Is Mutambara making a fatal move?
How an MDC splinter group decision could betray the opposition
As the talks between Zimbabwe's rival parties teeter on the brink of total collapse, Mugabe's Zanu-PF is hatching a plan which, with the aid of the tiny MDC splinter group, could leave Morgan Tsvangirai's MDC opposition in disarray. It involves the convening of Parliament on Tuesday next week.
With the MDC split widening by the day, the faction leader Arthur Mutambara is said to be backing the move to convene the new Parliament. Tendai Biti, Secretary-General of the main MDC, has declared that any such decision would break the terms of the Memorandum of Understanding, signed to such acclaim before the talks began.
"The MDC has not consented to the convening of Parliament," Biti is quoted as saying, adding that the move would ruin the talks, which have already missed two deadlines, and would widen the gap even further between Zanu-PF and the MDC
After the March 29 elections, which saw the combined factions of the MDC gaining a majority of seats over the Mugabe party, Tsvangirai and Mutambara agreed that they would continue the coalition in any new parliament. But the alliance between the two men has fallen apart during the current talks.
A top MDC official told me: "With the way things stand now, there is no way Mutambara and Tsvangirai can agree on anything. But if Zanu-PF and the splinter group agree to go ahead and convene Parliament, Mugabe's people will proceed to elect the Speaker and the President of the Senate. They will take control."
Tsvangirai now has to decide whether to take part in the new Parliament, and the MDC National Council will meet in Harare on Friday or Saturday this week, to make that decision.
Tsvangirai, with no prospect of a transitional power-sharing government on the horizon, will clearly be reluctant to say yes. But he has a problem. The Members of Parliament have now been without pay for five months. Some may defy any ban by Tsvangirai, and attend the new parliament, simply in order to feed their families.
This will leave Robert Mugabe and his henchmen in charge of the country, and we will all be back where we started.