Cracks started appearing in the Thokozani Khupe-led MDC-T on Monday after police ended their siege, at least temporarily, on the opposition party’s disputed headquarters in Harare.
MDC-T organising secretary Abednico Bhebhe said demands made by youths from the MDC-T and MDC Alliance after they seized the building on Sunday night were “not unreasonable.”
About 60 youths from the two feuding parties issued a joint statement on Monday demanding unity among leaders and an end to unilateral actions, hours after they barricaded themselves inside Harvest House.
Armed police started massing outside the building at 3AM on Monday, and tried to negotiate with the youths to come out without success. Police were eventually withdrawn at dusk.
At least nine MDC Alliance youths were arrested outside the building.
MDC-T chairman Morgen Komichi was the only senior official from either party allowed into the building where he held talks with the youths and then left.
The party’s secretary general Douglas Mwonzora arrived moments later but was denied entry. He claimed the building had been taken over by the MDC Alliance on the orders of its leader Nelson Chamisa, telling reporters: “We are going to take our property back, and we are going to take it today. It’s a question of time.”
Mwonzora claimed MDC Alliance youths “overpowered” their security guards and were holding 12 people hostage, which the youths denied.
The MDC-T seized the building from the MDC Alliance in June with the help of the police and army after a controversial Supreme Court ruling in March. The court said the MDC-T should return to its 2014 structures when it last held a congress, which would make Khupe the leader.
Paul Gorekore, the MDC-T’s youth chairman for Harare province, showed police and reporters a letter signed by Mwonzora giving him authority of securing the building. Mwonzora claimed the letter had expired.
He said he had assembled youths from the 2014 structures – from the MDC-T and MDC Alliance – who were now in charge of the building.
Gorekore spoke to reporters from behind burglar bars which had been fortified with chains and new locks. Some MDC-T activists tried to drown him out, accusing him of “selling out the struggle”.
“We, the young people of the Movement for Democratic Change in Harare province united together to finish the people’s democratic revolution. As the first line of defence of the party, the vanguards of democracy and the custodians of the party and its future we have assumed all security duties of the Party HQ,” Gorekore said.
He said they had “noted the attempt to surrender the democratic project into the hands of the enemy”, adding that the MDC-T “has been infiltrated by sell-outs with an agenda to derail our freedom.”
“This act of bravery was necessitated by the need to protect our beloved movement and the Zimbabwean people’s fight for better lives. Individuals have been making decisions without the mandate of the Zimbabwean voters, districts, provinces, the party’s National Executive and National Council organs which have not sat since the Supreme Court judgment,” Gorekore added.
Long day … Police officers resting under a truck on Monday during Harvest House siege
MDC-T organising secretary Bhebhe, in a statement, sided with the rebellious youths as he accused his colleagues of making decisions unilaterally.
“We note the position taken by the Harare province youth of the MDC-T in its collective sense. We also note their concerns, in particular the interest that Zanu PF has shown with the intention of dividing and derailing the movement,” Bhebhe said.
“In particular, they have expressed concern about what appears as unilateral conduct and decision making of some senior leaders without involving the organs of the party such as the National Executive Committee and to some extent the National Council. Such decisions involve the recalls (of MDC Alliance councillors and MPs) without the authority of the National Executive Committee as well as the preparation of the EOC without reporting to the National Executive Committee as per the party constitution.”
Bhebhe said the calls by the youths for a united party and a meeting of the NEC which has not met since the March 31 court judgment “are not unreasonable demands.”
“I would like to call upon the acting president Thokozani Khupe, the acting chairman and secretary general to take necessary steps to convene the 2014 National Executive Committee and National Council as composed in the 2014 Congress,” Bhebhe said.
Bhebhe said the MDC-T’s youths from Harare province were “conducting our party business peacefully and are protected by the party constitution.”