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Analysts Say Zimbabwe Opposition Close to Splitting Apart


Zimbabwe's six-year-old opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change, appears on the verge of splitting apart. Many Zimbabweans are confused by the row engulfing the party which is the only opposition group to have seriously challenged President Robert Mugabe's decades-long grip on power.

MDC Deputy Secretary General Gift Chamanikire issued a statement Friday saying that MDC President Morgan Tsvangirai is "a dictator in the making."

The statement says that Mr. Tsvangirai has done nothing to stop violence and intimidation within the party. It says this is a violation of the party's founding principles, and that it was formed to uphold human rights and embrace progressive values for a better future for all Zimbabweans.

Over the course of the past year, some of the violence and intimidation within the MDC were revealed, party official disagree how extensive the violence is within the party. It was a closely guarded secret that several top leaders did not go to work at the party's headquarters for weeks because they say they feared attack by gangs of MDC youth loyal to Mr. Tsvangirai.

One party leader said, on condition of anonymity, that this information was kept quiet to keep the appearance that the party was united in their goal of challenging Mr. Mugabe's administration.

It came to a head over the question of whether to participate or boycott senate elections on November 26. Mr. Tsvangirai wanted a boycott and has campaigned actively against participation.

Others wanted to take part, particularly in the southern Matabeleland provinces, which endured state sponsored massacres in the 1980s. While regional leaders preferred to boycott the elections, they were overruled by the region's ordinary party members.

Mr. Tsvangirai over rode a secret ballot by the party's governing body, the National Council, on October 12 which narrowly voted for participation.

Since then, 26 out of a possible 50 candidates defied Mr. Tsvangirai's wishes and registered for the election. Some say they have been intimidated by Mr .Tsvangirai's supporters since then.

Many political analysts say the issue of the senate elections was not the main reason for the split among the top leadership. In addition, they say, there were many unresolved issues and tensions within the party surrounding violence.

Now the MDC appears to be operating from two locations. Mr. Tsvangirai's supporters are operating out of the party's national headquarters in Central Harare, and others are working from provincial offices, and in second city Bulawayo.

On Saturday the National Council meets again. One group has called for a boycott of the meeting saying it was not arranged under the terms of the party's constitution.

Behind the scenes several top MDC members continue to try to find a resolution.

Mr. Tsvangirai responded to the statement saying it serves no purpose to respond to statements by "subordinates." Millions of Zimbabweans have suffered for their support for the MDC since its formation in 1999. Hundreds have been killed and hundreds of thousands lost their homes and livelihoods, and the economy has been systematically dismantled since the party came so close to defeating Mr. Mugabe in its first election in 2000.

MDC insiders hinted Friday that there is no resolution to the crisis and it is likely that the party will split. Some fear, in time, it will disappear altogether leaving Zimbabwe, once again, a one-party state.

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