CLASHES erupted this week over the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC)’s assets and areas of influence as the split in the party deepens.
The two factions locked horns over a motor vehicle on Wednesday that was in the Art
hur Mutambara camp’s possession. It was seized in the centre of Harare in broad daylight by “youth militia” belonging to the Morgan Tsvangirai camp.
The Zimbabwe Independent last night established that the incident was reported to the police at Harare Central, IR number 032822.The vehicle in dispute is a white Nissan Hardbody registration AAB 79931.
This came after skirmishes among faction supporters during a poorly-attended rally addressed by Mutambara at St Mary’s in Chitungwiza on Sunday. The events make the projected bridge-building talks between the two sides brokered by Bulawayo MP David Coltart seem increasingly remote, observers say.
The MDC factions are on a collision course over the party’s assets that are a source of growing conflict. The assets at stake include the party’s Harvest House headquarters in central Harare, offices in Bulawayo, Hwange and an office stand in Kwekwe as well as almost 30 party vehicles.
Apart from buildings, there is also office furniture, equipment and computers.
“After the seizure of the vehicle from the Mutambara faction by activists from Morgan Tsvangirai’s group, this means the Tsvangirai camp now has 19 vehicles in its possession, while Mutambara’s group has eight,” a source said. “The Mutambara group has so far lost seven vehicles since the infighting began in October last year. There are also other things at the centre of the fight like equipment, faxes, photocopiers and no less than 30 computers.”
The source said Tsvangirai’s Strathaven home could also become part of the tussle because it was bought using party funds although it was registered in his name.
“It was bought using party funds from donors but it was registered under his name,” the source said. “Although at law it’s legally his, it can also be contested politically because he is now a factional leader, which is different from the original MDC.”
A neutral official in the MDC said the prime target for the two factions was Harvest House, currently under the control of the Tsvangirai faction.
“Tsvangirai wants to hang on to it because it is his citadel of power and Mutambara’s faction will find it difficult to set up a strong base in Harare if it can’t capture Harvest House,” the official said. However, sources said there was unlikely to be a fight over money — except the already spent $8 billion from state coffers — because the MDC didn’t have any. In fact it is broke. Donor funds have dried up since the squabbling started.
The battle for property between the factions intensified this week after the seizure of the vehicle from the Mutambara camp by youths from Tsvangirai’s camp along Nelson Mandela Avenue in Harare.
Mutambara faction spokesman Morgan Changamire said 10 members of Tsvangirai’s “youth militia” pounced on two of their officials in central Harare and seized a party vehicle.
He said the group, led by Barnabas Ndira, waylaid the officials, threatened the driver and forcibly took the vehicle keys before driving off. The allegation was immediately denied by Tsvangirai faction spokesman Nelson Chamisa.
“This sort of political clowning is not acceptable,” said Chamisa. “Changamire is excited by his new position and has been rubbishing president Tsvangirai and the party.”
Tsvangirai’s secretary-general Tendai Biti said the Mutambara camp was creating stories to remain in the news. “They want to remain in the news,” said Biti. “Mutambara’s ship has landed and they have to find ways of remaining in the news.”
Mutambara faction secretary-general Welshman Ncube said he had spoken to Biti three times over the incident and Biti had promised to investigate the issue.
Changamire accused Chamisa of seeking to disrupt Mutambara’s Chitungwiza rally.
“This act of criminality is not isolated from Sunday’s attempt to disrupt the MDC rally in Chitungwiza and the subsequent threat by Chamisa that he would ensure that our party would not hold any rallies in any part of the country,” Changamire said.