THE MDC-T has conducted primary elections in 10 of its 12 provinces which have proved to be quite a bloodbath after several high-profile MPs fell by the wayside in what appears to be a vote of no confidence on non-performing legislators.
Report by Brian Chitemba
With Manicaland and Masvingo provinces set to conduct their primaries over the weekend, the stage is set for more heavyweight casualties.
Leading the pack of dumped MPs is Science and Technology minister Heneri Dzinotyiwei (Budiriro), Zengeza West MP Collen Gwiyo, Misheck Shoko (Chitungwiza South), Marvellous Khumalo (St Mary’s), Greenbate Dongo (Goromonzi South), Edward Musumbu (Norton), Felix Magalela Sibanda (Magwegwe), Fidelis Mhashu (Chitungwiza North), Samuel Khumalo (Pelandaba-Mpopoma), Elias Jembere (Epworth), Pearson Mungofa (Highfield East), Willias Madzimure (Kambuzuma), Margaret Matienga (Sunningdale), Gift Dzirutwe (Glen Norah) and Simon Ruuke Hove (Highfield West), Gift Mabhena (Hwange West).
The primaries are part of the party’s preparations for the forthcoming make-or-break elections which President Robert Mugabe and Zanu PF want by July 31 in keeping with last week’s Constitutional Court ruling, although the former liberation movement is still entangled in a long- running debate over its own primary election guidelines. In addition, several critical processes tied to the elections remain outstanding, making the July date dicey.
The MDC-T claims peace which prevailed during the primaries suggests it has reached political maturity and internal democracy is thriving.
“The party is particularly proud at the level of maturity and political tolerance displayed by all the interested people and organs of the party. This indeed is testimony that the internal democracy of the MDC has reached the required level,” said a statement from the party’s information department.
“The process, the first of its kind in Zimbabwe is being carried out under free and fair conditions, a clear testimony of existing and thriving democracy within the party.”
Before the primaries there was speculation the polls would be marred by violence given that the party has faced an increase in intra-party clashes as growing factionalism takes its toll. Violence rocked the party prior to its 2011 congress in Bulawayo, while there were cases of clashes between aspiring MPs before the primaries.
Due to the factionalism and infighting the party was forced to postpone the primaries on several occasions as Tsvangirai frantically attempted to quell internal strife. There was also widely reported stern resistance to the confirmation process in the primaries, with those opposed to the move alleging it was an undemocratic ruse by party bigwigs to ring-fence themselves against internal competition.
Political commentator Pedzisai Ruhanya said although the primaries showed thriving internal democracy in which the will of the membership is respected, it was also crystal clear that the electorate is critically judging the MPs on the basis of how they performed.
“The outcome also shows that the legislators are reaping what they sowed in the last five years. Those who planted thorns cannot expect to harvest apples. This is legitimacy by performance,” he said.
Ruhanya said the MDC-T should maintain the democratic momentum by making sure there was peace and zero tolerance to manipulation of the process to come up with popular candidates.
This comes against a backdrop of disgruntled losing MPs who have filed petitions seeking to reverse the outcome of the primaries. The party’s organising secretary Nelson Chamisa has since dismissed any prospects of a re-run in disputed constituencies.
Chamisa said: “Most candidates endorsed the elections and we are no takers to afterthought.”
Political observer Mugove Munatsi said the next MPs will now know they cannot take the electorate for granted because a parliamentary seat was not hereditary; it has to be earned and retained on the basis of sound performance.
However, social policy for transitional societies expert Admore Tshuma said: “It would be naïve to think that those MDC-T sitting MPs who have lost out in primaries are the only ones specifically incompetent. In reality, it’s a protest that is simmering against a lack of credible leadership in Zimbabwe, be it in Zanu PF, MDC-T, Zapu, etc,” he said.
Political activist Melusi Nyathi said the voting out of sitting MPs was not a protest, but “a sign of vibrant internal democracy, leadership renewal and heightened- political interest in the MDC-T.”