The ongoing disunity in Zimbabwe's opposition Movement For Democratic Change (MDC) has escalated, following corruption allegations lodged by a senior official against the party's top six leaders. The allegations focus on the source of funding for the opposition group.
MDC member of parliament, Job Sikhala, says the party leaders received funding of $2.5 million and have refused to allow others a say in its distribution.
Mr. Sikhala, quoted in several news publications, says the money came from Nigeria and Ghana, as well as from Taiwan.
Ghanaian and Nigerian diplomats in Harare were not available for comment.
Several members of the six-man MDC management committee have privately discussed among themselves reports that Nigerian president Olusegun Obasanjo gave the Movement For Democratic Change a large donation via the party's president, Morgan Tsvangirai, when he visited Abuja in July.
Since the formation of the Movement For Democratic Change in September 1999 and its narrow election defeat the following year, President Robert Mugabe's administration passed laws making it illegal for political parties to receive foreign funding.
The opposition party has struggled for funds as businesses that originally supported the party say they were harassed by the state for helping the opposition. Many businessmen who supported the party fled to South Africa and Britain in the past three years.
Senior MDC insiders say the party has been forced to hide many of its donations for fear of reprisals against donors.
Mr. Tsvangirai has said he knows nothing of the allegations made by Mr. Sikhala, and party secretary-general Welshman Ncube has also denied knowledge of any donations from West Africa or Taiwan.
The allegation made by Mr. Sikhala comes at a time the Movement for Democratic Change is divided over participation in senate elections next month.
Mr. Tsvangirai is against participation, but the party's senior authority, the National Council narrowly voted two weeks ago to take part in the elections.
A founding MDC member and an influential member of its executive, Roy Bennett, said the allegations are part of a concerted effort by ruling Zanu-PF secret service agents to divide the opposition.
Government spokesman George Charamba was quoted in the state's Herald newspaper as saying the Movement For Democratic Change remained a pawn of Britain and other western countries and only survives because of donor funding.