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Opposition Forces Forge Alliance to Challenge Harare Government

Senior officials of the two rival factions of the Movement for Democratic Change, riven by policy disputes and personal differences since late 2005, met in South Africa on the weekend to talk about mending their differences, party officials confirmed Monday.

The MDC faction led by party founding president Morgan Tsvangirai was headed by its secretary general, Tendai Biti, and chief policy advisor Eddie Cross. A delegation from the faction lined up behind Arthur Mutambara was headed by secretary general Welshman Ncube and elections director Paul Themba-Nyathi.

Officials of both factions declined to comment, but sources privy to the talks said the political operatives agreed to end hostilities and adopt a "non-agression" pact pending a meeting of faction executive bodies aimed at forging a united political front.

Reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe interviewed researcher Chris Maroleng of the Institute for Security Studies in Pretoria on the chances of unity.

Dewa Mavhinga, a British-based Zimbabwean human rights lawyer pursuing studies at Essex University, England, offered his views on the MDC discussions.

Elsewhere, representatives of opposition parties and civil society groups were to meet this week in Harare to move forward on forming an alliance for democratic reforms.

The Thursday meeting, which follows a “Save Zimbabwe” convention held last month, is being sponsored by the Christian Alliance, a church humanitarian group that sprang up in 2005 following the government's controversial clean up campaign, Operation Murambatsvina, and more recently has pursued a broader political agenda.

Christian Alliance organizer Jonathan Gokovah confirmed that opposition politicians have agreed on the principle of a unified approach. Both MDC factions confirmed they’ would attend the meeting. Spokesman Nelson Chamisa of the Tsavangirai faction said his grouping is agreeable to a broad alliance. Abednico Bhebhe, deputy information secretary in the Mutambara faction, said his faction favors such an alliance.

Reporter Patience Rusere of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe asked coordinator Ernest Mudzengi of the National Constitutional Assembly, which has been closely involved in efforts to build the alliance, for his thoughts on whether a unified front is possible.

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