The Herald (Harare)

Zimbabwe: Tsvangirai Courts Margaret Dongo

MDC-T leader Mr Morgan Tsvangirai has approached Zimbabwe Union of Democrats founder Mrs Margaret Dongo to join his "grand coalition" project, a development analysts attributed to increasing panic in light of surveys that have pointed to a surge in support for President Mugabe and Zanu-PF.

Sources at Harvest House said Mr Tsvangirai personally phoned Mrs Dongo recently with the proposal.

His overtures to the largely dormant ZUD come hard on the heels of similar moves he made to bitter rival Mr Job Sikhala of MDC99, the Progressive Teachers' Union of Zimbabwe's Raymond Majongwe and Professor Lovemore Madhuku of the National Constitutional Assembly.

MDC-T has also approached the Professor Welshman Ncube-led MDC formation.

Prof Ncube is however, reluctant to forge a partnership with Mr Tsvangirai whom he accuses of using violence to stem dissent.

The two formations had an acrimonious split on October 12, 2005.

"Tsvangirai is courting Dongo. Last week he phoned Dongo asking her to be part of the grand coalition," an MDC-T insider said.

"He told her 'lets walk together'".

Mrs Dongo, who was said to be consulting friends before making a decision, yesterday denied ever talking to Mr Tsvangirai.

"The PM did not phone me. Maybe it is still something in the pipeline," she said.

However, MDC-T spokesperson Mr Douglas Mwonzora said his party wanted all progressive forces to work under its banner.

"We welcome the unity of all progressive Zimbabweans to fight for democracy in Zimbabwe," he said.

A source at Harvest House said Mrs Dongo was warming up to the idea since she approached MDC-T in 2008 suggesting that it stops fielding a candidate in Sunningdale.

MDC-T did not co-operate.

The source said the MDC-T is promising Mrs Dongo a seat reserved for women under proportional representation provided for in the draft Constitution.

The draft Constitution provides for 60 more seats for women in the House Assembly, six for each province, through proportional representation.

MDC-T, the source said, chose Mrs Dongo for her political standing and liberation credentials.

"The MDC-T believes Dongo has the credibility the party needs. She will rid the party of the Western puppet logo that Zanu-PF has been capitalising on as she participated in the country's liberation war," the source said.

Mrs Dongo is, however, highly critical of Mr Tsvangirai.

She was one of the few vocal women to condemn the MDC-T leader's serial bed-hopping.

Mr Tsvangirai, the sources said, was panicking after his Western allies expressed doubt on his ability to unseat President Mugabe and Zanu-PF as seen in their moves to normalise ties with President Mugabe.

Last month, Britain and its allies meeting under the banner of Friends of Zimbabwe invited the Zimbabwe re-engagement team to London for talks to normalise relations.

And a few days back, the US State Department weighed in by sending its former ambassador to the United Nations Mr Andrew Young to President Mugabe to deliver a message of conciliation.

Several recent surveys, commissioned by groups sympathetic to MDC-T, pointed to a Zanu-PF victory in the harmonised elections along with traditional MDC-T allies like the NCA, PTUZ, Zimbabwe Virgil and Zvakwana/Sokwanele.

Western media, among them CNN, the New York Times and The Guardian have also been laying into Mr Tsvangirai, questioning his personal life and handling of public finances.

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