Several MDC-T activists were injured in a wave of violence that rocked the party’s Bulawayo provincial offices yesterday, after party youths allegedly stormed and violently disrupted a meeting organised by embattled vice-president Thokozani Khupe.
By NQOBANI NDLOVU
The violence ensued as Khupe and her allies – among them MDC-T organising secretary Abednico Bhebhe, Senator Nomvula Mguni and suspended MDC-T spokesperson Obert Gutu, and several others – were in a meeting, which provincial chairperson Gift Banda later described as “unsanctioned”.
Party insiders said Khupe’s personal assistant, Witness Dube, sustained a deep cut on his head during the skirmishes, which only subsided after riot police intervened and cordoned off the area.
According to sources, Khupe had called the meeting to coerce various party structures in Matabeleland region to spite Chamisa and endorse her as the bona fide party leader, following the death of MDC-T founding leader Morgan Tsvangirai last month.
Banda confirmed yesterday’s clashes, but blamed Khupe for inviting trouble to herself by convening an unsanctioned meeting.
“As a province, we did not know there was a meeting at our party offices. If we knew, we were going to put measures to ensure that the meeting proceeds undisrupted, that there is no violence or anything of that nature. Khupe is the VP, but as I said, we did not know about such a meeting and it then becomes a strain to then be made to account for something we did not know,” Banda said.
Khupe, Gutu and Bhebhe escaped unhurt, but denounced the violence as “barbaric”.
“How do you attack people who are just gathered to organise themselves and campaign. Why do you have to beat up people, why do you have to injure people, why do you have to vandalise offices, Why do you have to do that for goodness sake?” queried Khupe, who appeared shaken by the incident.
“We were beaten up in Buhera by the same people. I have never seen such barbarism in my life. That is what I call absolute nonsense,” she said in reference to an incident where she was physically attacked by suspected party youths at Tsvangirai’s burial in Buhera late last month.
Khupe scoffed at the resolutions passed by the MDC-T national council which met in Harare last week and endorsed Chamisa as substantive party leader, while giving her a seven-day ultimatum to accept the new order.
“I am an elected vice-president of the MDC-T. No one gives me an ultimatum except for congress. Congress is the only body that can give me the ultimatum not any other person,” she said.
Earlier, Khupe had tweeted saying: “We are under attack at the Bulawayo MDC-T office. People are injured and cars have been vandalised.”
Gutu, who also survived the attacks, said: “This is deplorable. We had a peaceful political gathering, very lawful. A bunch of thugs armed with stones and iron bars just came from nowhere and started attacking people. Stones were thrown on top of the roof, the window panes were broken, blood is strewn all over the floor. It’s just mayhem. These are the people who think can take Zimbabwe to the next step, my foot.”
Khupe’s predicament began late last year when she was assaulted at the MDC-T’s Bulawayo offices for convening a meeting where she openly denounced the MDC Alliance shortly after Tsvangirai had signed the deal. Ever since, she has been unable to attend MDC-T executive meetings at the party’s Harvest House headquarters in Harare for fear of further reprisals.
NewsDay heard that Khupe wanted to use yesterday’s meeting to launch her own opposition party, amid reports that her future at the MDC-T was no longer guaranteed.
Insiders said Khupe’s camp has over the past few days been holding private meetings with officials from former Vice-President Joice Mujuru People’s Rainbow Coalition, raising speculation that she was planning to defect from the MDC-T.