Sunday, March 19, 2006


Mugabe rival urges mass campaign.

Morgan Tsvangirai is hoping to put a party split behind him. Zimbabwean opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai has called for mass action against the government at a congress of his party in the capital, Harare. He called for a short, sharp programme of action and a sustained and concerted effort by all Zimbabweans. Mr Tsvangirai's party has been trying to unseat Robert Mugabe who has been in power since independence in 1980. His Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) is holding its first congress since it split last year. Mr Tsvangirai is facing a challenge from the breakaway faction which last month elected a rival leader, Arthur Mutambara, and held its own congress.

The BBC's Peter Biles says this weekend's congress should indicate whether Mr Tsvangirai is still a major political player. His rivals accuse him of ignoring the party's wishes while his supporters say the split was engineered by Mr Mugabe's party. Our correspondent says for the past six years, opposition supporters have expected much of the MDC led by Mr Tsvangirai. Arthur Mutambara returned from exile to lead the other MDC faction.But President Mugabe's hold on power remains as strong as ever as internal wrangling within the MDC divides the party, he says.

The split was sparked by a row over whether to take part in elections to the senate last year. But senior party officials say the decision highlighted a problem with Mr Tsvangirai's leadership. They say he imposed an election boycott even though a majority of party leaders wanted to take part. Nelson Chamisa, a spokesman for the pro-Tsvangirai faction, said the Mugabe government was behind the split. "These divisions have been induced by this dictatorship, people who have been bought over by Zanu-PF and the regime of Mugabe," he told the BBC's Network Africa programme. Mr Chamisa also predicted the congress would boost Mr Tsvangirai. But our correspondent says the relationship between the two MDC factions remains hostile and the differences apparently irreconcilable.

Observers say President Mugabe continues to take advantage of the weakened opposition although Zimbabwe is still experiencing serious shortages of food, fuel and foreign currency, as well as hyperinflation.


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