Some Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) youth on Tuesday detained and assaulted the late Morgan Tsvangirai’s deputy, Thokozani Khupe, legislator Lwazi Sibanda, MDC-T secretary general Douglas Mwonzora and several others at Tsvangirai’s funeral service in Buhera, Manicaland province.
The youth accused them of opposing moves by acting party president Nelson Chamisa to succeed the late MDC-T leader, who succumbed to cancer of the colon last Wednesday.
Khupe said she was shocked about the violence at Hamunikwa village where she was almost killed by the marauding youth that did not want “us to attend Tsvangirai’s funeral”.
“Tsvangirai was a very hard working man who would not have tolerated this kind of behavior. We have criminal sons who beat me and others. People must learn to respect the dead. As we arrived at the homestead we wanted to greet gogo (Tsvangirai’s mother who did not want Chamisa and Tsvangirai's wife to attend the funeral) but they called us names and said they will kill us."
Speaking on VOA Studio 7 Livetalk's The Connection youth show, she added that “they beat us with stones, umbrellas and any items they could lay their hands on. They called us dissidents saying we should go back to Matabeleland. It was me, Douglas Mwonzora, Abednico Bhebhe, Lwazi Sibanda, and several other people. One stone hit me on my back. I am in pain as I speak right now.
“One man asked us to go into his hut. Those thugs threatened to burn the hut but we were lucky that it was raining and so the thatch could not catch the fire. They threw a burning log into the hamlet. If it was not rain, we were going to die. But I went back to attend the funeral to make sure that he (Tsvangirai) was laid to rest.
“This happened in full view of the police. The police tried to stop them (youth) but they were too vicious. Everybody saw what happened. I don’t know what they will do to them. They (police) saw the criminals.
Mwonzowa said he saw some youths from Chitungwiza. They beat me while I was walking before hiding inside a hut.”
She said the youth stopped intimidating them when one of them told them that "the commander in chief (Chamisa) had ordered them to stop what they were doing. They then stopped."
Reacting to the latest developments,Chamisa said, This is totally unacceptable. I got a report and I said to the security guy I want to get a report within 24 hours. We will not accept abuse of leadership and we don’t believe in politics of violence. It is anti-MDC. It’s not part of the MDC culture. We are not going to leave any stone unturned to look for the culprits. These may be provocateurs deployed to cause noise."
Chamisa noted that he attempted to apologize to Khupe soon after Tsvangirai’s burial.
“I tried to apologize and I still apologize. Whoever did it is trying to have an agenda that is foreign. She (Khupe) has been the longest serving vice presidents and has been loyal to the MDC. We need to be vigilant. This apology goes to Khupe, secretary general Mwonzora and others. I apologize."
He further apologized for the public humiliation of Zanu PF chairperson, Oppah Muchinguri Kashiri, who was booed by some members of the MDC-T while addressing people at the funeral.
“We don’t want to be purveyors of intolerance. Those who differ with us must be tolerated.”
Reacting to Chamisa’s remarks, Khupe said, “This violence emanates from the leadership crisis in the MDC-T. Our election was constitutional but now we have someone who is saying so and so is acting. The constitution stipulates what has to be done. I am the only person who is the acting president of the MDC-T. The constitution is clear on that. Those that don’t want to follow their own thing, I’m not in that …”
But Chamisa pointed out that the only organ that deals with acting presidents is the National Council and therefore “any other does not have a right to apportion this position … Go to the constitution, it’s very clear and the courts interpreted this very clearly. Three deputy presidents can act at a given time in the interest of the party.
"We can also go back to the National Council and have a secret ballot. But as of now we have an acting president who has been put in place by the National Council. You can go Jupiter, Mars or wherever and this will not change. This thing belongs to the people and if there is any query go to Harvest House.”
The United States immediately responded to the violence. “The US Gov strongly condemns the violence that occurred today @ the funeral for Morgan Tsvangirai. He stood in opposition of such violence & there exists no place for these types of actions today in Zimbabwe, as the country moves forward.”