President Morgan Tsvangirai of Zimbabwe’s opposition Movement for Democratic Change told diplomats attending a year-end briefing Tuesday at his headquarters in downtown Harare that the government of President Robert Mugabe is conspiring to take advantage of divisions in his own party to eliminate him by assassination.
Mr. Tsvangirai, who appears to be gaining the upper hand in a dispute that flared in MDC leadership circles in October over whether to contest senate elections held in November, accused the ruling ZANU-PF party of fomenting MDC internal strife.
He said the aim of the alleged ZANU-PF plot was to bring about the emergence of a weak opposition leader incapable of challenging the ruling party, and characterized his opponents within his party as “mercenaries” seeking compromise with ZANU-PF.
Mr. Tsvangirai’s anti-senate faction convened a meeting of the MDC National Council on the weekend which resolved to suspend five senior figures in the opposing faction which defied the party chief’s ban on participation in the election, fielded candidates in 26 constituencies, and won seven seats in the reconstituted upper house. But those politicians refused to recognize the National Council or the suspensions as valid.
The MDC president said he will now seek closer ties with civil society organizations in the Broad Alliance formed in May-June following the government’s launch of a slum-clearance program that left some 700,000 people without homes or livelihoods.
Spokesman Paul Themba Nyathi of the pro-senate faction said Mr. Tsvangirai should produce evidence of the alleged plot, accusing him of engaging in diversionary tactics to hide what Mr. Nyathi described as his failures as head of the political opposition.
Reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA’s Studio 7 for Zimbabwe spoke with Nelson Chamisa, spokesman for the anti-senate MDC faction lined up behind Mr. Tsvangirai.