- The Washington Times - Friday, February 1, 2008

JOHANNESBURG — Zimbabwean opposition leaders Morgan Tsvangirai and Arthur Mutambara are due to meet in the capital city of Harare today in an attempt to reunite their Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) ahead of March 29 presidential elections.

Paul Themba Nyathi, director of elections for Mr. Mutambara’s wing of the MDC, told The Washington Times last night that a united opposition would make a better showing at the ballot box, even though both wings expect the election to be rigged.

“You have seen what is going on in Kenya where some people accuse President [Mwai] Kibaki of proclaiming himself president even though they say he lost the vote.

“Here [in Zimbabwe] we have much worse conditions on the ground, our unemployment rate is higher, then there’s inflation out of control. I only hope we don’t have the same problems as we see in Nairobi,” he said.

In Kenya, more than 850 people have been killed in ethnic fighting after disputed Dec. 27 elections.

The MDC split in 2005 over whether to challenge President Robert Mugabe’s last bid to remain in office.

In Harare, a source close to Mr. Tsvangirai said talks involving officials of both factions were “difficult and drawn out,” and that it was too early to announce the united front, under which the factions will contest the election.

But he said the two leaders were due to meet today and ink a deal in which Mr. Tsvangirai will be their sole candidate in the presidential election.

Mr. Mutambara will run for a seat in parliamentary elections, also held March 29, and has been promised a senior Cabinet post.

Mr. Mugabe, who turns 84 next month, has ruled the country since 1980 and seeks to extend his rule by running for a new term in office.

He was returned to office in 2005 in an election many outside observers claimed was marred by rigging and state-sponsored violence.

Today only one in six adults have jobs, inflation is at levels comparable to that under Germany’s ill-fated Weimar Republic — which helped Adolf Hitler rise to power — and Zimbabwe depends on international aid to ward off mass starvation.

Mr. Nyathi said the opposition has no choice but to challenge Mr. Mugabe.

“We will do our best and we will not give up, but you must understand that we are working under very difficult conditions,” he said. “There is little food, no fuel much of the time and you know the rest,” he said.

Mr. Mugabe’s secret police, the feared Central Intelligence Organization, permeates every section of Zimbabwean society.

Human rights groups, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, have accused the force of widespread torture and the slayings of opposition supporters and candidates.

For the past year, South African President Thabo Mbeki has mediated talks between senior representatives from Mr. Mugabe’s ruling Zimbabwe African National Union — Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) and both wings of the MDC.

Those talks collapsed last month when Mr. Mugabe scheduled elections for March 29 and set a Feb. 8 deadline for candidates to register.

Most Western countries, including the United States, Canada and Britain, refuse to recognize the result of Zimbabwe’s 2005 presidential election, which local and international observers said was rigged.

The MDC’s election platform is to be released Sunday and multiple sources from both factions say the slogan likely to be chosen for banners and T-shirts will feature two questions: “Are you angry enough?” and “Are you angry enough?”

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