The smaller branch of Zimbabwe's former opposition Movement for Democratic Change has threatened to pull out of the country's perennially troubled national unity government unless the newly elected president of the party is made deputy prime minister, replacing former party chief Arthur Mutambara, a signatory of the 2008 power-sharing pact.
Sources said MDC formation chief Welshman Ncube met with President Robert Mugabe on Tuesday for two and a half hours to make his case for replacing Mutambara but was unable to bring Mr. Mugabe around to his point of view. The sources said Mr. Mugabe remained adamant he would not swear in Ncube as deputy to Prime MInister Morgan Tsvangirai unless Mutambara resigned or the High Court ordered him to do so.
The Mugabe-Ncube meeting followed the first Cabinet session of 2011.
Ncube’s MDC formation has threatened to pull out of the national unity government if he is not made deputy prime minister by dint of being party president. The position went to Mutambara in 2009 on the basis not only of his leadership of the breakaway MDC formation but of his signing the GPA with Mr. Mugabe and future prime minister.
Though MDC formation held a congress in January, Ncube and Mutambara contionue to fight for its leadership, sources in the party said. Mutambara said Monday that he won’t give up the deputy premiership citing a “national responsibility" in a time of crisis. In an oblique criticism of Ncube he rejected the appeal of "narrow" party considerations.
Mutambara said that the national constitution, modified to enshrine the Global Political Agreement, "there is no facility for a political party to recall a sitting DPM. In the GPA there is no provision to remove a [Global Political Agreement] principal.”
MDC sources said Mutambara is likely to be expelled from the party later this week for failing to heed instructions to give way to Ncube.The party's national council will meet on Thursday to discuss what pro-Ncube members call his intransigence.
The party had recommended that Mutambara assume the post of regional integration minister currently held by Priscilla Misihairabwi, who is slated to replace Ncube at the Ministry of Industry and International Trade in the post-congress shuffle.
But Ncube’s election as party president is challenged by dissidents who have gone to court and who have also written to Mr. Mugabe urging him not to swear in Ncube.
Vice President Edwin Mushoriwa of Ncube’MDC s wing told VOA reporter Blessing Zulu that the president and Ncube failed to agree - though Mr. Mugabe said he would take up the issue with Tsvangirai, not generally considered to be friendly with Ncube, who was central to the MDC's acrimonious 2005 breakup into two factions.
Mushoriwa charged that Mr. Mugabe had sided with Mutambara in the dispute and that in his conversation with Ncube "went on to literally defend [Mutambara], basically regurgitating" what Mutambara said in his Monday news conference.
Analysts warned that if the Ncube MDC formation were to pull out of the government the president might seize on that to call early elections without proceeding according to the road-map through reforms which Mr. Tsvangirai's MDC wing has demanded.