SENIOR STAFF WRITER
THE funeral of Nelson Chamisa’s mother in Gutu yesterday failed to discourage some misguided yobs from harassing and trying to beat up MDC interim leader Thokozani Khupe, inset, — thereby besmirching the sombre occasion, the Daily News reports.
The disgraceful scenes — which once again laid bare the MDC’s senseless wars, as well as the depths of directionless that the party has increasingly plumbed in recent years — only died down when the grieving Chamisa, pictured, intervened.
Khupe was among scores of high-profile mourners who had come to grieve with the Chamisa family, following this week’s sudden death of the MDC Alliance leader’s mother.
All this comes as Khupe and Chamisa are involved in a hammer and tongs tussle for the control of the country’s biggest opposition party.
Worringly, yesterday’s drama had similar echoes to the barbaric scenes of February 2018 — when party ruffians said to be loyal to Chamisa tried to burn Khupe in a hut during the burial in Buhera of the MDC’s much-loved founding father, Morgan Tsvangirai.
Khupe’s shocked spokesperson, Khaliphani Phugeni, told the Daily News yesterday that Chamisa had been forced to stop the baying mob from assaulting his boss when she arrived in Gutu to join other mourners.
“There were skirmishes with some agitated youths when the president (Khupe) arrived, given the context of what is happening.
“Of course, it had to be Chamisa who came to the rescue and it is unfortunate that he was put in such an unfortunate position at a time he was supposed to be grieving.
“Fortunately, no one was injured. No property was also destroyed and Dr Khupe managed to pass her condolences in peace,” Phugeni said.
“Remember when she lost both her parents, Chamisa was there and it only made sense that when misfortune visited him she had to be there,” he added.
On his part, and to his credit, Chamisa told the gathered mourners in an address that there was need for tolerance and acceptance that it was a funeral, where it was not possible to bar anyone.
“There are people who you may not like who are going to come. It could be anyone, including my biggest political rival … my brother (President Emmerson) Mnangagwa, or some people you may not even imagine coming here.
“We need to be tolerant and exhibit love. This is not about politics. So, whether you like it or not, those people will be here,” he said.
MDC Alliance vice president Tendai Biti also blasted the conduct of the supporters, whom he said had shown disturbing tendencies of intolerance — which he rightly likened to “a cancer vexing” the country.
“There is an incident that happened earlier on, and the reason is that we are generally intolerant as a country. It is bad.
“We need to grow up and start writing the missing story in the country, the story of tolerance. We need to move away from the way Zanu PF behaves in order to show the difference.
“We need to develop a new culture of love and tolerance that Gogo Chamisa taught us,” the miffed Biti said.
Respected University of Zimbabwe political science lecturer, Eldred Masunungure, told the Daily News last night that the behaviour of the supporters was damaging to both Chamisa and the MDC Alliance.
“I read about it and two things came out during the incident, that is the unacceptable behaviour of the youths and the intervention of Chamisa which was commendable.
“To start with the behaviour of the youths … this was unwarranted and is unAfrican. It also does not paint a good picture about the party.
“It is unheard of, unfortunate and indefensible because it is a replication of what happened in Buhera in 2018,” Masunungure said — adding that he hoped the party would move with speed to get on top of the situation.
In 2018, in a similar incident, hooligans said to be loyal to Chamisa at the time tried to burn Khupe, then legislator Lwazi Sibanda and re-instated MDC secretary-general Douglas Mwonzora in a hut during Tsvangirai’s funeral at Humanikwa Village.
At the time, Khupe and Chamisa were already wrangling over who was supposed to lead the MDC.
Matters were not helped at the time by the fact that Khupe was no longer seeing eye-to-eye with Tsvangirai at the time of his death.
In the meantime, the rift between Khupe and Chamisa has since widened following the Supreme Court’s ruling in March this year, which voided Chamisa’s disputed leadership of the party.
That ruling upheld last year’s decision by the High Court which had said Chamisa’s ascendancy to the leadership of the MDC had violated the main opposition party’s constitution.
In addition to installing Khupe as interim party president, the court also ordered her to convene an extraordinary MDC congress to elect a new leadership within three months — which key gathering is tentatively set for July 31.
Khupe has since recalled 21 MPs and Senators, in addition to moving to occupy the MDC’s iconic headquarters in Harare known as Morgan Richard Tsvangirai House, and previously Harvest House.
Further, Khupe has expelled Chamisa from the 2014 MDC structures — meaning that he won’t, as matters stand, be eligible stand for the party’s leadership position when it holds its extra-ordinary congress which was billed for July 31 before being postponed due to Covid-19 concerns.