THE country’s main political parties are now gearing up for primary polls ahead of key general elections amid fears there would be blood on the floor with some bigwigs falling by the wayside.
Report by Owen Gagare
With Zanu PF, MDC-T and MDC facing primaries, their senior leaders have been battling to ring-fence themselves as they dread defeat in the preliminary rounds of selecting candidates before the watershed main elections.
Due to renewed factionalism and infighting tearing Zanu PF apart, the party’s politburo yesterday failed to finalise the long-awaited guidelines on primaries which need to be aligned to the new constitution.
The party will now hold yet another special politburo meeting to deal with the badgering problem.
Sources said although the issue was expected to dominate the meeting, it was dropped for reasons which include internal strife and ongoing political and electoral processes, including the constitution-making exercise.
In 2008, party spokesperson Rugare Gumbo, former education minister Aeneas Chigwedere, David Chapfika and Claudius Makova, among other bigwigs, lost in the primaries.
“We will talk about the selection criteria at a special politburo meeting in due course. We did not discuss the issue today (yesterday),” said Gumbo last night.
The issue has been on the agenda since October last year when the politburo rejected secretary for commissariat Webster Shamu’s proposal for primaries to be held in November after the Copac Second All-Stakeholders’ Conference on the new constitution.
Shamu’s proposals were strongly resisted by people believed to be in the faction led by Defence minister Emmerson Mnangagwa who argued the issue had been tabled out of the blue.
Shamu is believed to belong to the faction led by Vice-President Joice Mujuru and there were suspicions he wanted primary From Page 1
elections at short notice to aid his camp by catching the Mnangagwa faction unprepared.
“The issue of primaries is becoming a big problem for all the main parties. That is why there is so much quarrelling and infighting,” a source said yesterday. “There will be blood on the floor, starting next weekend when the MDC-T starts primaries that will claim a lot of political casualties and leave the parties further divided.”
The new draft constitution passed at a referendum on March 16, which is complicating things for Zanu PF, will be introduced this month-end before it is adopted during the first week of next month, paving way for the mandatory 30-day voter registration and alignment of electoral laws to the new constitution.
Hardly three weeks after the referendum for a new constitution, the main parties in the coalition government made an array of secretive amendments to the proposed constitution.
Clause 158 required elections to be held “30 days before the expiry of the five-year period (from the day, in this case June 29 2008, when the president-elect was sworn-in).”
Mugabe has lost the bid to have elections on June 29. He has been demanding elections without the necessary democratic reforms since 2011 in vain.
The voter registration exercise will further delay polls. Justice minister Patrick Chinamasa has said Treasury is delaying mobile voter registration exercise which should have started early January by failing to release the needed US$21 million to cover the country’s 1 958 wards.
The Zanu PF politburo’s failure yesterday to conclude the primaries guidelines would further raise internal political tensions over the issue as ambitious young aspirants are itching to contest in preparation for the general elections between June 29 and October 29.
Although the MDC-T has finalised its talks around primary elections, it had to come up with a mechanism which sought to ring-fence the party’s bigwigs.
Seats of members of the standing committee, who consist of the party’s top 12 officials, will not be contested while sitting legislators would be subjected to a confirmation process. Primaries would, however, be held in constituencies where top MDC-T leaders fail to secure enough confirmation support.
MDC-T spokesperson Douglas Mwonzora said yesterday his party would hold primaries from April 20, although the exercise will not be done in a day.
“We are holding them starting from the 20th of this month but we have not yet decided which constituencies we start with,” said Mwonzora.
The MDC led by Welshman Ncube also wants to avoid primary elections as much as possible by asking aspiring candidates to select one candidate from competing applications through consensus. Where there would be no agreement, the party would then go to primaries as a last resort.