VIOLENCE broke out at a Youth Advocacy for Reform & Democracy (Yard)-organised Press conference in Harare yesterday with two main student union bodies ganging up against former Hurungwe West legislator Temba Mliswa.
The Zimbabwe Congress of Students’ Unions (Zicosu) and Zimbabwe National Students’ Union (Zinasu) confronted the Yard founder, accusing him of dividing their unions by aligning his organisation with some of their members in a bid to bolster his group.
There was pushing and shoving while one student from the Zicosu group, Lonias Rozvi, alleged Mliswa slapped him on the cheek during the melee.
The student leaders accused the ex-Zanu PF MP of meddling in their affairs to get political mileage for his association. Zicosu is aligned to Zanu PF, while Zinasu is linked to MDC-T.
But Mliswa said he would not meddle in their politics. He said within Yard, there was a component that deals with student matters, hence the joint Press briefing with the two unions.
“What happened today shows you the amount of work that still needs to be done to ensure that our youths remain focused,” he said.
“Yard will remain steadfast in doing that and to be tolerant at all levels. Some of us are trained to deal with 10 people, but you could see that the aspect of violence, we don’t have to deal with it. At the end of the day, we have to be tolerant. This is the strength of Yard and our mark has been felt in all corners of the country.”
Yard spokesperson Mhungu Tinotenda, a student at the University of Zimbabwe, blasted both Zicosu and Zinasu, saying they had lost direction and an alternative union was needed as soon as possible.
However, both student unions vowed to fight Mliswa to stop him from “infiltrating” the groups.
Zicosu political commissar Takudzwa Gambiza said they would not align themselves with Yard as they served Zanu PF interests.
Gambiza said it was wrong to try and divorce Zicosu from Zanu PF.
“He (Mliswa) said he is advocating for the youths, but on whose authority? He wanted to say he had endorsed Howard Madya as Zicosu president, but he doesn’t have that authority. When someone who is neither a student nor a youth tries to disrupt and destroy our union because of his own agenda for being chucked out of Zanu PF, then we will not remain silent,” Gambiza said, claiming their union was bigger than Yard.
Zinasu president Alistar Pfunye said they would not be intimidated by non-student organisations. He said the disruption of the Press conference was justified, vowing the students would continue fighting to remove “rogue” elements from interfering with their business.