Last Updated: Tuesday, 22 July 2014, 14:56 GMT

Zimbabwe: Opposition infighting raises spectre of violence

Publisher Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN)
Publication Date 7 May 2010
Cite as Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN), Zimbabwe: Opposition infighting raises spectre of violence, 7 May 2010, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4be90b601e.html [accessed 22 July 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

HARARE, 7 May 2010 (IRIN) - A public disagreement between Zimbabwe's Prime Minister, Morgan Tsvangirai, and Finance Minister Tendai Biti over pay increases in public servants' salaries is being seen as evidence of greater divisions between two of the most senior leaders of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).

Biti said salaries had been frozen, while Tsvangirai, leader of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), told a May Day rally that public servants, including medical staff and teachers, would be in line for salary adjustments that currently range from US$165 to US$250 a month.

Although the salaries are low by international standards, they were used to entice public servants back to the workplace when hyperinflation had reduced their pay to less than a dollar a month.

Replacing the Zimbabwe dollar with a basket of foreign currencies - including the US dollar, the South African rand and the Botswana pula - eliminated hyperinflation, but fuel and electricity remain scarce, and although food is available, many cannot afford it.

The MDC became the first party to seriously challenge Mugabe's rule since he came to power after independence from Britain in 1980 by winning a parliamentary majority during the violence-plagued 2008 elections.

The Global Political Agreement - brokered by the Southern African Development Community, a regional body - was signed in September 2008, paving the way for the formation of the unity government in February 2009 - a fragile coalition between President Robert Mugabe's ZANU-PF, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai's MDC, and an MDC splinter party led by Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara.

However, the performance of the unity government has not greatly altered the living conditions of most Zimbabweans. Political violence has picked up in recent months and has been largely attributed to Mugabe's ZANU-PF party attempting to reclaim political support and punish those seen as supporting the MDC, particularly in rural areas.

Infighting

However, Tsvangirai supporters were recently held responsible for an attack on the MDC's national director, Toendepi Shone, who is seen to be aligned with Biti, who is also secretary general of the MDC.

Shone's car was "impounded" at Tsvangirai residence and he was accused of touring the provinces to campaign for Biti in a bid to challenge Tsvangirai's position at the party's 2011 elective congress.

Tsvangirai supporters have also barred the MDC's director for security, Chris Dlamini, from the party headquarters as he was also seen as a Biti supporter. Biti still has access to the party's headquarters, but his security detail has been increased.

"We have always said that Tsvangirai has some violent bodyguards and young followers around him, but nobody has believed us," a former senior MDC official who declined to be identified, told IRIN.

The politics of division

"It would be in the interests of ZANU-PF to have a weaker MDC in the next elections in order to avoid the defeat that it experienced in 2008. ZANU-PF would want an MDC candidate who does not have national appeal, such as Morgan Tsvangirai, and they would happily fund destabilization processes within the MDC," political analyst and academic Eldred Masunungure told IRIN.

"Tsvangirai is the face of opposition politics ... and has national appeal; anybody coming out to oppose or disturb his programmes would be shunned by the people, who are thirsty for change in the country."

Another election is expected in 2011 or 2012, ratcheting up the political temperature and raising the spectre of violence between competing parties and factions that often lies just beneath the surface.

Tsvangirai has admitted to tension within the MDC but downplayed it. "The secretary general [Biti] and myself have been comrades in this struggle for many years and have stood together throughout this time, and we will not allow the enemies of real change to succeed in derailing the people's cause," he said.

"The attempt to divide us has been expressed through violence and disturbances, dubious teams sent to provinces, preaching gospels of division, and baseless and defamatory documents being manufactured and distributed to the press."

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