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Zimbabwe Observers See Turmoil in Mutambara MDC Grouping As Destabilizing

The formation of Zimbabwe's Movement for Democratic Change led by Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara said Tuesday that its expulsion of three parliamentarians from its ranks would strengthen the party, though others saw the move as destabilizing.

The party’s disciplinary committee on Monday expelled Abednico Bhebhe, who represents the Nkayi South constituency, Njabuliso Mguni, representing Lupane East and Norman Mpofu of Bulilima East for alleged indiscipline and insubordination.

All of the constituencies concerned are in the western region of Matabeleland, a stronghold for the MDC formation.

Party spokesman Renson Gasela told reporter Brenda Moyo of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that officials tried to reason with the expelled lawmakers before expelling them.

The newly revived Zimbabwe African Patriotic Union, or ZAPU party meanwhile said it is eyeing with great interest the three seats which seem likely to be vacated, and is ready to contest by-elections, said ZAPU Communications and Marketing Director Methuseli Moyo.

Meanwhile analysts concluded that the turmoil in the Mutambara MDC formation poses a major challenge to the stability of the national unity government - the deputy prime minister is one of the three signatories to the September 2008 Global Political Agreement which formed the basis for the national unity government assembled in February.

Political sources said that shortly before the expulsions, party Secretary General Welshman Ncube and Vice President Gibson Sibanda apologized to party faithfuls in Bulawayo for naming Mutambara president of the formation. They said ethnic Ndebeles have for too long held secondary positions and promised to address this in the next elections.

Political analyst John Makumbe of the University of Zimbabwe described those statements as unfortunate, unbecoming of national leaders and contrary to the unity government spirit.

Makumbe said chaos in the Mutambara MDC reflected poor management within the party and could cost the two MDC formations - the dominant grouping is led by Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai - its parliamentary majority of about 10 seats.

Three legislators from Tsvangirai’s MDC risk losing their seats due to convictions on charges which the party says were trumped up by officials in the judiciary loyal to ZANU-PF.

Commenting in his personal capacity, Fambai Ngirande, a spokesman for the National Association of Non-Governmental Organizations, said the expulsions show there is trouble not only in the MDC formation but in the broader national unity government.

Reached for comment, Mutambara told VOA that he only wanted to discuss the future of Zimbabwe, not internal party issues.

More reports from VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe...