Daggers drawn over MDC-T primaries

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DAGGERS are drawn among aspiring MDC-T members of parliament jostling to submit CVs ahead of the party’s primary elections, while supporters have vowed to continue resisting the confirmation process for sitting legislators adopted by the national executive and national council.

Report by Brian Chitemba/Herbert Moyo

High-level sources told the Zimbabwe Independent this week that the MDC-T election directorate met with the organising department on Tuesday where it was agreed applications for open constituencies (constituencies not under MDC-T MPs) would be closed on January 18 while the deadline for sitting MPs is January 30.

The party’s organising and elections committees further agreed to start primary elections for open constituencies in Harare, Bulawayo, Mutare and other areas.

The national executive and national council adopted a controversial resolution last year to confirm sitting MPs, widely perceived to be an attempt by party bigwigs to ring-fence their constituencies. The grassroots has been vocal in demanding open primaries due to growing discontent over the dismal performance of most lawmakers.

MDC-T insiders said poor performance of sitting MPs, who may benefit from the confirmation process, was likely to cost the party crucial votes in make-or-break polls expected this year.

However, the primary elections have sparked fury among disgruntled party supporters under a loose group known as the MDC-T Supporters’ Forum, which is set to meet next Tuesday to map the way forward.

Like in Zanu PF the issue of selection criteria has become a hot potato within the MDC-T as jockeying for constituencies continues.
A supporters’ forum official, who requested anonymity for fear of victimisation, described the “imposition of sitting MPs” through the controversial confirmation process as “scandalous and undemocratic”.

“Fights are heating up in provinces because members feel the confirmation process is meant to bar certain people from challenging serving legislators,” said the official.

“Why approve sitting MPs when most of them have failed to deliver? Give everyone a chance to participate in elections,” the official said.

MDC youths have been agitating for greater representation in party and government structures since the party’s national congress two years ago, calls which are getting louder as elections approach. Several youths are set to challenge their senior colleagues in various constituencies.

Youth assembly deputy chairperson Costa Machingauta wants to challenge Dzinotyiwei in Budiriro while secretary-general Promise Mkwananzi is likely to lock horns with Felix Magalela Sibanda for the Magwegwe seat.

Youth treasurer Mukombwe Dube has reportedly set his sights on the Binga South seat currently held by Public Works minister Joel Gabbuza Gabuza, while youth organising secretary Mpumelelo Ndlovu and his deputy Happymore Chidziva are eyeing the Insiza South and Redcliff seats currently under MDC and Zanu PF respectively.

Cabinet ministers likely to face a bruising fight from young aspirants include Finance minister Tendai Biti, Tapiwa Mashakada (Economic Planning), Theresa Makone (Home Affairs), Gabuza and Heneri Dzinotyiwei (Science and Technology), among others.

In Bulawayo, Pumula MP Albert Mhlanga, once arrested for allegedly abusing the Constituency Development Fund, is facing a stiff challenge from Speaker of Parliament Lovemore Moyo’s aide Artwell Sibanda while in Mpopoma, incumbent Samuel Khumalo is set to fight it out with Victor Mapungwana and Guiyani Dube.

In Nketa, Mandla Sibanda has already positioned himself to replace the late Agriculture deputy minister Seiso Moyo while Prince Dube is eyeing the Entumbane seat which fell vacant after the death of Cornelius Dube.
In Luveve, Reggie Moyo would have to see off the challenge of Gideon Mujuru and Collet Ndlovu while the MDC-T Bulawayo provincial chairperson, Gorden Moyo, is reportedly eyeing the Bulawayo East seat held by former party deputy national spokesperson Tabitha Khumalo.
Meanwhile, the MDC-T has flouted one of its benchmarks for primaries stipulating only members who have served the party for five or more consecutive years can participate by allowing former MDC legislators Abednico Bhebhe (Nkayi South), Njabuliso Mguni (Lupane East) and Norman Mpofu (Bulilima East) to contest.
The trio was axed from the MDC led by Professor Welshman Ncube for allegedly bringing the party into disrepute.
The exemption is also likely to cover former Marondera East MP Tracy Mutinhiri who was fired from Zanu PF as well as Umzingwane MP Nomalanga Khumalo, Thandeko Zindi Mnkandla (Gwanda North) and Senators Kembo Dube (Umzingwane South), Dalumuzi Khumalo (Lupane) and Maxwell Dube (Tsholotsho South Senator) who were also sacked from the MDC.
MDC-T spokesperson Douglas Mwonzora said party regulations on elections provide for general prohibitions as well as general criteria but leave the elections directorate and national council with the final say regarding who can represent the party.
“They do allow for exceptions and take into account the practical realities of our politics,” said Mwonzora. “The reality of our politics is that we have people who have not been in the party structures but have worked closely with us,” he said citing University of Zimbabwe political science lecturer John Makumbe.

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