Zimbabwe opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai said Monday that his faction of the Movement for Democratic Change will quit South African-mediated crisis talks unless a stop is put to violence and intimidation accuses the ruling party of carrying out.
Tsvangirai did not say whether this would also mean a boycott of the elections due for early 2008. But he has previously said that his faction's participation in those elections depends on whether they shape up to be free and fair. Earlier elections, like the 2002 presidential election, have been marred by violence mainly against the opposition.
Tsvangirai’s statement differed significantly from remarks attributed to the secretary general of his faction, Tendai Biti, who was quoted by Web news agency ZimOnline as saying the MDC would stay with the negotiating process despite rising violence and intimidation of opposition members, “pursuing it to its logical conclusion."
Biti is an opposition negotiator in the talks mediated by South African President Thabo Mbeki, with Welshman Ncube, secretary of the rival MDC faction headed by Arthur Mutambara. Ncube could not be reached for comment on Tsvangirai's ultimatum.
In a statement Monday, Tsvangirai faction spokesman Nelson Chamisa said the ruling party acted in bad faith because it has continued to “hound our supporters, brutally assaulting and attacking them against the spirit of the dialogue process." Since the negotiations began, police have barred 103 Tsvangirai faction rallies, he said.
In an interview, Tsvangirai told reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that his party is committed to the talks – but added that there are rising doubts as to whether the ruling party is committed to the Pretoria-mediated negotiations.
Tsvangirai spoke from Philadelphia, a stop on a North American trip during which he has been meeting with opposition supporters in the US and Canada.
Meanwhile, Harare police summoned Paul Madzore, member of parliament for the Glen View section of Harare and the Tsvangirai faction's Harare Province organizing secretary, and his brother Solomon, the faction's youth secretary, for questioning.
Madzore said police and intelligence officers summoned him and his brother to Harare Central Police station where it was alleged that speakers at a rally the faction held on Sunday in Glen Norah, Harare, had preached hate and insulted police officers.
He said police objected to what they said were calls by speakers for those present to note the names of police involved in human rights abuses for future prosecution.
The MDC faction says this is a ploy by police to intimidate activists and ban rallies.
Madzore told reporter Zulu that he and his brother Solomon were moved from one police station to another and warned against "verbally attacking the police."