The Herald (Harare)

Zimbabwe: Western Diplomats Snub Tsvangirai

Western diplomats yesterday openly snubbed MDC-T leader Mr Morgan Tsvangirai and embraced MDC Renewal Team leader Mr Tendai Biti at a ceremony where former Harare Mayor Dr Muchadeyi Masunda was bestowed with the Federal Republic of Germany's Cross of Merit.

A senior Renewal Team official mocked Mr Tsvangirai, telling The Herald afterwards that their opponents were bringing draught skills to a chess game.

Mr Biti leads a group that has suspended Mr Tsvangirai and his closest allies from the party. Mr Tsvangirai's faction has responded by expelling Mr Biti and his allies.

Diplomats briefly greeted Mr Tsvangirai and then spent the rest of the event with Mr Biti, exchanging phone numbers and chatting amiably.

Through all that, Mr Tsvangirai sat with Harare Mayor Mr Bernard Manyenyeni and left as soon as the event ended.

Mr Tsvangirai and Mr Biti arrived at the German Ambassador's Harare residence at about the same time and did not get anywhere near each other.

Mr Biti arrived with his right-hand man, deputy treasurer Mr Elton Mangoma, who was equally swamped by the foreign diplomats.

Mr Tsvangirai came with ally Mrs Theresa Makone, guardian council member Ms Sekai Holland and policy advisor Mr Eddie Cross, whom he talked to as his former diplomatic allies showed where their allegiances lay.

Mr Biti conversed with United States Ambassador to Zimbabwe Mr Bruce Wharton, Germany's Ambassador Ulrich Klockner, European Union head of delegation to Zimbabwe Ambassador Aldo Del'Arricia and several others.

Ambassador Dell'Arricia briefly chatted with Mr Tsvangirai, Mr Cross and economist Mr John Robertson.

Mr Tsvangirai has ironically complained that foreigners were meddling in the opposition party's affairs, overlooking the fact that for more than a decade he enjoyed their patronage and even moved into the Dutch Embassy in Harare during the 2008 harmonised elections.

Mr Tsvangirai's camp snidely said Mr Biti used yesterday's event to extend begging bowls to their "rich friends".

Mr Tsvangirai's spokesperson Mr Luke Tamborinyoka said his boss was unconcerned by "petty" issues like popularity with foreign diplomats.

"Zimbabweans are more concerned with serious issues, not what you are saying," he said.

Mr Biti refused to comment, but one of his allies -- who declined to be named -- said: "You saw what happened. We are playing the game of chess, while Tsvangirai is playing draught."

Mr Biti and his colleagues in March suspended Mr Tsvangirai and five of his lieutenants, accusing them of violating MDC-T's constitution and using violence as a political tool.

In response, Mr Tsvangirai fired Mr Biti and all the officials who endorsed the suspension.

Legal experts believe the leadership contest will end up in the courts.

Germany's chancellor Angela Merkel granted Dr Masunda the Cross of Merit in recognition of his contributions to promotion of German business interests in Zimbabwe, particularly as chairman of Siemens Zimbabwe (1987-2010) and Harare Mayor (2008-2013).

The merit was conferred by Ambassador Klockner.

Meanwhile, Ambassador Dell'Arricia welcomed the Zanu-PF Politburo decision compelling party bigwigs who benefited from land reforms to relinquish their claims to Save Conservancy in favour of people who are yet to benefit from Government's empowerment programme.

The Politburo made the decision when it met in Harare on Monday.

Ambassador Dell'Arricia said, "It is important that President Mugabe has led to this decision; it is in the interest of Zimbabwe and Zimbabweans at large. The conservancies had already been indigenised, with local leaders such as chiefs protecting the interests of the people.

"The decision sends a good message to foreign investors and it shows that Zimbabwe has made concrete steps in defending bi-lateral agreements."

He said the Zimbabwe-EU engagement was ongoing.

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