Zimbabwe: Tsvangirai 'expels' Tendai Biti from MDC

Morgan Tsvangirai, centre, addresses party members in Harare on 29 April  2014 Morgan Tsvangirai has led the MDC since its launch in 1999

Zimbabwe's opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai says his rival Tendai Biti has been expelled from their MDC party, along with eight other members.

Mr Biti was an "opportunist" who was being manipulated by President Robert Mugabe's Zanu-PF party, he said.

On Saturday, a faction led by Mr Biti said Mr Tsvangirai had been suspended from the MDC because of a "remarkable failure of leadership".

The divisions in the MDC follow its defeat in the 2013 elections.

The election ended the coalition the MDC and Zanu-PF had formed after disputed elections in 2008.

Analysis

Morgan Tsvangirai remained in his chair at the MDC headquarters, as loyalists sang and danced, calling on him not to be deterred by a "boardroom coup".

He was in a pensive mood. Certainly, the events of the past week are taking their toll on him. President Robert Mugabe was once his main rival, but increasingly his opponents include people with whom he shared the same political blanket.

The next elections are four years from now. Mr Tsvangirai will have to contend with blistering details of his shortcomings from opponents who knew him too well.

But he seems convinced that he has popular support and will remain politically relevant.

'Bogus'

Mr Tsvangirai and Mr Biti, the MDC secretary-general, had been long-standing allies in their campaign to remove Mr Mugabe from power, but fell out after the elections held in July last year.

Mr Tsvangirai said Mr Biti and the other "rebels" had been recalled from parliament.

"He [Mr Biti] deceived us all. The man doesn't believe in anything, except his power," Mr Tsvangirai said, in his first comments since his suspension was announced.

On Saturday, Mr Biti's faction said the MDC's national council had voted to suspend Mr Tsvangirai because the party had been "transformed into a fiefdom of the leader".

Mr Tsvangirai dismissed the meeting as "illegal, unconstitutional, illegitimate and bogus".

Many MDC supporters are worried that the split could strengthen Mr Mugabe and Zanu-PF and are hoping that the two leaders can resolve their differences, reports the BBC's Brian Hungwe from the capital, Harare.

Mr Mugabe, 90, has ruled Zimbabwe since independence in 1980.

President Robert Mugabe (2nd L) greets supporters alongside his wife Grace Mugabe after his address at a rally in Harare on 28 July 2013 President Robert Mugabe, 90, has been in power since 1980
Morgan Tsvangirai (Right) and Tendai Biti on 12 April 2008 Tendai Biti (L) and Mr Tsvangirai (R) used to work together to oust him
Second split

Mr Tsvangirai and Mr Biti played a key role in the launch of the MDC in 1999 to challenge Mr Mugabe's grip on power.

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There is little doubt that the new split will only benefit President Mugabe, now aged 90, and his Zanu-PF, who are involved in their own succession battles”

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The party's formation led to a period of intense repression and violence against the MDC.

Mr Mugabe also ordered the seizure of white-owned farms, and the economy went into crisis.

The two parties formed a power-sharing government in 2009, following mediation efforts by regional leaders.

The unity government ended last year, with Mr Mugabe and Zanu-PF's victory in presidential and parliamentary elections.

Mr Mugabe obtained 61% of the presidential vote against 34% for Mr Tsvangirai.

This is the second split in the MDC. In 2005, Mr Biti's predecessor as secretary-general, Welshman Ncube, broke away to launch his own MDC faction.

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