MDC-T secretary-general Tendai Biti fiercely clashed with party organising secretary Nelson Chamisa at a standing committee meeting over primary election application forms, while MPs Tabitha Khumalo and Albert Mhlanga reportedly exchanged blows as intra-party fighting rages on.
Report by Brian Chitemba
The Biti-Chamisa fight engulfed the MDC-T’s standing committee comprising the Top 12, as the furious Information and Communications Technology minister queried why Biti dispatched application forms for aspiring MPs without his signature.
The ministers’ fight is seen as part of a wider MDC-T factional and succession battle as Biti and Chamisa are allegedly ensconced in two warring camps.
The initial deadline for the application forms to be submitted was January 30, but this would be moved forward as Chamisa is livid over Biti’s move to send out the forms to provinces without his say-so.
The debate, sources said, dominated the standing committee meeting last Wednesday resulting in MDC-T leaders recalling the application forms and restarting the process to pave way for contentious primary elections expected between February and March.
There is bad blood between Biti and Chamisa as the two are also involved in the party’s succession and factional fights, a source said.
“The fight between the ministers was over a template for aspiring election candidates which Chamisa said Biti did not follow while an equally incensed Biti defended his actions,” said the source.
“The debate went on for some time until the standing committee resolved to withdraw the application forms and restart the whole process.”
Chamisa and Biti could not be reached for comment yesterday as their mobile phones went unanswered.
The MDC-T has been sucked in a messy internal battle over the selection criteria for the party’s candidates for high-stakes national polls expected later this year. This was after the national council resolved to implement the controversial confirmation of sitting MPs, much to the chagrin of the party’s grassroots which view the move as undemocratic and a ploy to ring-fence senior officials’ posts from ambitious junior members of the party.
Elsewhere within the party, sources said Bulawayo East MP Khumalo confronted her Pumula constituency counterpart Mhlanga during an audit of structures in the former MDC-T deputy spokesperson’s district.
The audit is part of preparations for primary polls.
Khumalo was miffed over a plot by Deputy Prime Minister Thokozani Khupe, who is Mhlanga’s ally, to elbow her out and replace her with former United Kingdom-based academic Mandla Nyathi, now a lecturer at the National University of Science and Technology.
The grassroots are also fuming over the party’s move to entertain candidates from the diaspora, including disc jockeys Eric Knight and Ezra Sibanda who are believed to be vying for the Mbare and Lower Gweru constituencies respectively.
Tempers also flared in Bulawayo last Saturday at Macdonald’s Hall in Makokoba where Mhlanga was bashed by an angry mob allegedly aligned to Mzilikazi senator, Mattson Hlalo.
After the Makokoba incident, Mhlanga proceeded to Bulawayo East on Sunday where he was welcomed with clenched fists and booted feet by Khumalo and her supporters.
“Mhlanga was accused by Khumalo of forming parallel structures to ensure Nyathi takes over Bulawayo East,” said a senior MDC-T official based in Bulawayo. “To make matters worse, Mhlanga ordered Khumalo to organise an emergency meeting for an audit of structures in preparation for primary elections, but Khumalo requested more time.
Mhlanga continued pressing her resulting in the fist-fight.”
MDC-T Bulawayo provincial chairperson Gorden Moyo, who is also Khupe’s right-hand man, then asked Mhlanga to write a report which is likely to be used against Khumalo, for long at loggerheads with Khupe.
“Khupe is using all means to frustrate and push Khumalo out of the party regardless of the fact that she is one of the pioneers of the MDC-T,” said the source.
The Khumalo/Mhlanga fight has since been reported to party leader Morgan Tsvangirai’s office and would be dealt with once a full report is compiled by Mhlanga.
Khumalo declined to comment on Wednesday while Mhlanga was not reachable.