POWER struggles have ripped the MDC-T faction apart ahead of its extraordinary congress slated for September, with interim leader Thokozani Khupe's aides allegedly assaulted by party secretary-general Douglas Mwonzora's security staff at the Morgan Richard Tsvangirai House party headquarters in Harare on Wednesday.
The fracas reportedly took place before the party's Wednesday standing committee meeting when Khupe's aide, identified as Kudzanai Mashumba, was allegedly assaulted by Mwonzora's security.
This was after Mashumba attempted to conduct security checks, including checking on where Khupe would sit, a move that angered Mwonzora's followers.
Mashumba could neither confirm nor deny the assault yesterday, referring questions to party authorities.
"I cannot say anything to the media. I do not talk on matters to do with the party," was all Mashumba could say.
Sources who witnessed the incident, however, confirmed the physical clashes.
"We were preparing for the standing committee and Khupe's aides came through wanting to do security checks and also to see where the president was going to sit and other issues as per procedure," one of the party officials who witnessed the fracas said.
"One of Khupe's aides made enquiries on the security situation, but this did not go down well with one of the security personnel who asked him why he was making such enquiries.
"An altercation ensued and Khupe's aide was pushed to the ground and assaulted."
The Supreme Court recently recognised Khupe as bona fide MDC-T interim leader following the death of party founder Morgan Tsvangirai in February 2018.
The court also declared Nelson Chamisa, who now leads MDC Alliance, as illegitimate MDC-T leader.
Although the court noted that the ruling was moot since it had been overtaken by events, it nonetheless ordered Khupe to hold an extraordinary congress to resolve the party leadership wrangle.
Soon after the ruling, Mwonzora, who is a senator seconded by Chamisa's MDC Alliance, dumped the youthful leader for Khupe.
He has since spearheaded the recall of 13 Chamisa MPs, but observers accuse Mwonzora of angling to take over the party presidency at the forthcoming extraordinary congress, whose dates have been shifted to September.
Former MDC-T vice-president Elias Mudzuri and party interim deputy national chairman Morgen Komichi are also reportedly eyeing the presidency.
After Mashumba's assault, Mwonzora's loyalists went for Khupe's other aide identified as George Rice and barred him from attending a Press conference to announce resolutions made at the meeting.
"Around 2:30pm, there was again another incident when Khupe's aide only identified as Rice was supposed to attend the Press conference, but was barred by the security personnel who claimed that Khupe's aides were not allowed at that Press conference," a highranking party official said.
"They kept on referring to the secretary-general as ‘president Mwonzora' and that is when they were exposed. There were some senior members of the party who were also barred from attending the meeting.
"The matter was taken to Komichi and he promised to act. He was told that this kind of tension cannot proceed and those calling Mwonzora their president must be stopped from doing that as well as attacking Khupe's aides."
Rice confirmed the attack, but refused to shed more light.
Contacted for comment, Komichi said:"I am not aware of any incident. It was not brought to my attention."
Several efforts to contact Mwonzora were fruitless as his mobile phone went unanswered, but MDC-T acting spokesperson Khalipani Phugeni said he had only read of the fracas on social media and was trying to verify with the involved parties.
"I have seen something doing rounds and I have tried to confirm with the parties involved, but I have not been lucky. Maybe I will have something tangible tomorrow morning if anything like that happened," he said.
The latest development, observers said, seem to confirm serious leadership fights in the MDC-T cockpit ahead of the faction's extraordinary congress, initially supposed to have been held by end of July, but now moved to September 4.