THE MDC-T is trying to convince Parliamentary and Constitutional Affairs minister Eric Matinenga to contest the Buhera West parliamentary seat following the death of the party’s aspiring candidate and University of Zimbabwe lecturer John Makumbe.
Report by Elias Mambo
Makumbe, who was poised to replace Matinenga as the MDC-T candidate, died in January of heart failure.
However, Matinenga has insisted that he would not avail himself for re-election in line with his November 2011 decision to retire from politics at the end of his tenure.
MDC-T sources told Zimbabwe Independent this week that senior party officials, including Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, have held meetings with Matinenga to try and persuade him to reconsider his decision to quit politics.
“Some senior party officials have been meeting with Matinenga to try and make him reconsider his decision,” said a top MDC-T source.
MDC-T national organising secretary Nelson Chamisa announced soon after Makumbe’s death that he had asked Matinenga to reconsider standing again because he was still very popular in the constituency.
But Matinenga insists nothing will make him change his mind.
“My position has not changed,” said Matinenga this week. “I am not seeking re-election and I will not get back.”
Matinenga says Zimbabwe has a tradition of leaders who overstay in politics resulting in them destroying the country.
Chamisa said that five candidates had submitted CVs seeking to contest primaries in Buhera West.
These are among more than 4000 MDC-T aspiring candidates set to battle it out in the party’s primaries to be held after the referendum.
About 900 prospective candidates have been disqualified.
“Right now I can inform you that the calibre of applicants is very good. We have lawyers, business people, engineers, trade unionists and teachers who are ready to represent the party in the next elections,” he said.
The MDC-T recently came under fire for its controversial candidate selection criteria widely seen as a move to provide bigwigs a safe passage as they would not contest in primaries.
The MDC-T constitution stipulates that a sitting MP requires a two-thirds majority confirmation by party officials in their constituency to avoid primaries.
MDC-T sources said new members wanted that provision waived to allow for leadership renewal in the 14-year old party.
The primary elections are likely to create fissures in the party as some aspiring candidates have already indicated that they would contest as independent candidates should they get blocked through confirmation of sitting MPs.
MDC-T spokesperson Douglas Mwonzora said it was unfortunate they had to disqualify some individuals but they had no choice except to stick to the set criteria.
“What I must emphasise is that we stick to our resolution that everywhere where there is a sitting MP, they would have a confirmation exercise first and if the people confirm their candidacy there won’t be any need to hold the primaries,” he said.