ZIMBABWE – MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai yesterday came face to face with violent clashes pitting youths aligned to rival factions as he visited the families of the late Nkulumane legislator Thamsanqa Mahlangu in Bulawayo.
Tsvangirai, who came under attack for snubbing Mahlangu’s burial two weeks ago, visited the late legislator’s maternal family, the Sangos in Luveve and that of his stepfather the Mugovas in Nkulumane.
The party’s rival factions again divided themselves among the two families with the grouping linked to deputy president Thokozani Khupe visiting Luveve and the other belonging to deputy organising secretary Nelson Chamisa going to the Mugovas in Nkulumane.
The two families, after Mahlangu’s death, clashed over the right to bury the late legislator.
Instead of attending the burial, Tsvangirai reportedly spent the day holed at a house belonging to one of Khupe’s allies with some of his followers accusing him of having allowed himself to be swayed by factional politics.
This was after the Chamisa grouping camped at Nkulumane had resisted attempts by the Khupe faction to take over funeral processes.
The youths were later to clash in Luveve as the Khupe grouping tried to remove Mahlangu’s body from the hearse resulting in the driver speeding off with the legislator’s body to Lady Stanley cemetery where he was buried.
“Tsvangirai started by visiting the Sangos in Luveve to pay his respects. There was just about 50 people in Luveve belonging to the Khupe grouping while the majority of party members went to Nkulumane,” said an MDC-T insider yesterday.
“The drama started when Tsvangirai visited the Mugova home in Nkulumane. As he was inside, youths from rival factions clashed outside the Mugova home, taunting each other and trading insults.
“When Tsvangirai left the Mugova residence, the violence escalated with party youths trading blows and throwing stones at rivals’ vehicles.”
The sources said one of the party activists assaulted in Nkulumane was taken to Tsvangirai’s room at a city hotel.
“One of the assaulted members was taken to Tsvangirai after the Khupe faction misled the president that he had been stabbed on the stomach. However, that was not to be as the member only had a scratch on his leg,” said the source.
“Tsvangirai lamented the violence saying he was in the city to pay respects to Mahlangu’s families and therefore did not expect members to fight.”
MDC-T spokesperson Obert Gutu, however, dismissed reports of violence saying, “from the information that I’m getting, there was no incident of violence or any clashes between our party youths.
“If at all there were any clashes, it must have been the residents and not the party youths.”