Unfortunate incidents involving MDC-T supporters from various parts of the country continue to put paid to spirited denials by the opposition party’s leaders that they regularly bus supporters to rallies to create an impression that their president Mr Nelson Chamisa enjoys “overwhelming” support.
The practice has been derided as “politics of the optics” by Mr Chamisa’s rivals in the Thokozani Khupe-led camp.
The latest case, which involved an MDC-T supporter from Harare who was yesterday jailed for stealing at the weekend rally in Bulawayo purportedly to raise money to return back to the capital, exposed the extent of the party’s “politics of the optics”.
MDC-T acting spokesperson Ms Thabitha Khumalo yesterday said the people who came from outside Bulawayo for Saturday’s rally at White City Stadium were top officials in the party’s ward, district and provincial structures.
She could, however, not disclose how many buses the party used to carry supporters to its rallies amid reports that as much as $50 000 was used to hire buses.
Curiously, most buses at the weekend rally bore addresses from Harare.
“We have no reason to bus, but every member of the MDC-T has a right to be at any party rally in any part of the country,” said Ms Khumalo.
“It is their constitutional right to attend rallies.”
On Tuesday, an MDC-T supporter from Harare was sentenced to an effective nine months in prison for stealing property and cash with a combined value of $556 at the party’s rally at White City Stadium.
Godwin Muchechete (44) from Highfield, Harare, forced open Mrs Fungai Tangara’s locked car with a screwdriver and stole $166, R1 300, two cell phones, a handbag and a pair of boxer shorts.
Muchechete said he stole from the car because he did not have money to return to Harare since his wallet had been stolen while he was on one of the buses ferrying party members.
Six suspected MDC-T supporters from Bulawayo were also arrested for allegedly setting alight a bus hired by MDC-Alliance supporters from Gweru at White City Stadium on Saturday, destroying property worth $2 500.
Clifford Sibanda (30), Dumisani Moyo (39), Bongani Phiri (28), Thandolwenkosi Moyo (24), Tatenda Nyandoro (35) and Darlington Siziba (27) — all from Mzilikazi suburb — allegedly connived to burn a T and H bus, which had been hired to ferry MDC-Alliance supporters from Gweru, while the bus driver, Mr Lameck Kusosa, was on board.
In another incident, 23 MDC-T supporters from Masvingo were on Saturday injured in an accident in Filabusi while travelling back home from the rally.
The driver of the kombi lost control of the vehicle while allegedly trying to avoid a cow on the road along the Bulawayo-Masvingo in Filabusi.
The injured were rushed to Filabusi District Hospital and White Hospital in Zvishavane.
One of the victims, who is also the MDC-T Chivi North district secretary, Mr Joachim Chiware, said the driver tried to evade a cow that had strayed onto the road resulting in the accident
A day after the rally, expelled MDC-T national spokesperson Mr Obert Gutu revealed that the party shelled out more than $50 000 to hire buses to transport party supporters to the rally as part of an elaborate scheme to inflate Mr Chamisa’s “political stock.”
Dismissing Mr Gutu’s claims, Ms Khumalo said “since they claim to be the original MDC-T, why can’t they sue us that we abused money?”
The roving MDC-T crowds have not been bused to Bulawayo alone, but to other areas where Mr Chamisa has addressed MDC-Alliance rallies.
After a rally in Murehwa, for instance, a tollgate on the outskirts of Chisipite in Harare was clogged by buses and cars transporting MDC-T supporters back to the capital.