THE Morgan Tsvangirai-led MDC has been rocked by divisions on whether the party should enter into negotiations with Zanu PF to form a government of national unity (GNU) to end the countryâ€™s crisis.
Sadc, the African Union and the international community are pressing for a GNU between the MDC and Zanu PF after the disputed presidential run-off last week.
Tsvangirai, his secretary-general Tendai Biti and party spokesperson Nelson Chamisa this week made contradictory pronouncements on the partyâ€™s position regarding talks with Zanu PF.
The statements by the three revealed divisions that have been simmering in the MDC since Tsvangirai returned to Zimbabwe last month from self-imposed exile in South Africa.
The partyâ€™s leadership, sources said, was unable to reach a compromise on the matter with hardliners like Biti and the South Africa-based treasurer Roy Bennett adamant that the MDC should not engage in any negotiations with Zanu PF.
Bitiâ€™s camp, the sources said, argue that if Zanu PF genuinely wanted talks it should have called off last Fridayâ€™s run-off and made room for negotiations for an all-inclusive government.
The camp reportedly objected to the MDC national councilâ€™s decision on June 22 to withdraw Tsvangirai from the run-off.
The opposition leader pulled out of the run-off alleging escalating political violence against his supporters, but the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission went ahead with the poll saying his withdrawal was of no legal force.
Mugabe won 85% of the votes cast.
Responding to reports that Sadc-appointed mediator South African president Thabo Mbeki had told African Union leaders who met in Egypt this week that a deal was about to be clinched between Zanu PF and the MDC, Biti on Tuesday said there were no talks between the two parties.
He described the reports as “malicious and far from the truth”.
“As a matter of fact, there are no talks or discussions taking place between the two parties and most importantly, there is no agreement in the offing,” Biti said. “Whilst the MDC pursued dialogue in a bid to establish a government of national healing before the 12th June 2008, the sham and cataleptic election on 27 June totally and completely exterminated any prospects of a negotiated settlement. It is now the firm view of the MDC that those who claim they have got a mandate to govern should govern. Chitongai tione.”
But the following day, Chamisa was quoted in the Herald saying his party was committed to dialogue.
“Our hope is to pursue dialogue to ensure that we have a negotiated settlement and understanding,” Chamisa was quoted as saying. “We are warm to a negotiated settlement and we believe that talking should be about genuine dialogue, not swallowing of one another.”
Also on Wednesday, Tsvangirai told journalists in the capital that the MDC remained committed to negotiations based on the outcome of the first round of the presidential election on March 29.
Tsvangirai outpolled Mugabe in the first round, but fell short of the required votes to take over the presidency.
Saluting the AU for pressing for negotiations between Zanu PF and MDC, Tsvangirai said the unionâ€™s resolution should have acknowledged the March 29 outcome.
“The (AU) resolution endorses the concept of a government of national unity without acknowledging that the MDC, as the winner of the last credible elections on 29th March 2008, should be recognised as the legitimate government of Zimbabwe. A GNU does not address the problems facing Zimbabwe or acknowledge the will of the Zimbabwean people,” Tsvangirai said.
“While the MDC remains committed to negotiations these must be based on the 29th March results and must move towards a transitional agreement,” he said. “Our commitment to a negotiated settlement is not about power-sharing or power deals but about democracy, freedom and justice. Our struggle is not about power but about democracy.”
Sources in the party said these contradictory statements from senior party leaders were indicative of the divisions in the MDC on an array of issues.
The divisions, the sources said, started when Tsvangirai returned from a self-imposed exile in South Africa last month to face off with Mugabe in the run-off.
Some senior members of the party reportedly wanted Tsvangirai to remain holed up in South Africa and give an impression to the world that his life was really under threat.
Apart from that, the MDC was apparently split five days before the run-off over whether or not Tsvangirai should pull out of the election.
On June 21, Bennett told the international media in Johannesburg that pulling out of the race was “nonsense”.
Bennett acknowledged that the poll would not be free and fair, but said that the violence showed how important it was to stand against Mugabe.
“On the backdrop of that we have to compete in these elections to show the total illegitimacy of them,” he told South Africaâ€™s independent television station, etv.
The party, sources said, was also divided on who to elect as mayor of Harare after it won in 45 of the 46 wards in the capital.
As a result, the sources said, the party settled for lawyer Muchadeyi Masunda who did not contest the council elections on March 29.
Chamisa last night denied that there were divisions in the party. “There are no contradictions in the statements made by the party leadership,” he said. “Our united position is that we wanted the talks before the June 27 run-off, but Mugabe decided to hijack the presidency.”
He added: “It is now up to Zanu PF to initiate the talks. If they do that we will be committed to the dialogue. We already have a position paper on how we want the talks to proceed.”