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Gender-Related Crisis Rolls On Within Zimbabwe Opposition Faction

Further controversy has sprung up inside the faction of Zimbabwe's opposition Movement for Democratic Change led by Morgan Tsvangirai following the dissolution last month of the formation's women's assembly, then headed by Lucia Matibenga.

With a meeting of the faction’s national executive set for this Saturday, Matibenga was vowing to attend that session although she had not been invited as of late Thursday. She insisted that she remains the women’s assembly chairwoman though a congress held last weekend in second city Bulawayo replaced her with Theresa Makone.

Party sources said Matibenga cannot attend the executive session because she is no longer a member. But other insiders anticipated a replay of the confusion in Bulawayo last weekend where two competing congresses were held by different factions.

Matibenga told reporter Chris Gande of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that she doesn't recognize Makone's election and intends to take part in the executive session.

Support for Matibenga came Thursday from a senior official of the Tsvangirai faction, research and policy secretary Sekai Holland, who told reporter Ndimyake Mwakalyele she backs Matibenga's contention that she is still women's assembly chairwoman.

Holland was speaking from Sydney, Australia, where she has been recovering from beatings received in March of this year while in police custody.

Holland criticized faction acting chairman Lovemore Moyo, prominent in the decision to dissolve Matibenga’s executive board. Holland said the chairmanship can only be filled by a vote of the faction’s national conference. But she said she expected Saturday’s meeting will be productive because all of the faction's members want it to thrive.

The controversy over the removal of Matibenga, a highly popular union organizer and liberation war veteran, has been damaging to the image of Tsvangirai's opposition faction and his leadership just months before national elections due in March.

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