Zimbabwe’s opposition party – Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) – says it is suspending its leader Morgan Tsvangirai, amid deepening divisions in its ranks.
A statement issued by the party after a meeting in Harare accused Morgan Tsvangirai of a “remarkable failure of leadership”.
It also said Morgan Tsvangirai had deviated from the party’s democratic founding principles.
Morgan Tsvangirai, 62, lost a third election challenge to veteran President Robert Mugabe in 2013 and defied calls to stand down after this defeat.
The MDC leadership is reported to have been riven with in-fighting for months since then.
Morgan Tsvangirai lost a third election challenge to veteran President Robert Mugabe in 2013 and defied calls to stand down after this defeat
Several other senior party figures were also reported to have been suspended at Saturday’s meeting, and some suspended members to have been reinstated.
The MDC statement said the party had been “transformed into a fiefdom of the leader” under Morgan Tsvangirai. It also accused him of sponsoring a culture of violence against MDC members not aligned with him.
MDC Secretary General Tendai Biti, who spoke to journalists after the meeting, said Morgan Tsvangirai and some other senior officials had “betrayed” the MDC’s struggle, AFP reported.
But an MDC spokesperson, Douglas Mwonzora, maintained that Morgan Tsvangirai remained the MDC’s legitimate leader.
“This was not a national council meeting,” he told AFP.
From 2009 to 2013 Morgan Tsvangirai served as prime minister in a fragile power-sharing government, with Robert Mugabe remaining Zimbabwe’s president.
That unity government ended with the elections in July 2013.
Robert Mugabe’s party won a huge majority in the vote, which Morgan Tsvangirai dismissed as fraudulent.
Morgan Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) in Zimbabwe has filed a legal challenge to Robert Mugabe’s victory in last week’s presidential elections.
The electoral petition seeks an order for the result to be declared null and void and a new election to be called within 60 days.
The MDC’s 15 grounds include alleged bribery, abuse of “assisted voting” and manipulation of the electoral roll.
Robert Mugabe, 89, won with 61% of the presidential vote.
His Zanu-PF party gained a parliamentary majority of more than two-thirds, with 160 seats against 49 for the MDC.
The MDC is to file a complaint on the parliamentary results at a later date.
With a two-thirds majority, Zanu-PF is able to amend the constitution, potentially restoring presidential powers which were reduced earlier this year.
Lawyers for the MDC, which filed its petition with the country’s constitutional court, said they had “strong evidence of electoral irregularities”.
They said a shockingly high number of people were unable to vote at the polls, and that food and other bribes were used to persuade voters to back Robert Mugabe.
Morgan Tsvangirai has filed court challenge against Robert Mugabe poll win
“The Movement of Democratic Change has filed its election petition… what we seek is that this election be declared null and void in terms of section 93 of the constitution of Zimbabwe,” said MDC spokesman Douglas Mwonzora.
The challenge comes a day after Zimbabwe’s electoral commission said nearly 305,000 voters had been turned away from polling stations on election day. The MDC says the true number is about 900,000.
Robert Mugabe’s margin of victory was some 940,000 votes.
A week after the election, Robert Mugabe dismissed criticism of the polls and lashed out at Western countries for their response.
Zimbabwe’s nine-member constitutional court has up to 14 days to respond to the legal challenge.
Correspondents say some of the judges are believed to be Mugabe loyalists.
The MDC says it is “aware” of this, and as a result it will make its appeal public and even produce evidence of “bribed goods”.
If the court upholds the results, Robert Mugabe must be sworn in within 48 hours of the ruling.
“We have done the best that we can under the circumstances, presented the matter before the court, and it is now up to the court to determine how strong the case is,” said MDC lawyer Chris Mhike.
African and regional monitors praised the poll for being peaceful but noted some irregularities. Western observers were not invited to witness the July 31 vote.
But a local observer group, the Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN) and its network of 7,000 observers, has said that about one million voters – mainly in urban areas – were “systematically disenfranchised” by being omitted from the voters’ roll or turned away.
The electoral roll has come in for criticism for having duplicate names and the names of dead Zimbabweans.
The MDC says 900,000 people were turned away from polling stations – mostly in the capital where the MDC’s vote is strong – and another 300,000 people were coerced through “assisted voting”.
MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai rejected the vote as fraudulent and said his party would boycott government institutions.
The Zanu-PF and the MDC have been in a coalition since 2009, after the last election sparked widespread violence.
Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe wants to hold elections in March 2013 with a referendum on a new constitution this November, court papers reveal.
His long-time rivals in the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) have condemned this timetable as “unrealistic”.
The two sides are unable to agree on a draft constitution, which is supposed to be in place before the new election.
Until now, Robert Mugabe, 88, has always insisted that the elections should be held this year.
Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe wants to hold elections in March 2013
The MDC, led by Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, backed by South African mediators, insists that a new constitution is in place before the new polls to ensure they are free and fair.
President Robert Mugabe, who has been in power since independence in 1980, denies accusations that previous elections were rigged in his favour.
Morgan Tsvangirai pulled out of the previous election, in 2008, citing systematic attacks on his supporters by the army and pro-Mugabe militias.
With the uncertainty pushing Zimbabwe’s economy into freefall, the pair then agreed to form a power-sharing government.
Robert Mugabe’s proposed election timetable was included in court papers in a case about when to hold by-elections.
The Supreme Court had ordered that by-elections for several vacant parliamentary seats be held by 1 October. However the president has appealed against the ruling, saying it would cost too much money when wider elections are expected soon.
This is by no means a fixed date for Zimbabwe’s long-awaited elections, but it is a sign of growing urgency.
But it was immediately rejected by MDC spokesman Douglas Mwonzora.
“The date for the election, especially, is unilateral, unrealistic and has no scientific or legal basis,” he told the AFP news agency.
Robert Mugabe and Morgan Tsvangirai would be expected to face each other in the poll, which is supposed to be held by next year.