Leadership wrangles in the MDC-T took a nasty turn yesterday when youths reportedly aligned to party leader Mr Morgan Tsvangirai assaulted secretary-general Mr Tendai Biti and deputy national treasurer Mr Elton Mangoma in violent scenes that rocked the MDC-T Harvest House headquarters.
Mr Biti escaped unhurt while Mr Mangoma sustained injuries in the attack, which occurred at the end of a meeting between the national party leadership and district chairpersons. The two fell out of favour with Mr Tsvangirai’s backers after they were fingered as being part of a clique angling to topple the MDC-T leader.
Youth assembly secretary-general Mr Promise Mkwananzi was also assaulted while the chairperson, Mr Solomon Madzore, took cover inside the building. National police spokesperson Senior Assistant Commissioner Charity Charamba yesterday said investigations were in progress. No arrests had been made by last night.
“I can confirm that concerned citizens rushed to Harare Central Police Station to alert our officers that Mr Mangoma had been assaulted,” said Senior Asst Comm Charamba. “We are still gathering information to ascertain who was behind the attack and waiting for an official report from Mr Mangoma or his party.”
Yesterday’s meeting began in the morning with the state of the party featuring uppermost on the agenda. The gathering resolved to restructure all MDC-T structures in what appears to be a move tailored to revive Mr Tsvangirai’s waning influence. Sources who attended the meeting said Mr Tsvangirai sought to whip the chairpersons in line following indications the national executive council could call an early elective congress.
The sources said the chairpersons, however, openly told him that he had failed as a leader. The meeting exposed the divisions within the party, which became more pronounced after the defeat of Mr Tsvangirai and the MDC-T in last year’s elections.
Mr Mangoma is among the senior party officials calling on Mr Tsvangirai to step down. Others include national treasurer Mr Roy Bennett, former Marondera Central legislator Mr Ian Kay and Warren Park National Assembly representative Engineer Elias Mudzuri. Mr Kay called Mr Tsvangirai a “rusty bolt” that needs to be replaced.
As Mr Biti and Mr Mangoma stepped out of Harvest House after the meeting, the youths who were waiting outside immediately pounced on them. Mr Mangoma took cover behind Mr Tsvangirai who made frantic efforts to calm the youths. The gang, however, punched and kicked the deputy party treasurer. His clothes were also torn in the attack.
He was later rescued by Mr Tsvangirai’s security guards who whisked him away in a vehicle that was parked nearby. With Mr Tsvangirai still trying desperately to restore order, the youths turned to Mr Biti who ran for dear life and leapt into Mr Tsvangirai’s vehicle.
He was whisked off together with the party leader. The youths then turned against each other with those identified as being aligned to Mr Mangoma fleeing to safety.
When The Sunday Mail news crew arrived, the youths were singing songs denouncing Mr Mangoma while holding broken spectacles, which they claimed belonged to him. They were also baying for Mr Madzore’s blood as he remained holed up inside Harvest House.
Contacted last night, Mr Mangoma refused to comment. “I am sorry, but I do not speak to The Sunday Mail,” he said.
Mr Tsvangirai’s spokesperson, Mr Luke Tamborinyoka, would not commit himself.
“I can confirm that Mangoma attended the meeting along with everyone else, but I am not aware of what transpired after the meeting had been concluded,” he said.
Party spokesperson Mr Douglas Mwonzora said he was not aware of the physical attack.
“We are going to investigate the matter to ascertain if the people responsible for the incident were party members. We suspect there are people from outside who want to tarnish the party’s image,” he said.