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MDC rift widens

Augustine Mukaro

DIVISIONS in the MDC faction led by Morgan Tsvangirai widened this week with power struggles at its headquarters in Harare spreading to the provinces.

Just as the October 12, 2005 differences split the MDC into two factions, the current divisions have been stirred by the violation of the party’s constitution by Tsvangirai who is accused of relying on a “kitchen cabinet” for policy decisions.

Tsvangirai two weeks ago fired the party’s women’s assembly executive headed by Lucia Matibenga for alleged incompetence.

Highly placed sources in the party said Tsvangirai has alienated himself from his National Executive and National Council following the unprocedural dissolution of the women’s assembly against the recommendations of a commission of inquiry into allegations of “dysfunctionality”.

The commission, composed of chairman Sam Sipepa Nkomo, Blessing Chebundo and Sessel Zvidzai, recommended “reformation” but was ignored by Tsvangirai who proceeded to dissolve the assembly.

Officials who differed with Tsvangirai’s alleged unconstitutional decision include the party’s national organising secretary, Elias Mudzuri, who wrote to Tsvangirai reminding him that: “Section 6.1.2 of the MDC constitution states that ‘it shall be the duty of the president to uphold and defend the party’s constitution’.”

The wife of Ian Makone, Theresa, was last weekend controversially elected women’s assembly chairperson, confirming assertions that Tsvangirai wanted to catapult his close allies into influential positions through the backdoor to safeguard his interests.

The sources said besides Makone, Tsvangirai was under pressure to reward other members of his kitchen cabinet by ensuring that they contest next year’s elections in “safe” constituencies.

Kitchen cabinet members set to benefit include Piniel Denga, who is eyeing Mbare after failing to clinch Chikomba on two occasions, and Denis Murira who is gunning for Budidrio, currently held by Emmanuel Chisvuure.

In Bulawayo, the divisions have isolated MDC national leaders such as vice-president Thokozani Khupe and national chairman Lovemore Moyo from their support base.

The sources said the supporters accused the two leaders of blindly following Tsvangirai’s instructions.

The divisions are much more pronounced in the Midlands province where two camps, one led by former Gweru mayor and party secretary-general Patrick Kombayi, and party secretary for local government Sessel Zvidzai, have emerged.

The Zvidzai camp is understood to be enjoying Tsvangirai’s support while Kombayi is in charge of the militant youth wing. Last week the two camps turned violent resulting in houses for the deputy mayor, Councillor Obert Tachi Ncube and Councillor Elvis Mavondo being stoned.

The camps accuse each other of wanting to impose candidates ahead of primary polls for the 2008 election.

Kombayi and Zvidzai are fighting for the Gweru senatorial post.

“Kombayi has always wanted to contest for the senate post but is now threatened by Zvidzai who is also eyeing the same post following the scrapping of executive mayoral elections,” a senior party official said.

The official said the Kombayi faction is also against the imposition of Roderick Rutsvara as the Gweru Urban candidate arguing that he doesn’t qualify since he has been in the party for only two years.

The sources said the differences were gradually spreading to other provinces as the leadership had started writing to Tsvangirai questioning his handling of party issues.

Women from Chitungwiza women’s districts have written to the National Executive showing their solidarity with Matibenga, a development which shows that they have abandoned Tsvangirai.

“Since we are faced with presidential elections, dissolving the women’s assembly and bringing newcomers into the party would divide the electorate,” wrote the Chitungwiza women’s districts in response to Tsvangirai’s decision to dissolve the assembly.

“We reject the Zanu PF mentality of bringing “mafikizolos” into the party. President Tsvangirai must not forget those who remained with the party when it split,” the women said.

l Meanwhile, the MDC yesterday made a claim, which was dismissed by the police, that one of its youth members in Kwekwe was shot dead and the other seriously injured by a former senior army officer and Zanu PF activist.

In a terse statement, the MDC said Zanu PF’s “ugly hand of violence and insincerity” continued to reign supreme.

“This afternoon two MDC youths, Taurai Chigede and Clement Takaendesa, were shot at point blank (range) in Kwekwe by retired Brigadier General (Benjamin) Mabenge,” the MDC claimed. “Takaendesa died on the spot and Taurai Chigede is battling for dear life in a hospital in Kwekwe.”

Police spokesperson Wayne Bvudzijena last night confirmed the shooting of Takaendesa and Chigede at Woodlands Farm, but denied it was politically-motivated.

He said the victims and three others were found poaching fish with nets by Mabenge in Mbembeswane River that flows through his farm.

“It is alleged that the retired brigadier general fired a shot at the five suspected poachers using a 303 rifle,” Bvudzijena said. “The single shot that was fired hit the deceased who died on the spot and the same bullet hit Taurai Chigede who was severely injured in the pelvis.”

He said Mabenge was arrested and would face murder charges.

“It is unfortunate that statements coming from certain quarters seek to predicate for political expediency this unfortunate occurrence from the realm of common criminality into that of political violence,” Bvudzijena said. “Initial investigations do not indicate any allegiance to a political party by either the accused or victims to be material in this case.”

The MDC claimed that Mabenge was Rural Amenities minister Emmerson Mnangagwa’s chief parliamentary election agent in 2000.

Mnangagwa lost the Kwekwe parliamentary seat to Blessing Chebundo of the MDC in 2000. He went on to lose again to Chebundo five years later.

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