A WAR of words erupted during an MDC-T meeting for organisers on Saturday with party youths allegedly aligned to Bulawayo deputy mayor Gift Banda baying for the blood of provincial deputy organising secretary Tshepiso Mpofu.
Mpofu reportedly drew the ire of the youths when she read sections of the party’s constitution that disqualified Banda from assuming the provincial chairperson’s post.
Party insiders said with the likelihood of provincial chairperson Gorden Moyo – whose sabbatical has stretched longer than expected – stepping down sometime this week, serious jockeying to replace him was raising further tensions in an already fractious party.
Banda, who is said to enjoy the support of MDC-T vice-president Thokozani Khupe, has reportedly entered the race though some party members feel he has not spent enough time in the party to occupy such a senior position.
“It was the meeting of ward and district organisers from the province. Mpofu read out article 5,5,2 that stipulates that members of the party should have served two years before holding district positions and five years before they are eligible for provincial or national council,” a party insider said.
“It is at that point that some youths aligned to Banda started making noise and hurling insults at Mpofu.
“They also threatened to beat her up, but other members intervened before things turned physical.”
The sources said the race for posts had further been heightened by the party’s recent announcement that it would hold its congress in October.
MDC-T provincial secretary for policy and research, Swithern Chirowodza, confirmed the incident yesterday.
“It was not a physical assault, but a verbal one. She was threatened with violence and had insults hurled at her,” he said.
“She informed the meeting that the party would be guided by the constitution as it prepares for the congress and that is when trouble started.”
Chirowodza reiterated that Banda did not qualify to occupy the provincial chairman’s post.
“Look at Gorden (Moyo), he is not a politician. When things started heating up he fled,” he said.
“Banda has not been within party structures for a time that warrants a position.
“It is not about carrying a membership card which (President Robert) Mugabe could have, but about service to the MDC-T within party structures.
“Banda was not even supposed to be councillor for Ward 5. A woman called Agnes Musaka had won the primaries, but Banda was imposed by Moyo.
“There is evidence to that. He got to council through rigging.
“I dare him to challenge my statements. I challenge Banda to take me to court and sue me; not the civil route, but the criminal route.
“We want someone that we know and not someone who has been parachuted into the party.”
Contacted for comment, Banda said he had never declared interest to take over from Moyo.
“All this has been happening in my absence and I have not declared any interest towards the post,” he said.
“It boggles the mind for people to go around de-campaigning someone who has not campaigned.
“People who have declared interests are already campaigning. If ever I am going to consider that position, I will let people know.”
However, a source said there was already precedence in that a member can be elected to a position without serving for the period stipulated in the party’s constitution.
“Albert Mhlanga (provincial organising secretary) and Matson Hlalo both contested for positions within the party a few months after joining,” he said.
“Why are they afraid of Banda? If he does not qualify or is unfit, people will decide. That is what democracy is all about.”