Source: Violence, the cancer eating away Tsvangirai’s party – The Standard August 20, 2017
FORMER Energy minister Elton Mangoma still vividly remembers the events of February 16 2014 when he was bludgeoned by people he believed were his comrades at MDC-T’s Harvest House headquarters.
BY RICHARD CHIDZA
The then MDC-T deputy treasurer general had been invited by party leader Morgan Tsvangirai to try and avert another split.
Tsvangirai who had just lost a disputed election against President Robert Mugabe.
Mangoma and then MDC-T secretary general Tendai Biti were at loggerheads with the former Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unionist as they wanted him to step down for failing to dislodge Mugabe.
A fortnight ago, MDC-T vice-president Thokozani Khupe, chairperson Lovemore Moyo and deputy secretary general Abedinico were assaulted by party youths in Bulawayo for allegedly boycotting the signing ceremony for the MDC Alliance. Mangoma recounted his ordeal in detail, drawing parallels with developments in the country’s biggest opposition party today.
“You will remember I had written a letter detailing the president [Tsvangirai]’s shortcomings and the remedies thereof,” he said.
“I was invited to Harvest House [MDC-T headquarters] for talks.
“After discussions, which really did not take us anywhere, Tsvangirai offered to escort me outside because we knew youths were baying for my blood.
“But as we walked out, he dropped back and left me at the mercy of those thugs. The rest as they say, is history.”
As he reflected on his time in the MDC-T, Mangoma said the attack against Khupe, Moyo and Bhebhe was a manifestation of a cancer that has afflicted the party for a long time.
He said violence had become a culture in the MDC-T as it was in Zanu PF.
“It is sad that violence is as much a fabric of the MDC-T as it is of Zanu PF,” he said.
“We had been fighting to get rid of the cancer but then we realised this culture was being nursed from the top.
“No action was taken against my assailants. If anything, [secretary general] Douglas Mwonzora became a legend, defending the same people.
“Violence is actually encouraged, that is why even in my position as deputy treasurer general I never got sight of the [Trust)]Maanda report.
“It was pointing in the wrong direction,” said Mangoma who now leads the opposition Renewal Democrats of Zimbabwe.
An April 15 2011 memorandum by the MDC-T’s then secretary for welfare Kerry Kay said violent tendencies had taken root in the party.
“The ward, district and provincial elections throughout the country, leading up to the third MDC national congress has been fraught with violence.
“This is not a new phenomenon in the party and has attracted widespread media interest and coverage,” Kay said, adding perpetrators had walked away scot-free.
However, MDC-T spokesperson Obert Gutu said Tsvangirai abhorred violence and would take action against those that were behind the violence in Bulawayo.
“The investigation is going on very well and it has been thorough. We trust that once the president has the report, action will be taken and heads will definitely roll,” he said.
“Tsvangirai is a super democrat. He abhors violence and people have actually taken advantage of his democratic nature.”
Tsvangirai immediately suspended deputy spokesperson Tabitha Khumalo and deputy treasurer general Charlton Hwende as well as members of the youth assembly who were allegedly linked to the violence.
Gutu rejected assertions that the MDC-T had institutionalised violence.
“We are a social democratic party that fervently advocates for the establishment of a peaceful, progressive and tolerant new Zimbabwe,” he said.
“We are taking very stern measures against any violent elements within the party.
“Trust me, nothing will be swept under the carpet,” said Gutu, threatening expulsion of the malcontents.
Hwende said he had accepted his suspension and would help in the investigation, dismissing claims that he had a hand in the attack.
Other victims of intra-party violence in the MDC-T since the party was formed at the turn of the century include Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga and Trudy Stevenson, Zimbabwe’s ambassador to Senegal.
Political analyst and human rights activist Dewa Mavhinga said political violence was endemic in Zimbabwean politics, and the vice had crept into the opposition including the MDC-T.
“Impunity, when authorities fail to punish those who commit violence, is the biggest problem because it encourages repeat offenders, leading to vicious cycles of violence,” he said.
“The MDC-T should avoid this, and one hopes their internal disciplinary procedures will result in clear public punishment for those who participated in the violence and those who sponsored it.”
South Africa-based academic Ricky Mukonza said MDC-T had developed “violent” concepts that did not augur well for democratic institutions.
“Concepts such as kusvuura [skinning] and matatya [frogs] have found their way in the political lingo of party activists when dealing with rivals,” he said.
“However, it would be too harsh to describe MDC-T as inherently violent but what is true is that the leadership of the party has treated perpetrators of violence with kid-gloves.
“This has given the impression that the party tacitly approves of violence.”
Zanu PF has resorted to extreme political violence when it is cornered and Mugabe sometimes boasts that he has many degrees in violence.