The faction of Zimbabwe's opposition Movement for Democratic Change headed by party founder Morgan Tsvangirai has shifted some support operations to its South African branch aiming to mitigate and minimize the disruption caused by government incursions such as a March 28 raid on the faction's Harare headquarters.

Tsvangirai himself addressed a congress of the faction's South African branch on the weekend, urging it to assume greater responsibility in supporting party operations in Zimbabwe. Police seized extensive party records and computers in the March raid, removing processors from most computers before returning them, sources said.

The MDC faction has been under pressure since then with abductions, beatings and torture of its members by alleged state security agents, arbitrary arrests by police, and the prolonged detention of some 30 party officials, members and office staff.

Sources in the South African branch said Tsvangirai urged members to shun tribalism, which threatened to disrupt the balloting in which Malcolm Mutandiro was elected chairman. The South African branch of the MDC faction has been plagued by rivalries and occasional violence between Shona and Ndebele members of the party.

Members of the Tsvangirai faction branch also elected Amon Ndlovhu vice chairman and Tichaona Munyavi, a former Mbare member of parliament, was made organizing secretary. Walter Tom was elected information and publicity secretary.

Mr Mutandiro told reporter Patience Rusere of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that his executive has been given responsibility to liaise with the Pretoria government and also to take over party operations given the serious disruption of operations in the faction?s Harare headquarters by the March 28 police raid and its aftermath.

Tsvangirai faction National Chairman Lovemore Moyo, dispatched to South Africa to set up permanent party support structures, told correspondent Benedict Nhlapho that the faction will do all it can to make sure there is a new constitution before the 2008 elections despite the apparent lack of interest from the ruling party.

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