HARARE - Civic groups and politicians have launched a withering attack on the MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai whose party supporters assaulted senior members at the party’s headquarters at the weekend.
A group of drunken thugs assaulted the party’s deputy treasurer Elton Mangoma and Youth Assembly secretary-general Promise Mkwananzi in view of Tsvangirai at the end of a meeting at Harvest House, the MDC headquarters.
The party’s secretary-general Tendai Biti was kicked around but most of the blows were taken by Tsvangirai’s bodyguards who had provided a shield from the violent youths.
Youth leader Solomon Madzore remained holed up in the building as the thugs bayed for his blood.
Mangoma has openly challenged the leadership of Tsvangirai and is supported by other senior party officials — including exiled Roy Bennett and Ian Kay — who feel the former trade union leader has lost his sparkle and cannot win an election.
Saturday’s violence was the latest of many acts of thuggery and barbaric attacks on MDC officials by violent youths.
“Violence is a method of the weak and the wicked that has no space in a civilised society more in a political party like the MDC which purports to be democratic. The thread of violence is now well established in the MDC and the MDC leadership should stand firm and address it,” said London-based Pedzisayi Ruhanya.
“This is no longer a time to pay lip service. In a situation where top officials of the party such as Biti and Mangoma are assaulted, it means that no one is safe and I challenge the MDC president to exercise good leadership and stop the rot.”
Mangoma and former organising secretary Elias Mudzuri who is touted as a potential successor to Tsvangirai, have come under severe criticism from the ex-premier’s supporters and sympathisers in the private media.
Tsvangirai performed dismally in the July 31 election in which the MDC was trounced by President Robert Mugabe’s Zanu PF amid strong allegations of rigging.
Mugabe, has poured scorn on the rigging allegations, insisting he won cleanly and squarely.
Neutrals accuse Tsvangirai of having sullied his name by being engaged in love and sex scandals which left him embarrassed.
Against this background, those who want Tsvangirai to step down as the party’s leader, feel Mangoma’s calls are justified “since he is merely restating what is already known in the public domain”.
Dewa Mavhinga, Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition chairperson and senior Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch has strongly condemned the use of violence as a tool to settle political differences.
“As civil society and human rights defenders we strongly condemn the use of violence in pursuit of any cause including in expressing or settling political differences. The MDC leadership must take drastic measures to bring the perpetrators of this shameful violence to book and to send a clear message to everyone that violence will not be tolerated.
“This is not the first time violence has broken out in the party, this time we expect a very public process of discipline to nip this practice in the bud and prevent impunity,” Mavhinga told the Daily News.
Ruhanya added: “The criminal elements including their patrons should be disciplined if the MDC want to maintain the political moral high ground as a peaceful and democratic movement different from Zanu PF.”
“If the MDC leadership fails or refuses to address this apparent organised thread of violence; it can’t convince the public that it’s an alternative to Zanu PF. People can really call it MDC-PF.”
MDC Harare province spokesman Obert Gutu, who is thought to be against hurried leadership change in the party appeared taken aback by the violence.
“We should all of us promote unity of purpose and appreciate the fact that the real struggle is against an uncaring, corrupt, misguided and archaic kleptocratic dictatorship,” he wrote on his Facebook wall.
“The MDC-T is a party of excellence and not a party of violence and thuggery. We are the political party of choice in Zimbabwe and we represent the future of this mighty nation. We should remain united, resolute and unwavering in our peaceful and democratic struggle against the corrupt, violent and brutal Zanu PF dictatorship.”
Mangoma was attacked as he emerged from the party’s headquarters despite having been given a “shield” by Tsvangirai.
He blamed Tsvangirai for the violence.
“But once we emerged from the building, I realised that Tsvangirai was, somehow, no longer by my side.
“I was then attacked while he watched and he certainly did nothing to discourage the mob. My sense was that he had prior knowledge that there would be violence”, he said.
Biti told the Daily News yesterday that the MDC’s struggle was fast losing value.
“In a democratic party, people should have their differences but those differences should be contained, should be used as the means of generating positive energy and should be used as a means for uniting the party,” he said.
“But whatever those differences we simply cannot have violence. It’s regrettable that a movement that some of us are prepared to die for is morphisising into something much, much, worse than Zanu PF.”