By Zvamaida Murwira
Violence reared its ugly head at MDC-T leader Mr Morgan Tsvangirai’s burial here yesterday, with rowdy party youths threatening to torch a thatched hut in which the party’s co-vice president Dr Thokozani Khupe and secretary-general Mr Douglas Mwonzora had sought refuge after being assaulted.
Quick reaction by the police, who moved in to disperse the rowdy youths, saved the situation. Police escorted the pair to a nearby primary school’s grounds from where they then followed the proceedings.
The youths considered Dr Khupe and Mr Mwonzora as obstacles to co-vice president Mr Nelson Chamisa’s road to leading the party. This came as Mr Tsvangirai’s uncle Mr Innocent Zvaipa assaulted a University of Zimbabwe student at the graveyard in full view of mourners for photographing Mr Tsvangirai’s mother, Gogo Lydia Tsvangirai.
On arrival at Mr Tsvangirai’s homestead, Dr Khupe and Mr Mwonzora had to scurry for cover as the youths bayed for their blood in front of mourners and dignitaries that included ambassadors from Western countries and Mr Tsvangirai’s close friend and Kenyan opposition leader Raila Odinga.
Dr Khupe was heckled by youths who protested against her presence at the burial, when she was boycotting party meetings in Harare. Dr Khupe has boycotted meetings convened by Adv Chamisa in protest over what she feels is his unconstitutional rise to power.
She was jeered on her arrival, together with Mr Mwonzora. They were manhandled before the police intervened and whisked them away to a hut at Mr Tsvangirai’s homestead. That was when the youths threatened to torch the hut.
When Dr Khupe eventually joined proceedings at the school grounds, she wept uncontrollably and had to be comforted by MDC-T national treasurer Mrs Theresa Makone and the party’s women’s assembly chairperson Mrs Lynette Karenyi.
Away from Dr Khupe and Mr Mwonzora plight, Mr Tsvangirai’s uncle Mr Innocent Zvaipa assaulted a University of Zimbabwe female student at the graveyard for photographing Mr Tsvangirai’s mother, Gogo Lydia Tsvangirai.
Mr Zvaipa slapped Ms Nyaradzo Mutize three times before he was restrained by the Tsvangirai family led by Mr Tsvangirai’s brother, Manase.
Ms Mutize was forced to delete all the pictures of Gogo Tsvangirai that she had captured. She was also detained for close to 40 minutes under intense interrogation by Mr Tsvangirai’s family members.
Gogo Tsvangirai has made headlines after she threatened to commit suicide if Adv Chamisa and Ms Elizabeth Macheka attended her son’s funeral.
There was also an exchange of harsh words between the Tsvangirai family members led by the deceased’s brother Collin and Adv Chamisa. The misunderstanding delayed the removal of the coffin from the hearse for over 30 minutes.
Collin was insisting that the coffin be returned to the homestead to allow traditional rites to be undertaken, while Adv Chamisa felt proceedings should go ahead in the interest of time, as rains were beginning to build. Collin and his younger brother Manase stuck to their guns, forcing Adv Chamisa to make a public apology.
In an interview soon after Mr Tsvangirai’s burial, Manase expressed concern over the conduct of MDC-T leadership who authorised the removal of the hearse from their homestead to nearby school grounds without the family’s knowledge.
“We were preparing the programme on who was going to speak when we suddenly heard that the hearse had already been removed from our homestead to Makanda Primary School, the venue of the funeral wake,” he said.
“That had the effect of creating us problems because we had not performed any cultural rites like informing our in-laws. That omission can cast a bad spell in the family.”
Responding to the rowdy and unbecoming behaviour of MDC-T members, Adv Chamisa implored people to be united.
“Let us respect each other,” he said. “We want to be united and we do not want violence even after gathering.”
The MDC-T supporters failed to respect leaders of other political parties such Cde Oppah Muchinguri (Zanu-PF national chairman), who were among dignitaries that came to bury Mr Tsvangirai. They intermittently interjected Cde Muchinguri-Kashiri when she gave her speech and Adv Chamisa had to restrain them.
The spectre of violence at Mr Tsvangirai received widespread condemnation yesterday, with Mr Mwonzora tweeting: “The attack on @Dr Thoko Khupe by a gang of sponsored and drunken goons at Dr Tsvangirai’s funeral was outrageous and sadistic. It was tribal, sexist and totally unacceptable.”
The US Embassy in Harare also condemned the violence in a statement on twitter.
“The US Gov strongly condemns the violence that occurred today @ the funeral for Morgan Tsvangirai,” said the embassy. “He stood in opposition of such violence & there exists no place for these types of actions today in Zimbabwe, as the country moves forward.”
Activist Mr Dehwa Mavhinga also castigated the acts of violence and challenged Adv Chamisa to institute investigations and bring the culprits to book.
He tweeted: “#RIPTsvangirai @nelsonchamisa spoke against political violence at Tsvangirai funeral, he must go further & ensure those who harassed & threatened violence against @DouglasMwonzora @ T Khupe are investigated & punished. No to violence.”