A FIST-FIGHT reportedly broke out at a Zanu PF inter-district meeting in Chipinge on Saturday after a group of placard-waving war veterans gatecrashed and jeered politburo member Oppah Muchinguri, Manicaland acting provincial chair Samuel Undenge and other senior party officials accusing them of being aligned to former Vice-President Joice Mujuru’s Gamatox camp.
BY OBEY MANAYITI
This, according to party sources, angered Muchinguri and Undenge’s supporters who immediately confronted the war veterans resulting in clashes.
Gamatox is a derogatory name used to refer to party members sympathetic to Mujuru’s camp.
Undenge confirmed the disturbances although he denied that violence broke out.
“It was a group of only 10 people at a meeting attended by close to a 1 000 people. These 10 people tried to disrupt the meeting, but they were told to leave,” Undenge said.
“I didn’t see any violence and it was a very good meeting. It’s just the group of rabble-rousers who tried to disrupt us.”
Muchinguri could not be reached for comment.
However, other party members accused Information Communication Technology deputy minister Win Mlambo of sponsoring the rowdy war veterans and a section of Zanu PF officials who were spearheading the anti-Muchinguri campaign.
“Mlambo is working with people from Zanu Ndonga to cause trouble in the district. He is trying to impose himself as the leader here and he has roped in a lot of people who are with him, including traditional leaders” another member said.
”However, the anti-Muchinguri campaign will not work because she is our centre of power.”
Mlambo denied the allegations.
According to the Zanu PF officials, the meeting had been convened to unite rival party members following rifts caused by the purge on suspected Mujuru allies which started in the run-up to the party’s congress last December.
“We were at the inter-district meeting at Tanganda in Chipinge when a group of placard-waving war veterans came and started to jeer Undenge denouncing him for working with Gamatox members in Chipinge. The entire Chipinge Zanu PF leadership was accused of being Gamatox,” a senior party official who declined to be named said.
“Things got nasty when Muchinguri was about to give her remarks. The war veterans jeered her and started to sing derogatory songs. They were accusing her of being a compromised figure besides the fact that she is the party leader in Manicaland,” another official said.
“It was a calculated move to embarrass her. We know that the war veterans had been sent by other provincial members to attack her and Undenge. However, some members from the Youth and Women’s Leagues rose to defend Muchinguri and that is when violence broke out. The war veterans had their supporters, but at the end they were overpowered. The majority of them (war veterans) were badly injured.”
Riot police from Birchenough Bridge were called in to quell the situation, but only arrived when the chaos had stopped.
“The running battles took close to an hour and afterwards the meeting later proceeded under the watchful eye of police.”
Since the expulsion of former Presidential Affairs minister Didymus Mutasa alongside Mujuru and several other party members on allegations of seeking to unconstitutionally topple President Robert Mugabe, Zanu PF structures in Manicaland have remained in turbulence.
During his tenure as Headlands MP, Mutasa was regarded as the provincial godfather.
Since his departure, rival factions aligned to Muchinguri and Provincial Affairs minister Mandi Chimene have clashed over control of the province.