‘Tsvangirai partially accepted SADC directive on unity govt’

HARARE – Zimbabwe’s opposition MDC party said on Wednesday its leader Morgan Tsvangirai had partially accepted a directive by regional leaders to join a power-sharing government with President Robert Mugabe, as sharp divisions and confusion rocked the party over the matter.

The MDC’s decision-making national council meets tomorrow to decide what course to follow, as it emerged the party was split right through the middle with one faction, allegedly led by Tsvangirai, amenable to joining the unity government as directed by regional leaders.

The other faction, allegedly led by party secretary general Tendai Biti, is said to be bitterly opposed to going to bed with Mugabe before a list of demands submitted by the MDC have been met, according to insiders.

Yesterday, the MDC said it was an "illusionary assertion" that Tsvangirai fully agreed with the position of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) to join the power-sharing government by February 13.

"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," read a statement issued by the MDC information department.

The party added: "The unequivocal party position is that a decision regarding the inclusive government will be taken by the national council on Friday, 30 January 2009. ?

But according to SADC chairman, South African President Kgalema Motlanthe the MDC leader agreed to form a government to be led by Mugabe within the time limits set by the regional bloc.

Tsvangirai told a South African newspaper he had agreed in principle to join the unity government pending resolution of grievances submitted by his party. The paper quotes him as saying resolution of the outstanding issues was “work in progress”.

But sources said Biti backed by other top officials wanted to pull out of the power-sharing deal.

In a statement after the SADC extraordinary summit communiqué was released in Pretoria, South Africa, early Tuesday the MDC said the decision of the regional body fell "far short of our expectations". But the party did not reject the summit resolution outright, leaving the matter to be finalised at tomorrow’s meeting.

The sources in the MDC-T said if Tsvangirai fails to persuade the national council to accept the SADC decision, he would run the risk of defying the regional bloc.

Hardliners in the MDC-T, the sources said, were angry that the regional summit did not deal adequately with the outstanding issues of last September’s power-sharing deal signed by Tsvangirai, Mugabe and Arthur Mutambara, the leader of a breakaway faction of the MDC.

The MDC said it had hoped the SADC summit would push for equitable allocation of ministries, provincial governorships and other top public posts between the opposition and ZANU PF.

The opposition wanted the summit to push for the enactment of constitutional changes that would give legal effect to the power-sharing agreement while setting out the powers of the president and prime minister in a government of national unity.

The MDC wanted SADC to condemn the arrest and torture of its members in breach of the power-sharing agreement, all issues the regional leaders appear to have skirted during their discussions.

Sources in the party said Biti and those opposed to joining the unity government want to take the matter to the African Union (AU) and later the United Nations.

However, the MDC would have immense difficult bypassing the SADC to approach an African Union (AU) heads of state summit starting on Sunday in Ethiopia.

The continental body tasked SADC to deal with the Zimbabwe matter and is most likely to listen to its affiliate than to an opposition party.

Biti yesterday declined to comment on reports of divisions in the MDC or about tomorrow’s meeting. Tsvangirai was unreachable. – ZimOnline