Thursday, May 31, 2007

MDC faction leaders in SA to meet Blair

MDC faction leaders in SA to meet Blair
By Caesar Zvayi

MDC faction leaders Professor Arthur Mutambara and Mr Morgan Tsvangirai stole out of Zimbabwe on Tuesday night for a rendezvous with outgoing British Prime Minister Mr Tony Blair, who winds up his farewell tour of Africa in South Africa this week. Sources said Mr Blair — whose itinerary covers Libya, Sierra Leone and South Africa — will meet the MDC leadership in Pretoria though the exact date is not known as Downing Street kept a lid on it for security reasons. Mr Tsvangirai’s spokesman Mr William Bango confirmed that his boss was in Pretoria but denied that he was there to meet Mr Blair, saying he was attending a church gathering.

"He (Mr Tsvangirai) is attending a conference and he was to present a paper at the conference organised by the church in Pretoria. It is the church, in partnership with IDASA (Institute for Democracy in South Africa), that organised the conference that is to be officially opened by Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Mutambara is also attending that conference, which was organised many moons ago," Mr Bango said. He claimed that he was not even aware that Mr Blair was visiting South Africa.

Though efforts to get comments from IDASA were fruitless, a visit to the IDASA website showed that there was no such event coming up.

Of late, the MDC leadership across the divide has used the Church as a smokescreen for some of their activities, and over the past two months have tried to get around the ban on political rallies by passing them off as prayer gatherings.

A high-ranking MDC official, miffed that his bosses could be summoned like little children, said they should be condemned for their behaviour.

"Imagine that right now we are busy trying to divest ourselves of the sell-out image, yet these guys fly out of Zimbabwe at the drop of a hat to meet a man who has been rejected by his own nation for his destructive politics. What do they hope to get from Blair who is in the twilight of his politics? Munoziva mukoma zvinorwadza so (It’s really sad).

"Honestly, I do not know why they don’t seem to learn," said the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals.

The source said contrary to Mr Bango’s assertions, Mr Tsvangirai and Prof Mutambara were summoned by Mr Blair. who wants their help to press South Africa to adopt a hard-line stance towards Harare.

Mr Blair, who is expected to hold talks with President Thabo Mbeki, was quoted in the British media as saying he would discuss Zimbabwe on his tour and hoped South Africa would drop its policy of quiet diplomacy.

The South African government has, however, indicated that it will not be pressured into sabotaging Zimbabwe with Foreign Minister Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma telling the combative South African opposition, on Tuesday, that South Africa was not there to push Zimbabwe to collapse but to prevent it from collapsing.

On June 14 2004, Mr Blair revealed his intimate relationship with the MDC’s politics of regime change during a question and answer session in the House of Commons where he said:

‘‘We work closely with the MDC on the measures we should take in respect of Zimbabwe although, I am afraid, these measures and sanctions, although we have them in place, are of limited effect on the Mugabe regime.

"We must be realistic about that. It is still important that we give every chance to, and make every effort to, try and help those in South Africa, the southern part of Africa to put pressure for change on the Mugabe regime . . .’’

Sources in the MDC also said Mr Blair was expected to urge the feuding factions to patch up their differences to engage Zanu-PF as a united front, after which he would reveal the financial package for the MDC campaign for next year’s elections.

"Blair was dissilusioned that after pouring money into the Zimbabwe Institute (the MDC think tank in South Africa), it had not made any headway towards uniting the factions. That too will feature prominently in his talks with the faction leaders which is why he summoned both of them. He really wants them to get together,’’ said the sources.

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