MDC factions urged to patch up their differences

Factions within the Movement for Democratic Change that are squabbling over whether to participate or boycott the forthcoming senate elections, threatening to split the party, should quickly patch up their differences because neither can survive without the other, political analysts say.

Party leader Morgan Tsvangirai should swallow his pride and publicly apologise to the party and the electorate for causing the current confusion, while the faction that has vowed to contest the elections should also apologise to the electorate for making the senate elections an issue when they are not and then pull out of the elections because there is no way they are going to win under the present circumstances.

"Tsvangirai should apologise to the party and the electorate because he is the one who caused the confusion by insisting on boycotting the elections after the national council had voted in favour of participating," political commentator Gorden Moyo, who is also executive director of Bulawayo Agenda, said.

"He has very valid reasons for boycotting the elections, but he should not have bulldozed his way after the national council had voted in favour of the elections because he was now flouting the party constitution."

Moyo said people, especially those in civic society, were quite disturbed by this because the MDC is trying to oust ZANU-PF to restore law and order. Tsvangirai should, therefore, not be seen to be behaving the same way as President Robert Mugabe and ZANU-PF who are often breaking their own party constitution and national laws to suit their own ends.

"If Tsvangirai publicly apologises to the people, they will forgive him and he will emerge even stronger because very few African leaders apologise for their mistakes. He will only be showing that he is human. He can make mistakes. But what is more important will be that he is prepared to admit that he too can make mistakes. People will respect him for this and he will be assured of leadership of the party," Moyo said.

The faction that has vowed to contest the elections should also apologise to the electorate because they have made the senate elections an issue when it is not because there are more pressing problems that the people are facing, Moyo said.

"They have already made their point that no one is above the law. Now it's time to face reality. They should apologise to the people for causing unnecessary confusion and should pull out of the elections.

"If they go ahead and contest, they are likely to lose because people are likely to listen to Tsvangirai's call for a boycott. Once they lose they will lose the respect of South African President Thabo Mbeki who considers them a political force. They will also lose the respect of Mugabe because he will see no reason to talk to losers."

Another political commentator Lawton Hikwa said the two factions had to reach a compromise because Zimbabwe needs a strong opposition.

He said both sides had to back down from their positions because they were both fighting on principles. Tsvangirai is convinced that it is not right to participate in sham elections while the other faction is looking purely at the legal side.

Hikwa said the squabbling between the MDC factions was giving ZANU-PF time to breathe but it was not healthy for the country because it needed a strong and viable opposition.

Asked whether he saw the possibility of either side backing down in view of the statements that have been attributed to the factions over the past few days, Hikwa said he was a little disturbed by statements that had been attributed to Tsvangirai at a rally in Victoria Falls.

"I am a little worried about what he said if he was quoted correctly, because those sentiments seemed to be coming from someone who is very dictatorial," Hikwa said.

Tsvangirai was quoted as saying he was giving all party members who went against his will seven days to withdraw from the senate elections or be fired.

"VP, SG and their supporters should know that I hold the keys of the party. As long as I am still the leader they have to do what I want since they are my juniors," he was quoted as saying.

Party secretary general Welshman Ncube, who allegedly leads the other faction, was adamant there was no way he would give in to Tsvangirai's demands.

He was quoted at the weekend, after the national council meeting convened by Tsvangirai, but boycotted by the other faction, agreed to a boycott, as saying: "The only useful thing to come out of the meeting in Harare is that a line has been drawn in the sand and the door has been closed to a negotiated settlement. I don't know what will happen to the MDC in the future, but whatever it is we will not be going forward together and we hope no candidate for the senate elections will withdraw."

Moyo said what the two factions did not realise was that they could not do without each other. If the party split, it would be divided into the Matabeleland MDC and the Mashonaland MDC. And there is likely to be a fight for the name.

He said while at face value it might appear that Tsvangirai would have won if the contesting candidates are defeated, this will not be the case because the people of Matabeleland will still want to be represented by people of their own choice.

The other faction, on the other hand, was not likely to win because ZANU-PF was likely to take advantage of the current confusion and MDC supporters were likely to be hit by apathy.

"Those who have registered to contest the elections should simply withdraw because at the end of the day they will lose face. If the aim is to defeat ZANU-PF, the party should contest all 50 seats, not half," he said.

Hikwa brushed off sentiments that the MDC would be split along tribal or ethnic lines saying this was a notion of the press.

He said there was nothing tribal about the composition of the warring factions.

"Chimanikire (Gift Chimanikire, the party's deputy secretary) is not from Matabeleland yet he supports participation. This is all a figment of the press. They did the same thing with ZAPU and ZANU in the 1980s. ZAPU was never a party for the Ndebele nor was ZANU a party for the Shona. They were both national parties," Hikwa said.

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