Country Report Zimbabwe September 2010

The political scene: Party leaders are under pressure

Meanwhile, two of the country's three leaders are under pressure within their own parties. Mr Mutambara faces a challenge for the MDC-M leadership from Welshman Ncube, the party's secretary-general (and industry minister). Mr Mutambara seems unlikely to retain his position, partly because he hails from Mashonaland whereas the party's entire support base is in the Matabeleland area, but also because he has been the target of considerable criticism from within the party for his erratic stance within the unity government. Although Mr Ncube is expected to be a more reliable party leader, he is also seen as being likely to side with Mr Mugabe's Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF)-not least because he fell out with Mr Tsvangirai in 2005, when the MDC split into two wings. Indeed, in his most recent public statement he accused the MDC of being power-hungry, adding that it was the MDC, not ZANU-PF, that was "violating" the GPA.

This will add to the pressures on Mr Tsvangirai, who is already facing MDC criticism regarding his leadership style and, in particular, his reliance on a "kitchen cabinet" of advisers. As part of attempts to stem growing factionalism the MDC recently decided that Mr Tsvangirai could no longer make senior appointments in the party or government without first consulting the MDC's National Standing Committee. In part, this criticism arises from a cabinet reshuffle in which a number of senior party members were demoted, while Theresa Makone-the wife of Mr Tsvangirai's chief-of-staff, Ian Makone-was promoted to the influential position of joint-minister (with Kembo Mohadi) for home affairs (July 2010, The political scene). At the time there was speculation that the kitchen cabinet was pushing for the demotion of the powerful finance minister, Tendai Biti, and that it had taken the intervention of some Western donors and the IMF to save Mr Biti's job. Although this is flatly denied by the MDC, it is noticeable that Mr Biti has been both less prominent and more circumspect in his public statements since the reshuffle.

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