Tsvangirai on the ropes as members defy boycott call
The MDC candidates defied their leader's call to boycott the polls. The Senate has 50 contested seats.
Negotiations failed to heal the rift between the factions, and defiant MDC candidates registered in the party strongholds of Matabeleland North (5), Matabeleland South (5), Bulawayo (5), Masvingo (2), Harare Central (3), Mashonaland West (4) and Midlands (3).
Senior MDC officials close to the pro-Senate camp were toasting the outcome as a victory after MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai staked his credibility on a call for a boycott of the elections in defiance of a national council vote of 33:31 in favour of participation. Tsvangirai received little support, fuelling speculation of a growing rift in the opposition.
"Whichever way you look at this, the MDC constitution, which is what we have been seeking to protect, has prevailed. It is really a miracle that in the face of all the intimidation and threats from Tsvangirai's henchmen, 27 courageous candidates will stand for the party," said the official.
MDC national spokesman Paul Themba Nyathi said some 27 party members registered as candidates.
"Those who have registered to contest are in compliance with the national council resolution to contest the polls," Nyathi told AFP.
Tsvangirai's spokesman William Bango had earlier claimed the pro-election faction was struggling to find volunteers to contest the senate polls, and predicted they would be forced to settle for some lower level candidates.
"The big guns, including some of those advocating that the party must participate in these elections, have quietly pulled out of the race because they realise their position does not enjoy popular support," he said.
The senate is the newly created 66-member upper house of parliament, comprising 10 traditional chiefs, 50 elected senators and six appointed by President Robert Mugabe.
Analysts say the row will test Tsvangirai's power among his ranks and -- whether the MDC survives it or not -- considerably weaken Mugabe's only political opponents.
"What is needed at this point in time is for both parties to come together and get talking. At first this appeared like it was an ethnic misunderstanding, but the fact that there are some provinces outside Matabeleland that took part shows it is a clearly national issue," said Madhuku, chairman of the National Constitutional Assembly, a local NGO.
The MDC national council split almost in middle nearly two weeks ago over whether to participate in the polls for the senate, a new upper house of parliament.
Tsvangirai says he is using his authority as party leader to keep the MDC out of the senate elections as his party has nothing to gain from participating, but other MDC leaders fear a boycott will further edge the party out of national politics.
Nyathi accuses Tsvangirai of being dictatorial since the party's decision-making national council had voted in favour of participation by a narrow two-vote margin and that its decision was binding.
MDC vice-president Gibson Sibanda denied speculation that the six-year-old party was on the verge of splitting.
"We are still seeking a solution, there is no question (of splitting), we never said we were going to split and there are no signs of a split, its simply that there is some differences in issues and the approach to those issues," Sibanda told journalists.
In Bulawayo, the following had their papers accepted: Thabiso Ndlovu (Magwegwe-Lobengula), Sibangilizwe Msipa (Bulawayo-Makokoba), Rita Ndlovu (Bulawayo-Nkulumane), Fanuel Bayeye (Pumula-Luveve) and Greenfield Nyoni (Mpopoma-Pelandaba).
In Matabeleland North the following will stand for the MDC: Jacob Thabane (Bubi-Umguza), Jabulani Ndlovu (Hwange East), Hebert Sina Mpande (Binga), Dalumuzi Khumalo (Lupane-Nkayi) and chief executive of the banned Daily News newspaper, Samuel Sipepa Nkomo (Tsholotsho).
In Matabeleland South, the following will stand for the MDC: Alfred Moyo (Beitbridge), Reabius Tlou (Gwanda), Albert Mnkandla (Insiza), David Moyo (Matopo-Umzingwane), Lutho Tapela (Bulilimamangwe)
In Mashonaland West, the following filed papers for the MDC: Albert Ndlovu (Chegutu-Mhondoro-Manyame), Boniface Musevenzo (Kadoma-Sanyathi-Ngezi), the names of two other candidates unavailable while Furamera Masimba was disqualified.
In Masvingo, the MDC fielded Hilda Sibanda, Crispa Musoni (Gutu North) while name of third candidate had not yet been received.
In Harare, the MDC
fielded Shakespeare Maya (Chitungwiza), Frank Chamunorwa (Harare-Mabvuku-Tafara),
Alois Mudzingwa (Harare-Mbare-Hatfield)
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