bhebhe and Mr Moyo were notable absentees at the launch of the “opposition coalition.”
“There were some among us in the MDC who were against the coalition. They would call me, asking why we had conceded some seats to other parties. I told them point blank that is what it was, and at the end of the day, don’t be sad,” said Mr Tsvangirai.
“They must know that seats belong to the people of Zimbabwe; not individuals. Why are you refusing to see the objective that we have?”
After those statements, a group of about 20 youths, some spotted at the launch in Harare the previous day, disrupted the meeting chaired by Ms Khupe in Bulawayo and Tsvangirai still has the courage, yes courage, we won’t say moral grounds, no, there is no need to mention Mr Tsvangirai and morality in the same line, the courage to accuse State security agents of having a hand in the Sunday violence.
Mr Tsvangirai forgets that the violence meted against Ms Khupe, Mr Bhebhe and Mr Moyo and others who were caught up in the cross fire is the same kind of violence meted against Prof Ncube and others in 2005 leading to the split of the original MDC when they disagreed with their then boss over participation in the senatorial elections.
In 2006, then Harare North legislator Mrs Trudy Stevenson was assaulted by MDC-T youths who accused her of being too combative to Mr Tsvangirai.
In 2014, the then MDC-T secretary general Mr Elton Mangoma was assaulted by party youths while Mr Tsvangirai watched. Mr Biti was also not spared.
Party members were hospitalised in Bulawayo following an orgy of violence in the run-up to the MDC-T’s 2011 congress when members opposed imposition of candidates by Mr Tsvangirai for positions.
In all cases, Mr Tsvangirai promised to investigate and act on the violence but nothing ever materialised.
What can be detected here is the consistency in cases of violence meted against those perceived to be dissenting voices from Mr Tsvangirai and no amount of lies can absolve the MDC-T leader from the weekend skirmishes.
In actual fact, the story of Mr Tsvangirai would not be fully told without the mention for his resorting to violence to deal with members that oppose him.
What is also clear are the developing cracks in the party along regional and tribal lines. Mr Tsvangirai leads not only a divided party but a shambolic and violent one and in the mix of things he is the master.