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Zimbabwe's Fractured Opposition Moves To Open Unity Discussions

The two rival factions of Zimbabwe's opposition Movement for Democratic Change are expected to open reunification talks next week, MDC sources said. Executive councils of the two factions met separately on Saturday and approved reconciliation efforts.

But opposition sources said discussions inside both factions were heated with some officials arguing that it would not be possible to patch up intra-party differences after a year spent staking out political turf, poaching members and exchanging barbs.

Nonetheless, the two factions have designated negotiators to pursue the talks.

Representing the faction of MDC founding president Morgan Tsvangirai are Samuel Sipepa Nkomo - a top official for both Matabeleland provinces - policy chief Eddie Cross, women’s chair Lucia Matibenga and legal secretary Innocent Gonese.

The Arthur Mutambara faction will be represented by Welshman Ncube, the faction’s secretary general, deputy secretary general Priscilla Misihairambwi Mushonga and elections director Paul Themba-Nyathi, sources in the faction said.

Insiders said the leaderships of both factions had realized that a divided opposition would stand no chance against the ruling ZANU-PF party in the presidential election due to be held in 2008 when President Robert Mugabe's term expires. Also, the financial resources of both factions were strained by recent rural elections.

The cleavage in the Movement for Democratic Change dates to October 2005 when a contentious vote was held on whether to contest November 2005 senate elections. Its outcome was disputed and the two factions went their own ways. The Tsvangirai faction boycotted the elections while Mutambara's faction took several seats.

The episode also brought long-simmering personal rivalries to the surface.

Mutambara faction spokesman Gabriel Chaibva told reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that it is time the opposition pulled itself together. Spokesman Nelson Chamisa of the Tsvangirai faction said unity has always been a goal.

Senior analyst Sydney Masamvu of the International Crisis Group in Pretoria, South Africa, said a divided MDC stands no chance against the ruling ZANU-PF party.

\More reports From VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe...