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Zimbabwe's Opposition Wracked by Violence, Internal Disputes

Zimbabwe's opposition, the Movement for Democratic Change, is going through grave internal struggle after several violent episodes within its ranks. Violence by MDC youths against founding members of the party has focused on persistent rumors of a power struggle to oust the party president Morgan Tsvangirai.

For months, Zimbabwe' state-controlled media have speculated about a power struggle within the opposition Movement for Democratic Change. Now, some unnamed party leaders are accused of telling young MDC members that party Secretary-General Welshman Ncube wants to replace party-leader Morgan Tsvangerai.

Mr. Ncube and many other party leaders have scoffed at the speculation of a plot to oust Mr. Tsvangerai. Some analysts say that as a member of the minority Ndebele tribe it is unlikely that Mr. Ncube would find favor with the majority in the party.

But some young members appear to believe there is a struggle and have been beating up some of those they suspect of being involved in the plot.

One of those beaten last month was founding MDC member Frank Chamunorwa, who, like Mr. Tsvangirai, is a member of the majority Shona tribe. He joined President Robert Mugabe's liberation army during the anti-colonial struggle 30 years ago, but 18 years ago became disillusioned and left the ruling party. He says the assault left him very bitter.

"That is the worst thing, in fact I have told so many people, I am proud to have scars because of previous episodes of beatings from ZANU-PF. I have never been so bitter and so dejected by the latest incident when my own very party perpetrated atrocities on me, not only the question of being beaten, but the way I was forced to bend down, to lie down on the ground by youths who, in fact, most of them younger than my own first born," he said. "That was very very bitter and disheartening, and I am very, very bitter about that."

The attackers have been expelled from the party, but, Mr. Chamunorwa says the leaders who gave the orders should be investigated.

University of Zimbabwe political scientist John Makumbe said ZANU-PF's violent political methods have tainted all Zimbabweans, including the MDC.

Mr. Chamunorwa says internal disputes are negatively impacting Mr. Tsvangerai's ability to lead a coherent response to the government's recent campaign of forced removals.

"If Morgan does not rule this country it is because of a problem of his own making," he said. "He has this mandate from the party, the mandate from all the structures, he has the mandate from more than half the population of this country. His ineptitude, his indecisiveness may cost him dearly, and therefore he himself will be his own nemesis."

At the latest MDC executive meeting the party's legal secretary, David Coltart, said in a statement that the recent violence compromised the party's credibility, which he said has always been based on morality and non-violence.

He called on Mr. Tsvangirai to investigate the leaders who controlled the unemployed youths involved in the incidents he said threatened the party's domestic and international reputation. Mr. Tsvangirai himself declined to comment.