Mashudu Netsianda, Senior Court Reporter
MDC-T Bulawayo provincial chairperson Mr Gift Banda has taken the party’s co-vice-president Dr Thokozani Khupe and her allies to court in a fight over control of the party’s provincial offices in the city.
Mr Banda, who is Bulawayo deputy Mayor, is seeking an order directing the Sheriff of the High Court to take necessary measures to evict Dr Khupe and members of her faction from the party offices.
Dr Khupe and her allies seized control of the offices during violent skirmishes which rocked the party on 4 March.
Mr Banda, who is aligned to a faction led by MDC-T president Advocate Nelson Chamisa, was together with his sympathisers subsequently barred by their rivals from conducting meetings at the MDC-T provincial party offices in the city.
They were also barred from visiting the premises by the Dr Khupe faction following the violent skirmishes that took place at the building situated between 2nd and 3rd Avenue along Fort Street.
More than 15 people were injured when the violent clashes, that lasted for over two hours, broke out as party supporters clashed along factional lines pitting Dr Khupe and Adv Chamisa.
Mr Banda, through his lawyers Mathonsi Ncube Law Chambers, yesterday filed an urgent chamber application at the Bulawayo High Court seeking an order prohibiting Dr Khupe and her camp from interfering with or disrupting their meetings at the party’s Bulawayo provincial offices as well as vandalising property at the building.
In papers before the court, Dr Khupe, her personal assistant Mr Witness Dube, the party’s national organising secretary Mr Abednico Bhebhe and their six allies namely; Mr Artwell Sibanda, Mr Gershom Zimba, Mr Samson Mubhemi, Mr Elliot Doctor Moyo, Mr Mthokozisi Ncube and Mr Mbuso Sibanda, were cited as respondents.
In his founding affidavit, Mr Banda said he has been in peaceful and undisturbed possession and occupation of the MDC-T Bulawayo provincial offices in his capacity as the party’s Bulawayo provincial chairperson with authority vested in him to determine the day-to-day use of the premises and sanctioning meetings until his rivals took control of the premises after the violent clashes.
“The practice is that any organ of Bulawayo province intending to use the party offices is required to seek my authority. I, as a matter of fact, grant such authority for all legitimate and lawful activities for the province,” he said.
Mr Banda said Dr Khupe and members of her faction convened an unsanctioned meeting.
He accused Dr Khupe of mobilising her group to attack their rivals upon arrival at the offices for a scheduled meeting on issues pertaining to candidate selection.
“When I got to the vicinity of the building, I observed that anti-riot police were deployed and there were people running in different directions. I was further informed that when the party officers and members who had come to attend the sanctioned meeting attempted to enter the building, they were assaulted with bricks by the respondents,” said Mr Banda.
He said during the skirmishes, Mr Dube tried to run over some party members who were attempting to enter the premises and his car was extensively damaged.
Mr Banda said the party offices were now under the control of Dr Khupe’s faction.
“I submit that this matter is urgent because as a province we have nowhere else to operate from as all lawful structures of the party under my control and supervision have been excluded from accessing the offices at a critical time when we are processing candidate selection and preparing for crucial elections,” he said.
“I seek this honourable court’s protection and intervention on an urgent basis from the unlawful actions of the respondents in despoiling me of control and occupation of our provincial offices.”
In the event that an order is granted in his favour, Mr Banda wants police to be ordered to arrest the respondents if they refuse to comply with the directive to vacate the building.
Last week, Mr Banda and 11 others appeared before Bulawayo magistrate Mr Franklin Mkhwananzi facing charges of public violence in connection with the March 4 skirmishes.
They were remanded out of custody to April 6.
Mr Banda was released on $200 bail while the rest of the accused persons were given bail of $50 each.