Saturday, April 24, 2010

(NEWZIMBABWE) Violence erupts at MDC HQ in power struggle

Violence erupts at MDC HQ in power struggle
by Staff Reporter
23/04/2010 00:00:00

VIOLENCE has rocked the Movement for Democratic Change in an apparent power struggle between party president Morgan Tsvangirai and secretary general Tendai Biti. Toendepi Shonhe, the party’s director general and Biti ally, was brutally assaulted by a group of seven youths loyal to Tsvangirai at the party’s Harare HQ last week.

The youths, now suspended from the party, also seized a vehicle from Shonhe and barred him from the six-storey building on Nelson Mandela Avenue and Angwa Street.

Journalist Frank Chikowore told SW Radio Africa last night that the party’s director of security, Chris Dhlamini, stepped in to rescue Shonhe but was also barred and forced to flee the offices.

An MDC official sympathetic to the violent youths told SW Radio that Shonhe had been assaulted because he “paid MDC structures to ‘vote for fresh ideas’, and campaigned for the SG Biti to take over from president Tsvangirai at the next congress”.

Tsvangirai is Prime Minister in Zimbabwe’s power sharing government, while Biti holds the powerful post of Finance Minister.

The violence comes ahead of the MDC’s congress early next year when elections for senior party positions, including the presidency, will be contested.

In a statement posted on its website Friday, the MDC said its senior leadership “was informed last week of an incident of violence and intimidation that occurred at the party’s headquarters”.

The party added: “The abhorrent incident was perpetrated by members of the MDC youth and represents a gross violation of the founding principles of the party and its dedication to non-violent, democratic struggle.”

The party’s Standing Committee met on Monday this week and “resolved that the alleged perpetrators be immediately suspended from the party and barred from entering Harvest House pending the outcome of an investigation by an independent committee appointed by the leadership,” the statement went on.

It has been known for sometime that the party has two centres of power, with Tsvangirai and Biti leading the factions.

The power struggle first surfaced last year when the party’s Jonathan Chawora-led UK executive, thought to be loyal to Tsvangirai, was forced out by Biti loyalists.

Biti first suspended the Chawora executive citing “extensive bickering and negative application of energy” as well as “shocking financial irregularities”, amid claims it was channelling money directly to Tsvangirai instead of the party’s treasurer.

At one tension-filled meeting, Biti’s young brother, Stanford, was accused of throwing an egg at Chawora.

The MDC, formed in 1999, split in 2005 after some of the party’s founder members accused Tsvangirai of siding with violent youths who attacked MPs and other senior officials, including former secretary general Welshman Ncube, at the same offices.

The officials were angry that after the youths, including a Tsvangirai bodyguard, were expelled by the party’s disciplinary committee, he re-engaged them.

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