ZIMBABWE – The failure by MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai and his colleagues to attend Nkulumane MP Thamsanqa Mahlangu funeral Saturday has exposed widening divisions among party members battling for control of Bulawayo.
Party deputy president Thokozani Khuphe has been named as one of the masterminds of a debacle which saw Tsvangirai travel to Bulawayo but failing to join any service right up to burial.
Meanwhile, party national chair Lovemore Moyo confirmed the hostilities in an emotional communication to party comrades.
Chaotic scenes marred the late MDC-T deputy organising secretary funeral wake with feuding family members organising what the party said were three separate sermons in his native base.
Seeing the evident embarrassment caused by the conspicuous absence, party spokesperson Obert Gutu was quick to don his PR jacket, saying the party leadership took a step back to allow the family to resolve its differences which however spilled into the graveyard.
As a political party, Gutu said in a statement, 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 President Morgan Tsvangirai and members of the national standing committee to attend the burial of our late hero at Lady Stanley cemetery.
But critics were quick Sunday to poke holes into Gutu thin excuse, saying nothing could still prohibit Tsvangirai and lieutenants from visiting all the three funeral wakes or showing up at the cemetery where there was certainly one body that was being buried.
A senior party official who preferred to remain anonymous said while it was true the Mahlangu family had their own internal squabbles, the MDC-T own factional wars contributed to the foul-up.
The source said Mahlangu belonged to an MDC-T camp rival to Khuphe which was, until Mahlangu death, pushing for his ousting as party deputy organising secretary.
The plot, said the source, was too evident it inflamed tensions in Mahlangu Nkulumane constituency and any decision to attend by Khuphe and some of her backers could easily have turned nasty.
Instead, it has further emerged, Khuphe and her group sponsored their own sermon for Mahlangu in Luveve which was so lavishly funded it could easily have been mistaken for a banquet by business executives.
For that reason, Tsvangirai played cautious and avoided any of the gatherings fearing factional traps which could have been misconstrued as an act of support to a particular faction.
Khuphe, on her part, could not be reached as her mobile was answered by a female voice which said the former deputy premier was attending a late uncle funeral.
Perhaps the bid to camourflage the partyâ€™s intense divisions by Gutu was lost through an emotional appeal for introspection among comrades by Moyo.
Am deeply concerned, disappointed and shamed, to say the least, about the sad events at Hon. Mahlangu funeral,Moyo said in an internal communication which was leaked to the media.
Ranging from the party active factional involvement in family affairs to failure by the NSC (national standing committee) members to pay their last respects to our hero.
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.
We need to check whether the party is still on the right direction or it has been hijacked by power mongers? Whose interests did we serve yesterday through our actions by not attending Thamu burial?
Moyo distanced himself from the rot, which he said was masteredminded by party hawks.
Personally, I dissociate myself with the leadership actions and decisions that I have no doubt were masterminded and authored by people who hated Hon. Thamu. We were misled and acted wrongly.
Nduna deserved to be respected by all of us for his service to the party and the struggle. He never sold out. Unfortunately we betrayed Nduna and sold him out to his enemies whom we know very well.
My apology for failing to pay my last resp[ects to Hon. Nduna Mahlangu. May his soul rest in eternal peace.
Challenged to explain Moyo communication, Gutu denied any knowledge of it and stood by his earlier statement.