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Zimbabwe PM Tsvangirai's MDC Demands New Electoral Commission Staff

MDC spokesman Douglas Mwonzora noted that the current secretariat of the reconstituted Zimbabwe Electoral Commission is the same staff that presided over the 2008 elections which saw long reporting delays

The Movement for Democratic Change formation of Zimbabwean Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai on Wednesday called for the staff of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission to be replaced before the next elections, saying a clean sweep of the secretariat is indispensable to reassure voters on the integrity of the elections system.

In a news conference following a meeting of the Tsvangirai MDC national executive, party spokesman Douglas Mwonzora said the MDC does not believe that the current secretariat, carried over from a predecessor commission though the panel's members were newly appointed, would perform its duties professionally and impartially.

Mwonzora said the staff is aligned with ZANU-PF having been appointed under previous governments headed by President Robert Mugabe.

Mwonzora said the MDC hopes South African President Jacob Zuma will take up the question of the Electoral Commission among other issues on his next visit to Harare in his capacity as mediator of differences within Zimbabwe's unity government on behalf of the Southern African Development Community and the African Union.

Mwonzora said the MDC executive also urged ZANU-PF, its governing partner, to end political violence by its supporters, and urged an end to the harassment of Anglicans who follow Harare Bishop Chad Gandiya rather than the excommunicated former Anglican bishop Nolbert Kunonga, who has retained control of church assets.

Mwonzora dismissed reports that MDC Organizing Secretary Nelson Chamisa, minister of information and communication technologies, and the former Harare provincial chairman Morgan Femai, were asked to leave the meeting during a discussion of statements that were attributed to them in US diplomatic cables made public by Wikileaks.

A US envoy reported that Chamisa disparaging comments about Mr. Tsvangirai. Chamisa for years was the spokesman for the Tsvangirai MDC formation.

Mwonzora said Chamisa was not ejected from the meeting during the Wikileaks debate and dismissed reports party members named in the US cables were being purged.

Sources said Obert Gutu, MDC information secretary for Harare province (and deputy justice minister), was suspended over his attributed comments in leaked cables.

Mwonzora said Gutu's suspension from the party was reversed by the National Committee based on the position taken last year by the National Council that the party should not allow itself to be divided by Wikileaks disclosures.

Also, Nketa legislator Seiso Moyo was recently named and sworn in as deputy minister of agriculture, a post to which MDC Treasurer Roy Bennett was initially appointed in 2009 but never sworn in due to opposition by President Mugabe.

Bennett was also quoted in leaked cables questioning Mr. Tsvangirai’s leadership.

But Mwonzora said the decision to name Moyo to the post reflected the desire to see that Zimbabweans benefited from an MDC appointee in the ministry.

Wikileaks are also being discussed by Mr. Mugabe's ZANU-PF.

Party spokesman, Rugare Gumbo confirmed the party is opening an investigation into revelations that senior party officials confided in US envoys.

He said President Mugabe told a meeting of the party central committee last week that ZANU-PF must examine the origins and authenticity of the cables citing discussions with envoys involving top officials including vice presidents John Nkomo and Joice Mujuru.

Also quoted in leaked US cables were party strategist Jonathan Moyo, Reserve Bank Governor Gideon Gono, Indigenization and Youth Minister Saviour Kasukuwere and ZANU-PF Chief Whip Joram Gumbo. Gono was quoted saying President Mugabe had prostate cancer which had spread, and he might not live beyond 2013.

The probe comes as ZANU-PF prepares for its national people’s conference to be held in Bulawayo in December to get ready for elections expected during 2012.

Party spokesman Gumbo told reporter Jonga Kandemiiri that the ZANU-PF leadership won’t let the Wikileaks issue divide the party.

Political analyst Charles Mutasa said ZANU-PF must tread carefully as the Wikileaks scandal could fuel tensions between factions within the party.