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MDC-T Panel of Elders Wants Tsvangirai, Biti Unity

A panel of elders in the MDC-T resolved Thursday to mediate the internecine civil strife pitting party leader Morgan Tsvangirai and secretary general Tendai Biti, who heads the leadership renewal movement.

The panel, known as the Guardian Council, also deplored the culture of violence that has gained traction in the party, resulting in violent retribution against members seen to differ with the leadership.

"The Council resolved to condemn the resort to violence as a means of resolving political disputes and that those in the violence should be brought to book," the panel said after a two-day meeting in Harare.

"In line with its Constitutional mandate, the Council further resolved to explore effective strategies designed to ensure that a conducive environment is created within the party at all levels to facilitate dialogue."

The panel called for unity saying the party "must once again become one united, strong and effective organization capable of winning the next election... it must be bound by its founding values and principles of solidarity, democracy, fairness, transparency and accountability."

Biti and his Renewal Team said last month they had suspended Tsvangirai and his inner circle, accusing particularly the MDC-T leader of abuse of party funds and abandoning democratic principles and other party values.

Tsvangirai and his faction reciprocated the maneuver and announced the expulsion of Biti and 10 other lawmakers. And given the extent of the acrimony, political observers say the mediation efforts will not be easy.

Interim chairman of the Renewal Team Sam Sipepa Nkomo, who skipped the panel's meeting, sounded indifferent about the panel’s reconciliation efforts.