HARARE - Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai yesterday said his security personnel frantically shielded deputy treasurer-general Elton Mangoma from attack by rowdy youths, and rushed him to his Highlands house.
But Mangoma, who was roughed up and had his shirt torn-off, insisted he was assaulted by troublemakers who were hired by the party.
By end of day yesterday, Mangoma had still not made a police report on the alleged assault.
The party’s deputy treasurer-general alleged that Tsvangirai retreated as they stepped out of Harvest House, the MDC headquarters in central Harare after a meeting with district chairpersons on Saturday, disregarding the exit formula they had reportedly agreed on.
Mangoma claims the meeting with all district chairpersons, which ran for eight-hours, was convened to whip up emotions.
Mangoma is one of senior MDC officials who are calling for Tsvangirai to step down after controversially losing elections to President Robert Mugabe ostensibly because he was now a hard-sell candidate, but the MDC leader secured a ringing endorsement from all 210 district chairpersons last weekend.
“How do you take agents from outside the party and buy them beer?” Mangoma queried.
Asked if he was contemplating legal action against his attackers, he said, “I am yet to decide whether to go or not but I may go back to the party and ask for an internal investigation.”
Charity Charamba, the police spokesperson, said the force will act if there was a report filed.
“We are waiting for them to come and complain,” Charamba told the Daily News.
“They must come and report. If they don’t want to come in order to protect their party, then it is up to them. But we are ready to investigate if they come and report.”
But Tsvangirai, through his spokesperson Luke Tamborinyoka said contrary to “mistruths and inaccurate information being peddled in the media”, Tsvangirai rescued Mangoma and secretary-general Tendai Biti from a tense crowd outside Harvest House.
“Lost in the convoluted media narratives on the event are several important facts,” Tamborinyoka said.
“Firstly, an impression is being created that president Tsvangirai was complicit in the alleged violence and did not do anything to assist the situation.
“Nothing could be further from the truth. The president came down the building after an eight-hour robust and deliberative leadership meeting with all district chairpersons from across the country and addressed restive party supporters, imploring upon them to desist from harassing any member of the party.
“He told the tense and restive crowd outside Harvest House that there had been a frank and robust discussion with the grassroots leaders of the party on the national and internal party issues. He said there had been agreement and consensus by everyone on the way forward for both the party and the country.
“Then the party president’s security staff took Mr Mangoma to Mr Tsvangirai’s car, where some youths yanked his shirt as they tried to pull him out of the vehicle.
“They were demanding an explanation as to why Mr Mangoma was seeking to remove the president outside the democratic forum of a Congress.”
Tamborinyoka continued: “The party leader’s driver and security personnel drove him in his official car to Mr Tsvangirai’s house in Highlands. The driver and security personnel returned to fetch Mr Tsvangirai.
“Realising there appeared to be danger for Hon Biti, the president took the party secretary-general in his car to his house where they found Mr Mangoma with a tattered shirt.
“Upon arrival at his house with Hon. Biti, the party president asked Mr Mangoma what had happened to him, to which he said somebody had yanked his shirt as they attempted to pull him out of the party leader’s car outside Harvest House.”
Tamborinyoka said contrary to media reports, Biti was never assaulted as he left Harvest House with Tsvangirai.
“The picture of Mr Mangoma in his tattered shirt standing under a tree, which is being widely circulated on social media sites, was taken just outside the MDC president’s house where he had been whisked by the party leader’s security personnel,” Tamborinyoika said.
“Hon Biti and Mangoma then left Mr Tsvangirai’s house and the next thing we saw were pictures in the media and other social sites.
“For the avoidance of doubt, Mr Tsvangirai has clean hands and a pure heart. He has never believed and will not believe in violence. He has no blood in his hands.
He is a democrat who does not believe in both violence and hostile take-overs.
“By way of emphasis, the youth who yanked Mr Mangoma’s shirt has to face the music and investigations are continuing on the issue.”
Dewa Mavhinga, chairperson of the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition — a conglomeration of more than 350 civic society organisations — said the MDC must take immediate steps to investigate and hold accountable those responsible for the reported assault of Mangoma, party youth leader Promise Mkwananzi and other senior members of the party.
“We condemn, in the strongest terms, the use of violence in pursuit of any cause, including in expressing or settling political differences,” Mavhinga said, adding the MDC leadership should “demonstrate commitment to democratic values through ensuring justice for the victims, while bringing the perpetrators to book.”
“Failure to decisively deal with the violence in its midst will greatly undermine the MDC’s integrity and credibility nationally and internationally,” he added.
But Tsvangirai restated his position that violence was never tolerated in the MDC; a party he said “has always been the victim, and not the perpetrator, of political violence in this country.”
“President Tsvangirai unreservedly condemns all acts of violence, of which he has personally always been a victim,” Tamborinyoka said.
“The role Mr Tsvangirai played to ensure the safety of the senior leaders of the party has been lost in the media madness of the moment. Instead, he is being portrayed not as a saviour but as having been complicit in this needless and senseless act.
“These diversionary matters must be dealt with so that national attention reverts back to the key issues facing the people of Zimbabwe.”