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Tsvangirai Faces Test

MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai is under pressure from hardliners in his party  to reject a unity government with President Robert Mugabe when the party’s national council meets in the capital today.

Sources in the party said hardliners, led by secretary-general Tendai Biti, are opposed to any power-sharing arrangement with Mugabe and want Tsvangirai to reject the resolutions drawn up by Sadc last Tuesday in Pretoria setting time limits for the formation of a new government.The United States has said it will not accept any political arrangement which leaves Mugabe as head of state.

The Biti group, the sources said, want the country’s crisis taken to the African Union (AU) and later the United Nations with a view to having fresh elections.


However, although an AU summit starts on Sunday, the MDC-T is bound by the Sadc Pretoria resolutions and would have difficulty bypassing the regional body to directly appeal to the continental organisation.

Tsvangirai made a commitment to regional leaders that he would join the inclusive government, but since then divisions in the MDC-T that have been simmering since the signing of the inclusive government deal in September have escalated.

The sources said the United States, Britain and its Western allies were exerting pressure on the MDC-T not to join the unity government, but to push for fresh elections.

This comes amid reports that the recommendations by Sadc for the formation of an inclusive government was not unanimous as presidents Ian Khama (Botswana), Jikaya Kikwete (Tanzania) and Rupiah Banda (Zambia) proposed the holding of new elections.

The three presidents failed to get majority support from Sadc chairperson and South African President Kgalema Motlanthe, King Mswati of Swaziland, Mozambican leader Armando Guebuza and the rest of the Sadc countries represented who said the formation of a coalition government was the best way forward.

Botswana has since issued a statement supporting the Sadc recommendations “to assist parties to the global political agreement to move forward the process of resolving the crisis of legitimacy in Zimbabwe and put an end to the suffering and difficult challenges facing the people” of the country.

If the national council gives the nod for the party to join the unity government, the MDC-T, Zanu PF and the Arthur Mutambara-led MDC will today form a Joint Monitoring and Implementation Commission (Jomic) that will have its first meeting under the chairmanship of deal-broker, former South African president Thabo Mbeki.

Jomic is tasked with implementing the agreements reached by the three parties and investigating allegations of breaches.

The MDC-T would also be expected to support the passage of Constitutional Amendment No19 when the Bill is presented to parliament on February 5. The Bill gives legal effect to the deal.

Tsvangirai would then be sworn in as prime minister along with his two deputies on February 11. Ministers  and their deputies would take their oaths of office two days later.

“Biti and other hardliners say an inclusive government without international support will not deliver and this would cost the party in future elections,” one of the sources said. “They also cite the level of mistrust between Zanu PF and the MDC-T.”

The sources said Biti rejected Sadc recommendations and wants the national council to see things his way and reject the unity government.

Tsvangirai and Biti, the sources said, had fallen out several times during the talks that led to the signing of the power-sharing deal, but party publicists have tried to downplay the power struggles between the two.

According to the sources, the first clash between the two was on September 11 last year when Tsvangirai signed the deal without consulting his negotiators — Biti and Elton Mangoma.

Their relationship, the sources said, was further strained when the MDC-T leader signed a doctored version of the pact four days later.

Biti’s faction has also accused Tsvangirai of privately agreeing with Mugabe on the allocation of ministries last October.

The hardliners, the sources said, were angry that the regional summit did not deal adequately with the outstanding issues of power sharing.

On Wednesday, the newly inaugurated US President Barak Obama telephoned Motlanthe and told him that South Africa had an important role to play in helping resolve Zimbabwe’s political crisis.

“President Obama emphasised the importance of South Africa’s leadership role as a strong and vibrant democracy in Africa. The two leaders discussed their shared concerns about the situation in Zimbabwe,” the White House said in a statement. “The president noted that South Africa holds a key role in helping to find a resolution to the political crisis in Zimbabwe.”

The US State Department on Monday said Secretary of State Hillary Clinton wanted South Africa, which has the most regional economic and diplomatic clout, to help resolve the crisis in Zimbabwe.

On Monday the European Union slapped more sanctions on Zimbabwe.

The MDC-T information department on Wednesday said it was an “illusionary assertion” that Tsvangirai fully agreed with the position of Sadc.

 “President Tsvangirai did not necessarily agree with the position of Sadc. For the record, the president did not agree entirely with the position of Sadc. Outstanding issues were not treated with the justice and fairness that we expected,” the statement said.


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