March 7, 2014 / 4:25 PM / 3 years ago

Zimbabwe opposition suspends official who asked leader to quit

HARARE (Reuters) - Zimbabwe's opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) on Friday suspended a senior official who had asked party leader Morgan Tsvangirai to quit, a move which could widen cracks in a party recovering from a devastating election defeat last year.

Dozens of anti-riot police kept watch outside the MDC headquarters in central Harare as the MDC's top decision organ, the national council met.

MDC deputy treasurer Elton Mangoma sent Tsvangirai an open letter in January asking him to step down, arguing that he had failed to push through reforms while in a four-year power-sharing government with President Robert Mugabe.

Mangoma last month said he had been assaulted by Tsvangirai loyalists while emerging from a party meeting and went on to make a police report. He said Tsvangirai had organized his beating and the case is now before the courts.

MDC spokesman Douglas Mwonzora told journalists after a meeting of the party's national council that the party felt Mangoma's actions had undermined the organization.

"The actions by Mr Mangoma have seriously undermined our relationship with strategic partners. It is also further noticed that his behavior and attitude undermines the party," Mwonzora said.

Mangoma was served with his suspension letter during the meeting and will appear before a tribunal, Mwonzora said.

Tsvangirai, 61, has led the MDC since it was formed in 1999 to challenge Mugabe - the sole ruler since the former Rhodesia gained independence from Britain in 1980 - and his ZANU-PF party.

But the ex-labor union leader has failed to dislodge 90-year-old Mugabe in three elections, although none of them was free or fair according to the MDC and Western observers.

Reporting by MacDonald Dzirutwe; editing by Ralph Boulton

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