The outspoken MDC-T MP for Bulawayo East, Tabitha Khumalo, has been demoted from her role as deputy spokesperson for the party, amid reports she will be reassigned to another less influential position.
Khumalo confirmed to SW Radio Africa on Wednesday that she had received a letter, signed by party President Morgan Tsvangirai, relieving her of her duties to speak on behalf of the party. She was appointed to the post in April last year following the party congress in Bulawayo.
Analysts described her removal as a cracking of the whip to halt the factionalism that was tearing apart structures in the Bulawayo province. Khumalo is believed to belong to a faction led by Matson Hlalo, a Senator representing Mzilikazi, which is involved in a bloody battle to wrestle control of the province from Gorden Moyo, the chairman.
Moyo, with the support of the deputy President of the party Thokozani Khupe, beat Hlalo to the post of provincial chairman. But the fall-out between the two has torn the province into factions since the party held elections for its structures last year.
The simmering tensions in the province have led to several defections, with most of the party cadres crossing the floor to the MDC formation led by Welshman Ncube.
Our Bulawayo correspondent Lionel Saungweme said: ‘The party (MDC-T) faces a challenge to remain relevant in Bulawayo as they face a major hurdle from the other MDC. I understand there are two others in the firing line and the party has set their sights with a view to reassigning them to others positions.’
The deputy organiser for Bulawayo, Thepiso Mpofu has been described as a kingmaker in the Hlalo faction and they are believed to be the officials facing reassignment.
Asked to comment why the party had specifically targeted Khumalo, a Harare based senior official told us this was long overdue considering the number of times she had been warned about her conduct as a senior public figure.
‘There had been a lot of issues concerning the way she conducted herself in the divisions that were rocking Bulawayo.
‘There was also fury at her reluctance to tow the party line following her decision to align herself with a faction of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions led by Lovemore Matombo. Remember the party has since the split of the Labour body last year aligned itself with the George Nkiwane group,’ our source said.
Khumalo’s relations with the party leadership also became strained after she mobilized prostitutes in Bulawayo with a view to making them join a representative union under which their activities would be legalized.
‘I think the party leadership got to a point where they were caught up in two minds about whether Khumalo is an asset or a troublemaker and a threat to the MDC,’ the source added.
There was also the issue of her lack of respect towards Tsvangirai on occasion. Colleagues had to ‘talk to her quietly’ about her abrasive, confrontational way in which she addressed the party leader in meetings.
‘At one time people just held their heads in disbelief with the way she spoke to Tsvangirai. Waitofunga kuti President vanechikwereti chake (You would think Tsvangirai owed her money), the source said. SW Radio Africa
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