Zimbabwe: Stampede to Represent Zanu-PF, MDCs

THERE is a stampede to represent ZANU-PF and the two formations of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) at next's year's polls, including from Zimbabweans in the Diaspora, a situation likely to upset incumbents in the three major parties as the country lumbers towards next year's elections.

The race to represent the different political parties has become intense as established and upcoming politicians jostle for the available seats amid tensions over the holding of primary elections.

While dates for primaries to choose candidates to represent the three parties are yet to be announced, indications are that ZANU-PF could hold its primaries after its December conference.

Some ZANU-PF hawks had wanted the party to hold primaries before the conference in Gweru but the proposal was shot down at a recent Politburo meeting amid fears it would further divide the party as it prepares for elections President Robert Mugabe wants held in March.

Prime Minister (PM) Morgan Tsvangirai's formation has also hinted it would hold its primaries in December. Currently, there are divisions in the party over the guidelines on the conduct of the internal polls.

Incumbents in the MDC-T are pushing hard to prevent any challenges to their positions but there is pressure on PM Tsvangirai to allow leadership renewal by permitting the contestation for positions.

Welshman Ncube's MDC, according to insiders, is on the verge of finalising its list of candidates to contest the harmonised polls. Ncube has already stated he would stand for his party in the presidential race against President Mugabe and PM Tsvangirai.

President Mugabe has been overwhelmingly endorsed to represent ZANU-PF in the presidential race while it is a foregone conclusion PM Tsvangirai will attempt a third bite of the cheery after contesting in the Presidential race in 2002 and 2008.

But it is the overwhelming interest from the Diaspora, intellectuals, businesspeople and ordinary Zimbabweans to represent the three political parties in the coalition government that has drawn interest.

ZANU-PF and the two formations of the MDC this week confirmed that they have received a huge number of enquiries from individuals interested in representing their respective parties at the next plebiscite although dates for the primaries are yet to be set.

Officials from the MDC-T claimed that individuals from a wide spectrum of society ranging from youths, church leaders to civic society representatives had expressed interest in representing the party in elections next year.

"There are quite a lot of people interested in contesting in next year's elections ranging from those from civil society to churches but the most interesting bit is that there are a large number of youths who want to contest sitting Members of Parliament and councillors," said MDC-T spokesperson, Douglas Mwonzora in an interview.

Mwonzora emphasised that aspirants for any positions must have served the party for at least five years and should be 21 years or more.

He revealed that a number of people in the Diaspora had also shown immense interest in contesting under the MDC-T ticket.

Names of two radio personalities and an engineer (names supplied) based in the United Kingdom have been mentioned as having shown interest in representing PM Tsvangirai's formation in Parliamentary polls.

Kurauone Chihwayi, the deputy spokesperson for Ncube's MDC, said his party will hold primary elections next year after their national conference expected between January and February.

"If we have more than one candidate in a constituency, we will have primary elections but as it stands, indications are that we will have primaries in most areas as there is huge interest. Even sitting MPs will face primary elections," said Chihwayi.

ZANU-PF spokesperson, Rugare Gumbo two weeks ago said the issue of regulations for the conduct of primary elections has been deferred to "maybe just before the conference" but indicated that the actual primaries will be after the conference. Yet proposed regulations reported last week to put a cap on the number of years one is supposed to have served to be allowed to contest in ZANU-PF primaries and subsequently, general elections, has been seen as a move to safeguard the old guard who are reportedly facing intense pressure from some "young Turks".

The race is on amid reports that the party's youths have asked for a quarter of seats to be reserved for them.

Several youthful members of the party are eager to contest in primary elections with the hope of being the eventual party representatives at next year's general elections.

For instance, journalist-cum-businessman Supa Mandiwanzira is reportedly interested in contesting in Manicaland while Affirmative Action Group vice-president Chamu Chiwanza is said to be eyeing the Mabvuku seat.

Sources within ZANU-PF say the emergence of the young Turks has unsettled the old guard who have moved to protect themselves through policies meant to curtail the youthful members.

Names of certain members of the State security agents, including members of the police and the military, have been mentioned as being interested in representing ZANU-PF, something vehemently opposed by the MDC formations who accuse them of being complicit in the 2008 election violence.

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