Zimbabwe MP suspended over foreign funding claims

HARARE – Zimbabwe’s main opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) has suspended a member of parliament from its ranks over false claims the party had received illegal foreign funds, charges he later withdrew.

MDC legislator Job Sikhala accused the party’s leaders

of squabbling over $2.5 million in funds received from Ghana, Nigeria and Taiwan, prompting President Robert Mugabe’s government to order a probe into the allegations a week ago.

The three countries have denied funding the MDC.

A spokesman for MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai said the party had suspended Sikhala from the organisation — a first step towards possible expulsion from both the MDC and parliament — because he had severely damaged the image of the party.

But Sikhala said he did not recognise his suspension and accused Tsvangirai of behaving like a dictator.

“Mr Tsvangirai has suspended Mr Sikhala over his recent conduct which has damaged the image of the party,” spokesman William Bango told Reuters.

“Mr Tsvangirai believes those who are trying to defend Mr Sikhala over such a breach of conduct don’t have the interest of the party at heart.”

Zimbabwe’s Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa said last week the government had taken Sikhala’s claims seriously and had asked police to investigate a possible breach of the Political Parties Finance Act which forbids foreign funding of parties.

Taiwan said it had no contacts with the MDC and Nigeria and Ghana also denied they gave funds to the MDC, saying their only involvement with the opposition had been in trying to mediate in Zimbabwe’s long-running political crisis.

Sikhala later withdrew the charges, saying they were based on rumours and that he had made them in anger over the rifts bedevilling his party.

The MDC is split over whether to participate in November 26’s election for the new 66-seat upper house of parliament.

Tsvangirai has ordered supporters not to stand in the poll, to avoid lending legitimacy to a government he says routinely rigs votes, but an opposing faction in the MDC has registered some candidates to contest the elections.

On Wednesday, Sikhala said Tsvangirai, who has referred the MP’s suspension case to the MDC’s national council, was trying to push him out of the MDC because he sees him as a challenge.

“Tsvangirai is behaving like a dictator, and obviously I don’t recognise what he is doing. I remain a full member of the MDC,” he told Reuters.

Political analysts say the quarrels in the MDC are weakening the country’s biggest challenge to Mugabe, Zimbabwe’s ruler since independence from Britain in 1980. – Reuter

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