25 May 2014

Zimbabwe: Tsvangirai, Biti Talks Collapse

Photo: Cliff Owen
Former MDC-T Secretary General Tendai Biti.

The much-touted talks between the two MDC-T faction leaders Morgan Tsvangirai and his former secretary general Tendai Biti have virtually collapsed amid allegations of insincerity on the part of the former premier's camp.

Tsvangirai's faction is accused of arm-twisting the party's guardian council chairperson, Sekai Holland and 'doctoring' the council's press statement to appear as if the party elders had denounced Biti's MDC renewal team.

Holland said after the Guardian Council meeting, they sent their statement to Tsvangirai for him to have a look but the information department doctored it to focus on discrediting the Mandel meeting that suspended the former Prime Minister.

MDC Renewal Team spokesperson Jacob Mafume yesterday said they would not hold unity talks with dishonest people who surrounded the venue where the Guardian Council was meeting with rowdy party militia.

He said the renewal team would not engage Tsvangirai until he changed to the "old Morgan, a democrat" they knew from the formation of the party.

"We will not talk to him until the new Morgan behaves like the old Morgan, the democrat, we used to know," said Mafume.

MDC-T spokesperson Douglas Mwonzora said there were never any talks with the MDC Renewal Team and they would not wish to have them.

He said Tsvangirai's faction did not need Biti's camp to unseat President Robert Mugabe.

"There were never any talks with those people," said Mwonzora. "We are content with what we are because the people are on our side as evidenced by the huge turnout at our rallies averaging 10 000 people compared to 52 people addressed by Biti in Mutare recently."

Mwonzora said it was surprising that Holland was dissociating herself from the statement yet she was the one dictating what was being written.

"The truth will come out because we have a recording of what transpired at the meeting," he said.

Mwonzora said four members of the Guardian Council, Tsvangirai's spokesperson Luke Tamborinyoka and himself were present when the statement was prepared. However, it is not clear why the MDC Renewal Team was not represented.

A member of the Guardian Council, James Makore said the council of elders will continue with their mediation efforts.

"It is our wish that the two parties unite," said Makore. "We will do it [mediation] with the consent of both parties."

He however said the Guardian Council would soon meet and issue a statement, disputing Holland's position because what she read at MDC-T headquarters on Thursday was what they had agreed.

"We agreed as a council to denounce the Mandel meeting and also pointed out that we did not support political violence. The second statement that she [Holland] produced was not from the council," said Makore.

He claimed that talks between Tsvangirai and Biti had not formally started but Holland was talking to the two parties without the consent of the Guardian Council.

"She was doing the mediation herself on our behalf without our approval," claimed Makore.

Efforts to get a comment from Holland were unsuccessful yesterday. Her husband, Jim, said she was in Bulawayo.

The renewal team is working with other political parties to form a grand coalition that will see parties agreeing to field just one presidential candidate against President Robert Mugabe's Zanu PF in 2018.

The coalition excludes Tsvangirai's faction and includes the MDC led by Welshman Ncube, Zapu led by Dumiso Dabengwa and Mavambo/Kusile/Dawn (MKD) led by Simba Makoni.

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