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Zimbabwe's MDC Formally Requests Southern African, AU Intervention in Unity Dispute

Zimbabwean Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change formation said Monday it has formally asked the Southern African Development Community and African Union to step in to help break an impasse within the country's unity government.

The national council of Mr. Tsvangirai's MDC formation decided to seek SADC-AU mediation in a meeting Sunday in the southeastern town of Masvingo. Party Secretary General Tendai Biti wrote Monday to SADC Executive Secretary Tomaz Salamao and African Union Commission Chairman Jean Ping asking them to intervene, party sources said.

The MDC wants the organizations to pressure President Robert Mugabe to settle outstanding issues including the leadership of the Reserve Bank and the Office of the Attorney General, as well as appointments of provincial governors, ambassadors and permanent secretaries for ministries, now all Mugabe appointees, even in MDC-controlled ministries.

The MDC also objected to continuing seizures of white-owned commercial farms, which have hurt Zimbabwe's chances of getting reconstruction aid from Western donors, and President Mugabe's refusal to swear in Roy Bennett, a former member of parliament and treasurer of Mr. Tsvangirai's MDC formation, as deputy minister of agriculture.

The Tsvangirai MDC issued a statement saying it remains “steadfast in its quest, drive and vision for a new and democratic Zimbabwe.”

Party spokesman Nelson Chamisa, minister of information and communications technology, told reporter Jonga Kandemiiri of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that the party is hoping for a rapid response from the two African bodies.

But political analyst George Mkwananzi told VOA reporter Peter Clottey that he doubts that African intervention will produce the result the MDC is hoping for, expressing the view that the original arbitration by SADC and the AU only served to embolden ZANU-PF.

Grievances cited by the MDC executive and national councils included continued bias by state media and the Herald newspaper in particular; the MDC is demanding real reform of the state media as stipulated by the September 2008 Global Political Agreement for power-sharing.

Advocacy Coordinator Dzikamai Machingura of the Media Monitoring Project of Zimbabwe told reporter Chris Gande that state media have not changed their ways since the inception of the national unity government and continue to denigrate the MDC leadership.

The power-sharing agreement is not the only such pact to be in trouble.

Former members of the Zimbabwe African People's Union or ZAPU, a rival to ZANU in the liberation struggle but merged with the latter into ZANU-PF under the 1987 Unity Accord, are moving to secede from ZANU-PF, in effect abrogating the accord which ended a period of bloodshed in the 1980s mainly targeting members of the weaker ZAPU formation.

In remarks published Monday by the state-controlled Chronicle newspaper published in the Matabeleland capital of Bulawayo, a former ZAPU stronghold, ZANU-PF politburo member Sikhanyiso Ndlovu said former ZAPU loyalists remain bound by the Unity Accord.

In a special congress this weekend, ZAPU resolved to break away from ZANU-PF and fight to recover party properties seized by ZANU-PF in the Gukurahundi purge of the 1980s, and to abrogate the unity accord, accusing ZANU-PF of failing to honor its commitments.

Advocate Steven Nkiwane, representing ZAPU, said there is no Zimbabwean law that holds the accord irreversible, saying the ZAPU special congress acted within its rights.

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