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Tsvangirai axes MDC rebels over poll dispute
Angus Shaw, Sapa-AP
November 14, 2005

HARARE ó Zimbabwean opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai expelled 26 members of his party yesterday for defying his call to boycott upcoming senate elections.

The move deepened a rift that threatens to splinter the only party to have seriously challenged President Robert Mugabeís increasingly autocratic rule.

Tsvangiraiís spokesman, William Bango, said a deadline expired on Saturday for the 26 to withdraw from the November 26 poll for a new upper chamber of parliament. He said the 26 would be running as independents.

Tsvangiraiís deputy, Gibson Sibanda, party secretary-general Welshman Ncube and his deputy, Gift Chimanikire, dispute the leaderís authority to order a boycott. They point out that Tsvangirai was narrowly outvoted in an internal ballot by the partyís national executive on October 12 and did not attend the November 5 meeting at which the deadline for withdrawal was set.

Tsvangiraiís Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) has lost three national elections since he founded the labour-backed party in 1999 amid allegations of vote rigging and intimidation.

Tsvangirai argues that participation in this monthís poll will only lend credibility to a flawed election process and an institution intended to bolster Mugabeís hold on parliament.

Critics within the opposition hope to increase the partyís voice in the legislature by participating in the poll.

They accuse Tsvangirai of being dictatorial and breaching his own partyís constitution.

The independent Standard newspaper reported yesterday that Tsvangiraiís opponents were expected to boycott the MDCís national convention in February, effectively bringing about the collapse of the party.

It quoted opposition officials as saying hopes for reconciliation between the two camps had receded due to the intensity of the differences. Some officials have said a breakaway party could be formed.

Sibanda and Ncube were not immediately available for comment yesterday.

The new senate, introduced by constitutional amendment earlier this year, includes 50 elected seats. Ten are reserved for traditional leaders and Mugabe appoints six others.

In March, the MDC captured just 41 of the 120 elected seats in parliamentís lower house.

Mugabe appoints 30 seats in that chamber.

Meanwhile, the Zimbabwe Congress of Trades Unions announced yesterday that 118 members arrested in Harare on Tuesday during countrywide protests against mounting poverty were released after the attorney-general concluded police did not have a strong case against them. The umbrella groupís top leaders were among those detained. With Sapa-AFP

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