Tsvangirai moves to mend relations with Mbeki

Dumisani Muleya

OPPOSITION Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) leader Morgan Tsvangirai has told diplomats his party is going through a “period of anxiety and uncertainty” triggered by the senate issue.
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Tsvangirai also moved to mend fences with South African President Thabo Mbeki whom he recently refused to meet to resolve the infighting in his party.


Tsvangirai is engaged in a war of attrition with a rival faction for the control of the party.


His spokesman William Bango said his boss had not snubbed Mbeki as widely reported.


“As for the speculation that Tsvangirai is snubbing President Mbeki, this is far from the truth,” Bango said.


After briefing Harare-based diplomats yesterday morning, Tsvangirai was visited by the new South African ambassador, Professor Mlungisi Makhalima at his Strathaven home.


Bango said the meeting between Tsvangirai and Makhalima was fruitful. “A number of issues were discussed, notes compared and fresh proposals for co-operation were hammered out. Tsvangirai took the opportunity to brief Prof Makhalima on the state of the party and the MDC’s view on the resolution of the national crisis,” he said.


Tsvangirai denied reports he was preparing to go to Europe to meet European Union leaders over the MDC crisis after snubbing Mbeki. There were reports he was going to meet EU leaders to discuss the MDC squabbles.


Addressing diplomats in Harare yesterday, Tsvangirai admitted the MDC was rocked by internal strife triggered by the debate over whether or not to participate in the November 26 senate election.


“I must admit that the last few weeks have been a period of anxiety and seeming uncertainty among observers of the democratic struggle in Zimbabwe, at home and abroad,” he said.


“I would like therefore to take this opportunity to set the record straight and allay any lingering fears among our friends and well-wishers abroad.”


Tsvangirai narrated events surrounding the MDC crisis to the diplomats and insisted his party would boycott the poll. He recently claimed the issue was an internal matter to justify his refusal to meet Mbeki.


He said although his party’s national council initially voted to participate, it had since reversed its decision. The rival faction led by secretary-general Welshman Ncube has dismissed the claim.


Tsvangirai said the MDC was committed to democracy and its values. This came against a background of accusations by colleagues that he was a “dictator in the making”.


Tsvangirai, failing to quell the turbulence in the MDC, said his party wanted a comprehensive constitutional reform process, not piecemeal reforms.


“Our position on constitutional reform is quite clear. We believe that only a broad and comprehensive process with the full participation of the people of Zimbabwe can produce an acceptable and legitimate constitution for the country,” he said.


“This position constitutes one of the central objectives of the party and no single organ outside the full congress can vary or modify it. It is a fundamental principle. It is one of the major reasons for the existence of the MDC.”


Tsvangirai said after he had overruled the MDC council on the senate issue, he embarked on a “comprehensive consultative programme” to solicit the people’s views on the issue.


“It became absolutely vital for the party to revisit and re-fashion its policy bearings with a view to charting a consistent and common path forward. An outreach programme to consult with the people became imperative,” he said. “We embarked on this comprehensive consultative programme and the result was a clear restatement of the central objectives of the party on constitutional issues, by the various party organs throughout the country.”


He said the consultation process culminated in the controversial council meeting last Saturday which he claimed had reversed the decision to enter the poll.

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