New Zimbabwe (London)

Zimbabwe: Tsvangirai Tries to Expel Mangoma 'Violently'

MORGAN Tsvangirai once told President Robert Mugabe that "If you don't want to go peacefully, we will remove you violently".

The chilling threat will have played in former energy minister, Elton Mangoma's mind as he finally managed to leave the MDC-T's Harare head office to go home Saturday evening - shirt in shreds, spectacles crushed and nose bloody.

The MDC-T's deputy national treasurer attended a heated meeting of the party's 210 district chairpersons with a restive mob of up to a thousand activists waiting irritably outside Harvest House.

And as he tried to go home after the meeting, Mangoma was sat upon and beaten-up by some in the waiting mob which was said to be under Tsvangirai's charge.

Mangoma's offence was to dare suggest that Tsvangirai consider stepping down to allow the party to choose a new leadership after three successive election defeats with him at the helm.

Challenging the leader in the MDC-T is, apparently, completely unacceptable and punishable by a violent put-down, or worse.

Still, Mangoma was not the only one subjected to this crude disciplinary action. Similarly roughed up were former finance minister and the party's secretary general, Tendai Biti, along with one Promise Mkwananzi who are said to be members of the rebellious lot.

Brooking no opposition ... Morgan Tsvangirai wants rivals to leave

What shocked Mangoma however, was the fact that Tsvangirai effectively shouted "catch!" at the mob as the party leaders emerged from the meeting and did nothing to restrain the youths as they moved in for the attack.

"I was left with a bloody nose, broken spectacles and a tattered shirt," Mangoma told NewZimbabwe.com Saturday night.

"The attack happened after the meeting ended at about 1700 hours. Alert to the possibility of violence, we had agreed that I would emerge from the building by Tsvangirai's side and depart in the leader's vehicle in order to avoid disturbances.

"But once we emerged from the building, I realised that Tsvangirai was, somehow, no longer by my side. I was then attacked while he watched and he certainly did nothing to discourage the mob. My sense was that he had prior knowledge that there would be violence.

"This is a very disappointing development; even Zanu PF does not set party supporters to beat up its leaders. The attack shows that we are dealing with very desperate and, therefore, very dangerous people; people who cannot respond to ideas with ideas - they resort to violence instead.

"The MDC is supposed to be a democratic - not a fighting party. We should be tolerant and accepting of criticism and divergence of views. You can't turn violent mobs against your colleagues."

However, a top Tsvangirai backer who asked not to be named dismissed the violence claim as a "side-show" intended to cloud the fact that "the meeting unanimously endorsed Tsvangirai to remain as party leader and demanded that Mangoma and his group resign or be fired from the party".

"We had 210 district chairpersons from all over the country. Each of them said they were tired of the machinations of Mangoma and his group and demanded that they should be dealt with. We also had about 1000 restive supporters waiting outside Harvest House and making it clear they were not happy with Mangoma.

"Mangoma and his backers were clearly shocked by the unanimous support for Tsvangirai. I'm not aware that there was any violence. If there was, it must have been the work of some agent provocateurs - not MDC supporters.

"In fact, I'm certain that allegations of skirmishes are a poor side-show cobbled up to divert attention from what happened in the meeting which was decisive defeat for the rebels. Now they have only one choice, and that is to leave the party of their own accord or wait to be fired."

But Mangoma hit back, saying the meeting could not make any binding resolutions.

"There is no provision in the party constitution for a meeting of district chairpersons that makes binding resolutions. They (chairpersons) can meet for consultative purposes but not to make any decisive resolutions" he said.

"This was clearly a meeting organised to deal with Mangoma. It was called to beat up people and this was clear when everyone appeared to have been coached to demand that Mangoma and his group 'must be dealt with'.

"Tsvangirai also stoked tensions by claiming, during the meeting, that I wanted to take over his position when my letter to him makes no such claim."

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