MDC unity talks denied


HARARE - Zimbabwe's bickering opposition

splinter groups have flatly denied reports that they met in South Africa at the weekend to strike a unity deal, although diplomatic sources insist that the leadership of the two factions met to strike a deal aimed at closing ranks and working out a united plan to dislodge President Robert Mugabe from power.

A delegation from the Mutambara-led faction of the MDC, led by secretary-general Welshman Ncube, flew to SA on Saturday, hardly 12 hours after another contingent led by Ncube’s opposite number in the Tsvangirai-led MDC, Tendai Biti, also quietly slid out of the country headed for the same destination. Ncube was accompanied by elections director Paul Themba-Nyathi, while Biti had chief policy advisor Eddie Cross in tow.

Although both factions have flatly rejected claims that there were behind-the-scenes maneuvers to broker a unity pact, sources in South Africa insisted that the two delegations had met for talks “with a view to securing a cooperation agreement” but “stressed the importance of confidentiality.”

Gabriel Chaibva, the spokesman of the Mutambara-led MDC insisted that there were no preliminary talks on any co-operation, possible reunion or power-sharing deal with the Tsvangirai faction.

“There are no talks directly or indirectly, overtly or covertly, in daylight or pitch darkness,” Chaibva said on Tuesday. “Our delegation in SA is on a different mission. There are no talks going on.”

Political analysts say hope is dwindling that the opposition factions, which broke ranks last October over a controversial decision to contest the senate polls, can unite to defeat Mugabe.

The main MDC spokesman Nelson Chamisa said: “It’s just talk. There is no dialogue taking place.”

Deputy secretary general of the Mutambara faction, Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga was quoted by the authoritative South African-based news wire Zimonline confirming the meeting but insisting unity was not on the conference agenda.

She said: “Indeed there is a delegation that met the Tsvangirai (faction) people in South Africa over the weekend but the issue of unity was definitely not on the agenda.

“The discussions centred on the Zimbabwe Institute that we had set up. It is a policy-making group that we had set up when we were still together. It is all about policy – we want to see if we can disband it (the institute) or find a way (to maintain it) now that we are split.”

The Zimbabwean heard that the Mutambara-led provincial leadership met in Harare on Saturday where a position was taken that “we are not desperate for unity.”

The Harare prefecture later tasked its provincial chairman Edwin Mushoriwa to consult Arthur Mutambara to clarify whether he had canvassed Tsvangirai on cooperative governance. Sources said that at a consequent meeting, the Harare leadership wanted to secure a commitment from Mutambara that he was not joining any other political grouping in the context of unity.

Chaibva said there were no disagreements between the leadership of the Mutambara-led MDC about the need for unity of all democratic forces but said it was “mischievous” to suggest that the president was ” defecting” as has been peddled by some people.

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