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Divisions Over Western Sanctions Within Party of Zimbabwe PM Tsvangirai

Signs are emerging of divisions within the formation of Zimbabwe's Movement for Democratic Change led by Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai over whether the party should be calling on the West to lift targeted sanctions – or urge their extension to motivate President Robert Mugabe and his ZANU-PF to be more cooperative in their unity government.

Addressing party activists in the Masvingo province constituencies of Bikita West, Zaka East and Chivi Central on Sunday, MDC Chairwoman Theresa Makone said removing the restrictive measures on Mr. Mugabe and his inner circle could derail real change in Zimbabwe.

Makone was accompanied by legislators and senior party officials including MDC Secretary General and Finance Minister Tendai Biti. He said the unity government was not functioning well because the MDC's counterparts within Mr. Mugabe's ZANU-PF party have not fully cooperated in particular on implementing the 2008 Global Political Agreement.

But Makone's statements were at variance with those of Prime Minister Tsvangirai who on Sunday, returning to Harare from Spain, called on the West to expand developmental aid and ease restrictions, Studio 7 correspondent Irwin Chifera reported.

The MDC formations undertook to campaign for the lifting of the targeted sanctions together with ZANU-PF when its two leaders - Tsvangirai and Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara - signed the GPA paving the way for formation of the unity government in February.

Tsvangirai MDC spokesman Nelson Chamisa told reporter Ntungamili Nkomo of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that the party’s position has not changed - i.e. that the removal of sanctions is contingent on ZANU-PF's compliance with and fulfillment of the GPA.

London-based political analyst Pedzisai Ruhanya said the contradicting statements from the Tsvangirai MDC reveal divisions on how to handle this sensitive issue.

Elsewhere, ZANU-PF’s provincial organizations in Matebeleland North and Matabeleland South have thrown the party into turmoil by defying a directive from its top governing bodies to nominate a candidate to fill the vice presidential post vacated when Joseph Msika died.

The Bulawayo metropolitan province has nominated party chairman John Nkomo to fill the post, but the other two have taken no action. Representatives of the three provinces met in Bulawayo last week and referred the question of the vice presidential nomination back to the ZANU-PF politburo saying that it was a national party issue not a regional one.

ZANU-PF National Secretary for Administration Didymus Mutasa said the deadline stood - but added that the politburo would select a candidate if the provinces could not agree on one.

Zenzo Ncube, chairman of ZANU-PF's Matebelaland Province, told the Herald newspaper that Mutasa cannot impose a deadline on the provinces. Sources said Ncube has since been suspended from the party for his defiance.

The party leadership is believed to want to raise Nkomo to the vice presidency, but there is said to be much lobbying by other candidates including Ambassador to South Africa Simon Khaya Moyo, Bulawayo Governor Cain Mathema and Mines Minister Obert Mpofu.

Political analyst Charles Mangongera told reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that defiance by the Matebeleland provinces exposes ZANU-PF's fundamentally undemocratic method of filling top positions.

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