The faction of Zimbabwe's opposition Movement for Democratic Change faction led by MDC founder Morgan Tsvangirai has been rocked by intra-party violence in the past several days leaving scores of people injured and the party’s image in jeopardy.
Clashes occurring around a high-level weekend meeting at the party's headquarters in Harare were said to reflect deep divisions within the rank and file over the leadership's reshuffle in October of the executive board of the formation's women's assembly.
Supporters of the ousted chairwoman of the women's assembly, Lucia Matibenga, are lined up against those backing the new chairwoman, Theresa Makone, elected to the post in late October at a Bulawayo congress whose legitimacy has been challenged.
Party sources blamed the internecine violence on youthful supporters of Makone who on Saturday and Sunday allegedly intimidated and assaulted Matibenga supporters trying to demonstrate outside the headquarters of the Tsvangirai MDC faction.
Makone could not be reached for comment on the charge that her partisans were responsible for the incidents of violence around the MDC headquarters.
Two reporters were also roughed up by some of the youths who accused them of tarnishing the image of the opposition party with negative reporting.
National Organizing Secretary Elias Mudzuri told reporter Carole Gombakomba of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that the party is concerned about reports of violence and has launched an investigation.
Senior Programs Officer Pedzisai Ruhanya of the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition said the episodes of violence suggested Tsvangirai was losing control of his party.
Correspondent Thomas Chiripasi reported meanwhile that sources in the troubled faction accuse its leadership of excluding activists aligned with Matibenga.
In the wider political arena, liberation war veterans and a government minister have declared that opposition members will be barred from the country's rural areas in the runup to 2008 national elections, reported correspondent Irwin Chifera.