18 July 2014

Zimbabwe: MDC Reunion Talks Collapse

TALKS between Morgan Tsvangirai's MDC-T and the break-away faction, the MDC Renewal Team led by deputy treasurer Elton Mangoma and secretary-general Tendai Biti, have collapsed after both sides set tough conditions for each other.

Sources from the two factions said the talks, which were being led by the party's Guardian Council with the assistance of a white Zimbabwean residing in New Zealand, Andrew Ladley, aimed at bringing the warring factions together.

But they hit a brick wall after the two camps set insurmountable preconditions for each other to reunite.

"I can confirm talks lasted four weeks but each faction set conditions that could not be met until the facilitator Andrew Ladley went back a fortnight ago," said a highly placed official in the Tsvangirai camp.

Another official, who is aligned to the Renewal Team, said the mediation ended after Tsvangirai demanded an apology from Biti and his team.

"The talks progressed well until Tsvangirai regressed and demanded that people should be asked at a rally whether they want to unite or separate," the official said.

"Tsvangirai also made some unreasonable demands like that Biti should apologise and this was obviously not going to be acceptable to us because we were not the ones who invited the mediators."

The source also said at first Tsvangirai had agreed to a joint congress of original structures as at December 31 2013.

"Tsvangirai had agreed to a joint congress and amendments to the constitution which would give leadership limited term limits. He would stand for the last time at the forthcoming congress; there would be two vice-presidents and an appointed secretary-general.

However, during the last week of talks Tsvangirai began to change goalposts culminating in the talks collapsing," said the source.

The Tsvangirai-led faction was represented by senator Morgen Komichi and his supporting team while the Renewal Team was represented by Kuwadzana lawmaker Lucia Matibenga and Last Maingehama, according to sources.

While MDC-T spokesperson Douglas Mwonzora denied any such talks had taken place when contacted for comment, acting chairperson of the MDC-T's guardian council Sekai Holland said Ladley was in the country to help the warring factions resolve their differences and focus on the original democratisation agenda.

"We invited him because, besides being a personal friend, he is Zimbabwean and he is an expert in mediation having assisted in a number of issues including in Kenya, Cyprus, Kosovo and the Southern Philippines," Holland said.

"Our wish is to see the MDC move in the right direction. The two groups should reunite and find common ground for the better of this country instead of engaging in petty issues," she said.

Renewal Team spokesperson Jacob Mafume said they were now focussing on setting strategic objectives to win the next election. "There are no talks going on and our focus is now on winning the next election," Mafume said.

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