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Defections Bolster Tsvangirai Faction Of Zimbabwe's Opposition MDC

Despite reported moves towards reunification of Zimbabwe's opposition Movement for Democratic Change, the MDC faction headed by Arthur Mutambara Tuesday lost a leading member of its Bulawayo branch to the rival faction of Morgan Tsvangirai.

Bulawayo Provincial Secretary Albert Mhlanga of the Mutambara faction announced at a news conference late Tuesday that he was defecting to the Tsvangirai grouping. He said he was bringing 35 other officials from Ward 16 or Gwabalanda with him.

Mhlanga, a city councilor and former deputy mayor of Bulawayo, said his constituents pressed him to reunite with the faction of Tsvangirai, the MDC founding president, as they believed personality clashes, not national interest, split the party in 2005.

Reached for comment, Mutambara faction spokesman Gabriel Chaibva said he was not aware of Mhlanga’s defection, but told a VOA reporter that members of the grouping were free to make individual choices.

Several senior officials have defected from the Mutambara faction, including former secretary general Gift Chimanikire, Integration Healing and Reconciliation Secretary, Samuel Sipepa Nkomo, Joel Gabhuza and Blessing Chebundo, among others.

Tsvangirai faction Bulawayo spokesman Felix Mafa told reporter Patience Rusere of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that more defections by senior officials of the Mutambara faction can be expected in the days ahead.

More reports from VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe...