Nduduzo Tshuma, Political Editor
MDC-T leader Mr Morgan Tsvangirai is reportedly prepared to sacrifice Bulawayo East legislator Ms Thabitha Khumalo over the recent assault of his deputy Ms Thokozani Khupe and senior party officials in Bulawayo by party youths linked to his office.
Ms Khupe was assaulted along with MDC-T national chairman Mr Lovemore Moyo and national organising secretary Mr Abednico Bhebhe.
They were accused of, among other things, holding an unsanctioned meeting.
However, it was revealed by sources within the party that the trio’s main crime was snubbing the MDC alliance launch presided over by Mr Tsvangirai in Harare a day prior to the attacks.
Ms Khupe is on record opposing efforts by the party to form a coalition with other parties especially where the MDC-T has been winning seats, a stance that has set a wedge between her and her boss.
In a fire-fighting move Mr Tsvangirai, after the attacks, quickly suspended Ms Khumalo over alleged involvement in the violence while deputy treasurer Mr Charlton Hwende was suspended over statements he made on Facebook justifying the attacks on Ms Khupe and company.
It is Ms Khumalo’s suspension that has riled a section of the party within the Bulawayo structures with accusations that Mr Tsvangirai wanted to sacrifice the Bulawayo East legislator to hide his hand in the violence and restore strained relations with Ms Khupe.
Ms Khupe who reportedly leads a faction within the party and Ms Khumalo, who is linked to a faction reportedly led by another MDC-T deputy president, Mr Nelson Chamisa, have been involved in a long-standing political rivalry that Mr Tsvangirai is reportedly manipulating to save face.
Sources within the embattled party yesterday said Ms Khumalo was yet to be served with her suspension letter amid indications that the case against her was weak.
“What is coming out is that Tsvangirai is taking advantage of the long-standing rivalry between Khupe and Khumalo who belong to rival factions. It is the feeling of many within the party that Tsvangirai wants to please Khupe by suspending Khumalo in a bid to try and restore soured relations,” said an insider.
“There is a record of cases where Mr Tsvangirai has sacrificed party officials to please Khupe and this is what is happening now. Remember while the (Matson) Hlalo case was still in court challenging (Gift) Banda’s election as Bulawayo chairperson, Tsvangirai went on to declare Banda, an ally of Khupe, the Bulawayo chairperson. There have been cases of violence committed by members of Khupe’s faction in Bulawayo and Tsvangirai has looked away,” said the insider.
Ms Khumalo refused to comment yesterday saying: “The matter is still in progress, please refer to the previous comment I made on the case.”
MDC-T spokesperson Mr Obert Gutu said he needed time to verify whether Ms Khumalo had been handed her suspension letter.
On the allegations that Mr Tsvangirai was sacrificing Ms Khumalo, Mr Gutu said: “I don’t do speculation; I don’t want to talk about rumours, about corridor talk or pub talk. I don’t even want to dignify those kind of rumours because when I start doing that, I will be giving them the dignity they don’t deserve.”
However, insiders insisted that the case against the Bulawayo East legislator is weak.
“Accusations against her are that she gave some three youths from Bulawayo transport money to travel from the capital allegedly to commit acts of violence. She is also accused of having been spotted having lunch with some party youths from the city at a Bulawayo restaurant where it is alleged that she was plotting the violent activities.
“However, the allegations don’t hold water because on the day of the clashes, the youths were identified as those from Harare and on the day, Bhebhe actually told the media that they had been informed that those particular youths were acting on behalf of Tsvangirai.”
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