ZIMBABWE – The leader of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC-T), Morgan Tsvangirai, has promised to investigate reports that some party youths disrupted the funeral of the late Nkulumane Member of Parliament Thamsanqa Mahlangu.
In an exclusive interview with Studio 7, Tsvangirai said he had heard reports that some party officials bought beer for the youths who ended up disrupting the funeral proceedings.
Mahlangu, a former deputy youth minister in the government of national unity, passed away at a private hospital in Bulawayo in the early hours of Monday last week. He succumbed to cancer.
In a statement, MDC spokesman Obert Gutu described Mahlangu as a “fearless and committed fighter for democratic change in Zimbabwe.”
He said the young MP was “a founder member of the party and at one time served as the party’s chairman of the Youth Assembly.”
But the funeral and burial of Mahlangu was marred by family disputes and alleged party factional fights. There were clashes at the venue of the funeral, date and site of burial.
The conflict was between the late MP’s stepfather, biological father and mother’s relatives.
Although Tsvangirai was in Bulawayo, he did not attend the burial fearing he could get caught up in the family squabbles and violence.
Only a few party members, including Kuwadzana lawmaker Nelson Chamisa attended the burial.
Despite the criticism, MDC-T organizing secretary Abednico Bhebhe is pushing back. “Criticism is always going to be there for those that don’t understand what transpired or what was happening concerning the funeral of Mahlangu,” said Bhebhe.
“All I can say is that there were differences that maybe could not be solved between the families.”
The hearse carrying Mahlangu’s body had to speed off from the chaotic scenes, delaying the burial, which was meant to start at 9am by four hours.
Unfortunately, the family differences couldn’t be resolved in time to allow MDC-T president Tsvangirai and members of his national standing committee to attend both the church service as well as the burial at Lady Stanley Cemetery in Bulawayo on Saturday.
Gutu released another statement saying the chaos had forced Tsvangirai to pass the burial proceedings. “As a political party, we took a firm position not to take sides with any of the three separate family units that were squabbling over how the funeral of our late hero was supposed to be handled.
“The situation on the ground made it virtually impossible for Tsvangirai and members of the national standing committee to attend the burial.”
But party chairman Lovemore Moyo was singing a different tune, blaming the party’s factionalism for fueling the chaos.
“Am deeply concerned, disappointed and shamed, to say the least, about the sad events at Hon. Mahlangu’s funeral, ranging from the party’s active factional involvement in family affairs to failure by the NSC (national standing committee) members to pay their last respects to our hero.
He added that, “Cdes, now is the time to pause for a while and ask ourselves as leadership of this movement tough questions about the sincerity and commitment of this struggle.”