November 8, 2005

MDC split grows as Tsvangirai cracks the whip

Zimbabwe’s main opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) leader Morgan Tsvangirai has given candidates who registered to contest the forthcoming senate election to withdraw from the poll or risk expulsion. Tsvangirai’s ultimatum comes as analysts fear the split in the MDC is irreparable, leaving the two camps in the party fighting for control.
The MDC’s infighting has over the past month diverted attention from President Robert Mugabe’s ruling Zanu PF power struggle and the worsening economic problems in the country. Tsvangirai said MDC candidates who would not have withdrawn from the controversial election scheduled for November 26 by Saturday would be dismissed. "I am giving all the MDC members who chose to go against my will and contest the (senate) elections seven days to withdraw or be fired from the party," Tsvangirai announced. The MDC leader tried and failed two weeks ago to block 22 candidates from registering with the electoral commission to participate in the election. The opposition only fielded 22 instead of 50 candidates due to the infighting.
For the first time in public, Tsvangirai admitted that his party is divided down the middle over the senate election between factions led his deputy Gibson Sibanda and himself. In a move to assert his authority over the party, he said he would use the continuing wrangling to eliminate dissenters. "This has created an opportunity for me to weed out members who have gone against my will," he said. "(Sibanda) and secretary-general Welshman Ncube and their supporters should know that I hold the keys of the party. As long as I am still the leader, they have to do what I want since they are my juniors. I have worked with Gibson for over 20 years but can’t let him have his way. I can’t be found negotiating with him and the secretary-general since they are my juniors," he said.
Tsvangirai also said that he noted President Thabo Mbeki’s efforts to mediate in the MDC crisis, but it was "not necessary because we have internal mechanisms and capacity to deal with such issues". He said the four senior MDC officials who met Mbeki on October 21 over the issue were not "authorised to make that trip and I wasn’t aware of it". Tsvangirai has formed a four-member team headed by party chairman Isaac Matongo to mediate in the MDC squabbles. Mediation efforts by Professor Brian Raftopoulos, which started two weeks ago, collapsed last week. (Business Day, Johannesburg)

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