THE MDC-T on Wednesday demoted Thabitha Khumalo as its deputy spokesman and named Public Works Minister Joel Gabhuza in her place.
Khumalo, the MP for Bulawayo East, becomes the first victim of the factionalism that has rocked the party in Bulawayo where dozens of supporters have deserted the party to join a rival MDC faction led by Industry Minister Welshman Ncube.
MDC-T sources said Khumalo’s demotion was part of a mini-reshuffle of secretary positions.
The party is expected to announce the leadership changes after a national executive meeting slated for Harare on Thursday.
Khumalo has been on a collision course with the party leadership following her election to the position of deputy president of a faction of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions led by Lovemore Matombo.
After the split of the labour body last year, the party chose to back a faction of the ZCTU led by George Nkiwane.
A petition is reported to be circulating in Makokoba - a constituency riven by the incessant infighting that saw the defection of more than 200 members early this month - targeting local Senator Matson Hlalo who is believed to be Khumalo’s ally. The petition demands Hlalo’s suspension from the party.
One of Khumalo’s allies said last night: “What is surprising is that all those who deserted the party claimed they were not happy with deputy president Thokozani Khuphe’s leadership style, but here we see Thabitha being victimised.”
Khumalo had also infuriated the party’s leaders, sources say, by her campaign to legalise prostitution and support of gay rights.
She declined to comment on her demotion on Wednesday night, but promised to issue a statement after Thursday’s meeting.
Gabhuza told the Voice of America’s Studio 7 last night that the reshuffle was part of a strategic restructuring ahead of general elections expected any time before June next year.
“As you know, the party had some vacancies due to deaths of senior members so this is part of the restructuring to fill those vacant positions,” he said.
When probed to explain how he had stepped into a position that was not vacant, Gabhuza said: “Maybe she will be posted to another position. I’m not sure on that though. Our leaders are going to make that clear soon.”