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Zimbabwe Opposition Factions Seek Reconciliation

Top officials of Zimbabwe’s currently divided Movement for Democratic Change have opened talks to try to resolve a bitter and embarrassing internal dispute over whether the opposition should run candidates in the senate election set for November.

Faction leaders also ordered subordinate officials and the rank-and-file to desist from violence and tone down rhetoric in the quarrel, which has sparked some clashes.

MDC President Morgan Tsvangirai, who insists the party must boycott the Nov. 26 election of a restored upper house, and Secretary General Welshman Ncube, leader of a faction that has defied Mr. Tsvangirai in nominating 26 candidates, met in Harare with other members of the party’s Top Six, a semi-formal steering committee.

The senior officials agreed that Mr. Tsvangirai and his spokesman, William Bango, would speak for the anti-election faction, while all statements from the camp which has moved to field candidates were to come from Deputy President Gibson Sibanda.

After extending olive branches, the factions agreed to meet again Friday to address more substantive issues, like how to reconcile the 26 candidates nominated this week with Mr. Tsvangirai’s threat to expell those politicians from the party.

Meanwhile, Mr. Bango said party officers and members of the rank and file were told to avoid acrimonious statements and to eschew all violence or threats.

Correspondent Thomas Chiripasi reported from the MDC’s Harare press conference.

Earlier, reporter Carole Gombakomba of VOA’s Studio 7 for Zimbabwe spoke with MDC National Council member Sekai Holland who said the opposition divisions went beyond the senate elections issue. For one thing, said Ms. Holland, there was never meant to be a National Council vote on Oct. 12 when the factional split emerged.

Some political analysts say the MDC may have lost a significant following because of its public bickering over participation in elections for the senate, restored by the ruling party through constitutional amendment legislation which the opposition opposed.

Other argue that the MDC and Mr. Tsvangirai could be strengthened by the dispute.

Studio 7 reporter Ndimyake Mwakalyele sought the views of political experts Joseph Kurebwa, a University of Zimbabwe political science lecturer, and Jessie Majome, a lawyer and spokesman for the National Constitutional Assembly. She said the MDC retains strong support, but picked a bad time to let its internal divisions flare.

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