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The year 2014 will be an unforgettable one for MDC-T here owing to factional infighting. Still smarting from losing all the 26 House of Assembly seats to Zanu-PF in last year’s watershed elections in Masvingo, this year started on a bad note for MDC-T as the party’s rank and file increasingly became disillusioned with the leadership.

Intra-party violence also reared its ugly head in the party with several district officials at the receiving end of rogue party youths. Trouble started brewing in the MDC-T around May when provincial executive members led by former Masvingo chairman Mr Wilstaf Sitemere jumped the MDC-T ship en-masse to join the Renewal Team fronted by former MDC-T secretary general Mr Tendai Biti.

Among prominent officials who dumped the embattled MDC-T leader Mr Morgan Tsvangirai were former Masvingo Urban parliamentarian and provincial secretary Mr Tongai Matutu and former Gutu East legislator Mr Remias Makamure, who was vice provincial chairman.

The split in the MDC-T ignited a fight for control of party assets like vehicles and offices between the pro-Mr Tsvangirai camp and those aligned to Mr Biti.

Things got to a head when Mr Sitemere was chased away from the funeral of an MDC-T activist in Mucheke suburb by rowdy pro-Mr Tsvangirai youths who accused him of joining forces with Mr Biti. Mr Sitemere responded by taking a dig at Mr Tsvangirai accusing him of dictatorial tendencies and lacking a clear strategy on how to lead the party into the future.

During the fight for control of party assets, Renewal Team members in Masvingo removed Mr Tsvangirai’s initial ‘T’ from the party logo arguing that the MDC-T was not a personal project.

They also removed Mr Tsvangirai’s face from the logo.

Violent pro-Mr Tsvangirai’s youths led by the party’s Masvingo district chairman Mr Muranganwa Chanyau forcibly grabbed a party lorry and a truck from those in the Renewal Team after threatening them with violence.

The battle between the two formations escalated into a fight for the control of the party’s provincial headquarters in the plush Rhodene suburb.

Youths aligned to Mr Tsvangirai maintained a heavy presence at the party offices and barred Renewal Team members from setting foot there.

Power supplies were cut at the MDC-T offices over non-payment of bills forcing the provincial leadership to ask members to make contributions to raise $300 to restore power. Gates and windows at the offices were also damaged during running battles between youths from rival MDC-T formations forcing police to intervene.

While the MDC-T formation backing Mr Tsvangirai was still grappling with defeating the Renewal Team, trouble started rocking the party again towards the end of July as the province prepared for the October congress.

Two rival camps emerged in the MDC-T with one group loyal to businessman Mr Bernard Chiondegwa while the other backed trade unionist Mr James Gumbi.

Elections to choose the new MDC-T provincial executive ahead of the party congress were marred by violence between Chiondegwa and Gumbi’s supporters.

The camps traded allegations of tampering with the voters’ roll culminating in Mr Chiondegwa and his supporters walking out of the elections venue at the provincial party headquarters.

Mr Gumbi won the controversial elections against Mr Chiondegwa who refused to accept the outcome citing a number of irregularities.

This further weakened the MDC-T as it was now clearly divided into two distinct camps.

The factional fighting culminated in Masvingo hosting low key 14th anniversary celebrations at Mucheke Stadium described by many as a damb squib.

In his uninspiring address at the poorly attended anniversary celebrations, Mr Tsvangirai promised to lead his supporters in street protests against the Zanu-PF Government.

Analysts dismissed Mr Tsvangirai’s empty threats arguing Zimbabweans had spoken loudly when they dumped the MDC-T leader in the harmonised elections.

The intra-party fights in the MDC-T continued into the party’s congress that was held in October with the beleaguered opposition party sinking further into a state of paralysis in Masvingo where parallel structures emerged.

This forced the MDC-T to abandon setting up of new party structures in districts like Mwenezi and Chiredzi which are considered Zanu-PF gholds.

Concerned at the deepening paralysis and infighting in Masvingo, Mr Tsvangirai visited the province last month and still failed to solve the crisis.

Source : The Herald