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MDC future still open-ended affair

Loughty Dube

THE future of a united opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) is set to be decided in the coming few weeks as negotiators tasked to chart

the way forward are due to make contact with the leadership of both factions anytime from this week, sources close to the negotiations have revealed.

The negotiations, which were initially meant to come up with an amicable separation of the MDC, are now likely to focus on reconciliation after both sides indicated that there was no way the opposition could tackle Zanu PF from a divided position.

Sources close to the Arthur Mutambara faction said Bulawayo South member of parliament, David Coltart, was leading an initiative to reconcile the two camps.

Coltart this week confirmed that he was pushing for either reconciliation or an amicable break-up of the party without involving the courts.

“I have made it known to (Morgan) Tsvangirai and (Gibson) Sibanda that I am committed to a process of mediation and I have written to both camps with proposals on how we could go about it. Democracy in Zimbabwe will never be brought about by a divided opposition,” Coltart said.

The MDC split in October last year over whether or not to participate in the senate election.

Coltart could not be drawn into revealing what other people were working on the initiative, only saying he could not do it by himself.

“This has to be done with others as the process will need negotiations and compromises,” he said.

Coltart said he had indicated to the two camps that there are respected people who should be engaged to resolve the feud amicably.

Spokesperson for Mutambara’s group Paul Themba Nyathi, when contacted this week said he was aware of plans towards reconciling the two factions but said it was premature to comment.

“There are such plans but it is too early to talk of reconciliation at the moment. It is clear that we cannot afford current divisions,” Nyathi said.

Nelson Chamisa, spokesperson for Tsvangirai’s camp, however dismissed the reconciliation overtures saying there was only one MDC, the anti-senate one.

“We are aware of Coltart’s plans but we do not know what he is talking about when he talks of reconciliation and amicable divorce of the two parties,” said Chamisa.  “The MDC is united. We only have party officials who left to form another party and we will not discuss that.”  

Sources within the opposition said seasoned politician Washington Sansole and human rights lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa were being touted as likely mediators in the crisis.

Coltart confirmed that Mtetwa and Sansole were credible people to lead the negotiations.

“There are people like Mtetwa and Sansole that could be engaged and if they are, they will be the right people to look at the current differences in the opposition,” Coltart said.

Correspondence in the possession of the Zimbabwe Independent, written to Tsvangirai and Sibanda by Coltart, laid out a plan for solving the crisis in the fractured MDC.

The letters explain that pro-senate secretary-general Welshman Ncube and the anti-senate faction’s Tendai Biti held informal discussions on likely ways of separating amicably but no solution was reached at the meeting.

Coltart in the letters said if the current problems in the MDC were solved through the courts, the government would decide to the detriment of opposition politics, who it wanted to work with.

“If the vying claims to legitimacy are not settled by mediation, they will have to be settled by the courts,” said Coltart in one of the letters.

“If the Zimbabwean courts are entrusted with the role of settling these issues, that in itself will play directly into the hands of the Mugabe regime.

“If both factions cannot agree to settle these disputes they will in essence give the regime the power to decide through the courts how long they want this conflict to go on for and who ultimately they want to deal with,” he said.

“Furthermore, court proceedings will be extremely expensive both financially and politically. I fully expect that during the next two years the Zimbabwean public will be subjected to the bizarre spectacle of the two factions fighting each other in court,” he said.

Coltart said issues that need to be addressed, in the event that there is no reconciliation, include deciding on who continues to use the party name, logo, slogans, physical assets, monetary assets and the fate of the party’s members of parliament.

“During the last six years the MDC has acquired substantial assets including Harvest House, other immovable properties elsewhere in the country, motor vehicles, computers and furniture. These properties are worth billions of dollars,” Coltart said.

“The temptation of course will be to adopt a winner-take-all mentality but this will inevitably result in protracted litigation. The attempted eviction of either party from the premises they currently occupy will be met with spoliation proceedings,” he said.

“Because those proceedings  will only be able to be decided by a determination as to which faction is the legitimate MDC, which in turn will involve trial proceedings (because the facts will inevitably be in dispute), they will be long, drawn out, fractious and expensive affairs. I doubt very much whether a final determination will be reached within two years,” he said.

On the issue of MPs, Coltart said according to Section 41 (1)e of the Zimbabwe Constitution, an MP can only be forced to step down when he or she ceases to be a member of the political party on whose ticket he was elected.

Coltart said the concerned party would then have to write to the Speaker for the MP to cease representing it in parliament. Coltart said it would be folly for either of the factions to claim to have expelled MPs not in their camp.

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