PRESSURE from the international community and its local support base has forced the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) to review its position on participation in the March
The Zimbabwe Independent has established that there were plans by “dissident party members” in the MDC — supported by local business people — to launch another party to contest the election if the MDC boycotted it.
Sources involved in the deliberations to form a new opposition party this week revealed that members of the MDC leadership opposed to the election boycott would defect to the new party.
The new party, sources said, would target the support base of the MDC, mainly the urban electorate and middle class. A possible leadership structure involving some MDC senior officials had already been mooted but plans were scuttled recently when the MDC assured the diplomatic community and leaders in the Southern African Development Community (Sadc) that it would participate in the election.
The Independent can also reveal that during the Christmas holidays Botswana president Festus Mogae and representatives of President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa convinced the opposition party that it should contest the election.
MDC secretary-general Welshman Ncube admitted the balance tilted in favour of participation as against a boycott.
“There has been a lot of pressure and some people both from our local support base and the international community are urging us to participate,” he said. “The majority want us to participate but we still should continue calling on Zanu PF to implement the Sadc (Mauritius) protocol so that we can have a better electoral framework. We will announce our position soon but we continue putting pressure on Zanu PF.”
Mogae met Tsvangirai during a private visit to Victoria Falls over the festive season to brief him on the deliberations he had with other Sadc heads of state. He reiterated that the common position was for the MDC to participate in the election or risk losing its relevance.
Meanwhile, the state media has started coverage of opposition parties following what sources at Zimbabwe Broadcasting Holdings said was a directive from the Zanu PF information department to open up.
Zanu PF secretary for information Nathan Shamuyarira said the ruling party wanted opposition parties to have coverage in the state media as a way of implementing the Sadc protocol.
“We have always stated our commitment to implementing the Sadc protocol and that is why we agreed at our politburo meeting to have the media covering all parties as well as call for a violence-free election campaign period,” Shamuyarira said.