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Zimbabwe Opposition Politician Joins MDC Faction

The founding legal secretary in Zimbabwe's divided opposition Movement for Democratic Change, David Coltart, has announced he has joined the faction of the party lead by scientist Arthur Mutambara.

First, David Coltart tried for reconciliation of the party he helped form six-years ago.

When he could not bring about reconciliation, Coltart offered his legal skills to establish a mechanism for fair and amicable division of MDC assets including a fleet of vehicles, and a high-rise building in central Harare, as well as the party name and slogans. His offer was rejected last month by founding MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai.

Coltart, Zimbabwe's most prominent human-rights lawyer for more than two decades, said those who voted him into parliament, in second city Bulawayo, first in 2000 and then last year, asked him to remain in politics.

In a written statement announcing his decision, Coltart said that Zimbabweans had to stand on principle and for what was right, or what he described as the long and desperate night of tyranny would continue in Zimbabwe.

He said he could no longer serve Morgan Tsvangirai because of what he said was the MDC leader's lack of commitment to democracy and the culture of immunity that he had allowed to develop in the party.

He said he knew he was joining the smaller faction, but was in politics for the long haul, and he said he believed faction leader Arthur Mutambara was committed to democracy and would be accountable to the party's membership.

He also said Mutambara had approved the establishment of a commission of inquiry to investigate violence in the MDC.

Tsvangirai dismissed Coltart's decision, saying his former legal secretary was paranoid about violence.

There has been little reaction to Coltart's decision as opposition politics is barely visible in Zimbabwe these days. Most political analysts say the split in the party last October marginalized any serious attempt to end President Robert Mugabe's 26 years in power.

Even the dwindling number of civil-rights activists have remained quiet about Coltart's decision, despite his high political profile and incomparable human-rights record.

In last year's general election the MDC lost a third of the parliamentary seats it had won in 2000 when it came within a whisker of defeating Mr. Mugabe's Zanu PF.

The next national poll is a presidential election in March 2008 and parliamentary elections are due two years later.