The escalating power struggles in the opposition MDC-T have brought to the fore some violent traits the party would not want to show especially during an election year.
MDC-T leaders Thokozani Khupe and Nelson Chamisa are engaged in a fierce battle for control of the party following the death of its founding leader Morgan Tsvangirai last month.
BY OBEY MANAYITI
And an unlikely player known as the Order of the Vanguard, which some believe is a clone of Zanu PF’s infamous Green Bombers, has taken centre stage.
The notorious group, whose members stand out at MDC-T public events with military-style red and black fatigues, is accused of dealing ruthlessly with opponents of party leader Chamisa.
Khupe was the first high-ranking victim of the group after she voiced her opposition to the formation of MDC Alliance while Tsvangirai was still alive. She accused Chamisa of setting the group on her.
However, Shakespear Mukoyi, the leader of Order of the Vanguard, dismissed accusations that his group was a militia.
He said the group was formed almost two years ago with the sole mandate to protect party members from factionalism and promote political orientation, cadreship and development.
“Basically all members of the youth assembly are the vanguards, but we sat as the management committee of the youth assembly and decided to advance it and a resolution was made that we should have a department within the youth assembly, which deals with political orientation, cadreship and development,” he said.
“We started to identify members of the youth assembly who matched what we wanted to create.
“The reason why this section of the vanguard was created was to combat areas where our youths were involved in factional politics.
“You know in politics there are factions and certain groupings of different points of interests and we found it necessary as the youth assembly that we cannot afford to have members of the youth assembly who are members of a faction because it is detrimental to the good health of the party.
“We look for members who are loyal to principles and not principals.”
Mukoyi also denied claims that his group was targeting Khupe, saying they only acted to protect party resolutions.
Last year in Bulawayo members of the Order of the Vanguard were implicated after an orgy of violence at the party’s offices where Khupe and her supporters were holding a meeting.
At Tsvangirai’s burial in Buhera, members of the group allegedly tried to set on fire a hut where Khupe and other MDC-T leaders had sought refuge.
A fortnight ago the name of the group was on everyone’s lips again after violent scenes rocked MDC-T headquarters in Bulawayo, but Mukoyi insisted they had nothing to do with the violence.
“Those are perceptions and it is not real,” he charged. “No one is persecuting Madam Khupe and I think she is persecuting herself.
“We went to congress and some resolutions were made including that one of No Reforms No Elections, but after congress she denounced that resolution.
“Therefore, as members of the youth assembly we have to protect what the general masses and the organs have agreed upon.
“So anyone who thinks we are persecuting her is ill-advised or misguided. We are protecting resolutions made by the party.”
He said they allowed people to hold certain views but once there was a resolution, no one was allowed to disobey.
“Take, for instance, the recent tragedy where our leader and icon passed on, a lot of people wanted to be presidents,” Mukoyi added.
“We allowed that (contestation) because we are a democratic movement but once the organs of the party sat and agreed that this person must lead, it is now the sole responsibility of the youth assembly and its sections of the vanguard to make sure that the resolution is protected and we should guard that resolution jealously.
“Once we fail to do that, then it will allow numerous infiltrators to come and destabilise our party.
“We don’t target individuals, but our role is to make sure that what we agreed upon as a party is followed by everyone.”
He claimed the group actually came to Khupe’s rescue when she came under attack in Buhera. He said during the recent skirmishes in Bulawayo the group was at an MDC Alliance rally in Chinhoyi.
“The youth assembly of our party does not believe in militancy, what we did is to design a type of a garment that suits our ceremonies that we do.
“We don’t believe in militancy at all. We believe in democratic processes,” Mukoyi said.
“If you go to religious organisations such as the Salvation Army and ZCC they do those things, but it doesn’t mean they are a military wing.”
The aspiring Kuwadzana East legislator said he was born in Makoni district in Rusape in a family of five.
He grew up in Harare and upon completion of his education he was employed in different organisations where he was elected to represent workers.
Mukoyi said he attended the launch of the MDC at Rufaro Stadium in 1999, which marked the beginning of his political life.
He said he started his MDC career in Kuwadzana where he started off as a branch youth chairperson and then deputy youth chair, ward youth chair and then deputy district youth chair, district youth chair, deputy provincial youth chair to provincial youth chair and his current position, deputy national youth chair.
Mukoyi said even though he had ambitions to represent Kuwadzana, he hasn’t started making inroads because it would cause instability as MDC-T had not declared the contest open.