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Permanent Split Looms For Zimbabwe's Opposition MDC - Party Vice President

Zimbabwe's opposition Movement for Democratic Change, divided since October over participation in the new senate elected on November 26, could face a permanent split, MDC Vice President Gibson Sibanda said Wednesday in a Harare news conference.

Mr. Sibanda, a leader of the faction that broke with MDC President Morgan Tsvangirai over fielding candidates in the senate elections as well as long-simmering issues to do with control of the party, said mediation efforts have not ended the impasse between the Harare-based Tsvangirai faction and the Bulawayo-centered pro-senate faction.

Uniting the two factions now seems "out of the question," said Mr. Sibanda. He called the news conference soon after his faction concluded what it described as a national council meeting. The MDC National Council is the party's top decision-making body, but both factions have convened Council meetings, laying claim to legitimacy.

Mr. Sibanda told reporters that one mediation effort sought the assistance of South African president Thabo Mbeki, and prominent Zimbabweans were also approached to help end the MDC's biggest crisis since it was launched six years ago. But according to Mr. Sibanda all these attempts at reconciliation failed.

He attributed this outcome to what he termed “fierce differences” between the groups.

Mr. Sibanda was flanked by MDC Deputy Secretary General Gift Chimanikire, party treasurer Fletcher Dulini Ncube, and spokesman Paul Themba Nyathi. MDC Secretary General Welshman Ncube sat in the audience alongside others in the opposition faction which contested the senate elections and claimed seven seats.

Mr. Sibanda criticized Mr. Tsvangirai and accused him of using violence to intimidate the pro-senate faction. He insisted that Mr. Nyathi should should continue as the MDC spokesman, rather than Nelson Chamisa, the party's former youth chief named to the post of acting spokesman by party officials lined up behind Mr. Tsvangirai.

The MDC vice president said his faction intends to appeal to the supreme court after a Harare high court rejected its request for an order barring Mr. Tsvangirai from conducting party business - the court declined to involve itself.

Reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe sought comment from MDC acting spokesman Nelson Chamisa, and turned for perspective to Chris Maroleng, a political analyst with South Africa's Institute of Security Studies.

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