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Rival Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) camps have started a cyber-war and ratcheted up their campaigns to demonise each other ahead of parallel congresses this month and in March. The camp led by MDC vice-president Gibson Sibanda has distributed a draft constitution reportedly crafted by Morgan Tsvangirai's group.

The draft constitution seeks to guarantee Tsvangirai unchallenged leadership of the party until he wins the national presidential election whenever that will be. The document says the camp has drafted an amended constitution with far-reaching provisions that bestow unbridled powers on Tsvangirai that it hopes to railroad through a congress scheduled for March 4. Tsvangirai's group has scheduled its congress for March 25.

The draft amends the original constitution approved by the inaugural congress of the MDC held in Chitungwiza on January 29 2000. An amendment of the draft relating to office bearers says: "After assuming governing power of the Republic of Zimbabwe, the president, subject to being re-elected by congress, shall serve for a maximum of two terms as party president but eligible for election in other party positions thereafter."

The original provision simply states that the president should serve for a maximum of two terms.

Willard Zimuto of the Sibanda camp said the new document came from Tsvangirai's group. "They sent it to some people and we ended up having a copy," Zimuto said Pressed to identify the origin of the document, Zimuto said there were a number of versions of the draft doing the rounds. "Ask Paul Themba Nyathi. He is in a better position to explain," he said. Tendai Biti yesterday said people purporting to be MDC had distributed the document. Biti is in Tsvangirai's camp. "They are a desperate lot who think they can gain political mileage out of such a shoddy job," Biti said.

Biti, who chairs a committee tasked with constitutional reform in Tsvangirai's camp, said they had sent letters to various organs of the party disowning the document that "denomises Tsvangirai purporting he is seeking unbridled powers".Attached to the letter and a draft of the proposed amendments are explanatory notes and points of debate which party structures should deliberate on and consider before accepting or amending the proposals. Biti said the draft contained amendments that take into account events that led to the split in the party.

"It was imperative to come up with a dispute settlement machinery that would avoid a similar catastrophe," he said. The constitutional draft is the latest in a bitter cyber-war that witnessed scandalous material being relayed on the Internet demonising Welshman Ncube late last year.

The document, also purporting to be from MDC offices, accuses Ncube of working in cahoots with the government and being a beneficiary of its "patronage system".

Zimbabwe Independent