via Biti targets Ex-PM’s grassroots base 24 June 2014
THE rival factions in the bitter MDC-T leadership dispute may be asking the courts to adjudicate their fight over party assets but they will know that winning the hearts and minds of the multitudes of supporters who have backed the party through three successive election defeats is the triumph that really matters.
Morgan Tsvangirai and those backing him to remain party leader believe the former premier has the backing of the party’s grassroots and dismiss the rival Renewal Team as a motley collection of elitist snobs with no following around the country and interested mainly in hoodwinking impressionable donors.
But after making the logical case for Tsvangirai’s ouster, the dissenting group led by Tendai Biti and Elton Mangoma, among others, is now tugging at the hearts of supporters by financially helping victims of what the opposition party describes as Zanu PF and State-sponsored violence.
Addressing supporters in Chinhoyi on Sunday, members of the Renewal Team said they decided to act because “we cannot continue saying sorry for what happened”, suggesting Tsvangirai had not done enough.
Among other failings, the group has accused Tsvangirai of corrupt leadership, unleashing violence on dissenting voices, trashing the party’s constitution, failing to win elections against President Robert Mugabe and living a scandalous private life.
But the former premier has refused to step-down, encouraged in no small measure by the widely held view that he remains popular with the party’s grassroots supporters.
Now the Renewal Team is pitching its message to the same ordinary members by setting up a fund to help party supporters who suffered life-changing injuries due to political violence as well as families of those killed over the years – an issue they believe Tsvangirai has neglected.
The MDC-T claims that thousands of its supporters have fallen victim to Zanu PF and State sponsored violence since the opposition party was formed in 1999 and grew to represent one of the biggest threats to Zanu PF’s stranglehold on power since independence.
During the disputed and inconclusive 2008 elections alone, the MDC-T claims as many as 300 of its supporters were murdered after Zanu PF activists and elements of the State security apparatus reacted violently to Mugabe’s first round poll defeat by Tsvangirai.
Tsvangirai would later pull out of the run-off election citing systematic violence and displacement of thousands of rural people suspected of being opposition supporters.
Biti told hundreds of supporters at a provincial meeting in Chinhoyi on Sunday that his group was mobilizing resources to assist victims of the political violence through reconstruction of houses or paying school fees for affected children.
“The movement would have failed if it does not look after victims of political violence that took place over the past 15 years,” said the former Finance Minister.
Mangoma, one of the high profile members of the Renewal team, added: “People’s houses were destroyed. We cannot continue saying sorry for what happened.
“We have to assist them in rebuilding their houses and paying school fees for children who are unfortunate victims of this violence. We also want MDC supporters to start small projects that can help them out.”
The leadership dispute has effectively divided the MDC-T with the Biti and Mangoma group saying they were working on forming a new and broader coalition to prepare another assault at Zanu PF in the 2018 elections.