By Robert Tapfumaneyi & Bulawayo Correspondent
MDC-T secretary general Douglas Mwonzora has been accused of fanning tribalism and violence by a senior party official and structures, as fights for control of the opposition outfit persist.
In a leaked 14-minute audio conversation linked to MDC-T spokesperson Khalipani Phugeni and an unidentified party official, Mwonzora is being accused of using the unorthodox means to elbow interim party president Thokozani Khupe out of the race for substantive leadership.
In the audio, Phugeni reveals his frustrations over having to constantly defend violent party elements linked to the ambitious politician, in the media.
“…We sat in that (standing committee) meeting I then spoke of violence. I did not mention anyone there, but I think everyone knows who is behind the violence.
He added, “And I just told them that it’s disgusting that we are sitting here and every day and we have to answer to the media about violence that is sponsored by leadership just because you are desperate for a position right.”
Phugeni accuses Mwonzora of downplaying internal complaints of tribalism within the party.
He says of his confrontation with Mwonzora, “It is at that point, I actually didn’t call him a dictator I actually called him a disgusting pig-head, that’s what I called him.
“I called him that he is a coward, he is mobilising youths, feeding them…”
The MDC-T spokesperson said a party activist was taken to hospital over violence linked to Mwonzora.
He also said Khupe had to restrain a party official who wanted to confront Mwonzora over his dictatorial behaviour.
“So, we told him that you mobilise people to abuse us tribally and you come and sit here. You are not even fit to a chairperson of a burial society,” Phugeni says.
The MDC-T spokesperson threatened to let the cat out of the bag when talking to the media.
“He (Mwonzora) had no one supporting him, he was isolated. So, I am not surprised, you see today he is coming out and say ‘this war in Matabeleland’, you can’t be surprised we have people who say Ndebeles are dogs in his campaign.
“In the same campaign, you have someone saying, ‘two angry Ndebeles’, I don’t know who he was referring to.
“Such blatant tribalism and you have the guts to be in the standing committee to try and defend that!
“I needed to tell him that I was not scared of him, nor the boys he is mobilising and here I am being honest that one day those boys will miscalculate, touch me or touch chief, he is playing with fire.”
Meanwhile, the MDC-T structures in the United States of America also accused Mwonzora of fanning tribalism in the party.
In March this year, the Supreme Court directed the party to hold an Extra Ordinary Congress within 90 days to elect the party’s substantive leadership but due to Covid-19 outbreak, the elective event has been put on ice.
Khupe, Mwonzora and the party’s national chairperson Morgan Komichi are all reportedly jostling to replace the party’s founding leader Morgan Tsvangirai who died of colon cancer on February 14 2018.
The party’s USA structures on 31 August 2020 wrote to Mwonzora expressing their disgruntlement over the way he was allegedly abusing his position to frustrate other contenders.
“Tribalism has again reared its ugly head in the MDC-T. The victim is not only MDC-T acting president Dr Thokozani Khupe but the rest of the Ndebele people. Abuse of Dr Khupe seems to be a popular pastime of your supporters,”
“Yes, you have tried to distance yourself from their remarks but failure to take concrete steps including suspension and disciplinary hearings does not fit the abhorrent and so primitive utterances,” wrote Andrew Chaponda, party’s USA Secretary.
Chaponda accused the Secretary General of abandoning Khupe and supporting MDC Alliance president Nelson Chamisa when the party split soon after the death of Tsvangirai.
“You are aware of the relentless attack on her person (Khupe) by the rebels over her stance on constitutionalism. You choose sides during the illegal take over, hobnobbed with them until they rejected you at the illegal Gweru Congress, despite your exuberant endorsement of their candidate,”
“It appears you were content with the tribal insults then but please do not import the same back to the MDC-T. As head of party Administration, it is your responsibility to instil discipline on errant members, let alone party employees promoting tribalism to advance your candidacy,” reads part of the letter which was also copied to all members of the party’s standing committee.
Chaponda also accused the party’s Legal Director Tapiwa Sengweni of calling Ndebeles dogs.
“Your supporter, Tapiwa Sengweni referred to Ndebeles as dogs. As beneficiary of the tribal utterances and leader you have an unflinching responsibility to bring this to an end before it becomes a cancer of Gukurahundi proportions,” said Chaponda.
Mwonzora also stand accused of failing to implement the party’s National Council resolutions.
“It is prudent that the membership knows in writing that you have unilaterally and selectively decided to personalize the NC resolutions in unbeknownst by and in defiance of members wishes. You have also been playing footsie with the recall process.
“Lynette Karenyi, Theresa Makone and Phyllis Ndlovu were long submitted for recall by their respective provinces. You removed their names from the list without explanation. This trio still needs to be recalled as demanded by their provinces and without further delay. Your office exists to serve the membership not the other way round,” further reads Chaponda’s letter.