The Herald (Harare)

Zimbabwe: Analysts Say MDC-T Primaries Undemocratic

The MDC-T national council's decision to impose sitting legislators and protect them from being subjected to primaries is undemocratic and retrogressive, some observers and party members warned yesterday.

The political observers and MDC-T members said the move tarnished the image of Africa and Zimbabwe in particular in the eyes of the world.

The MDC-T on Wednesday insisted that the sitting legislators would go through a confirmation exercise despite an outcry from aspiring candidates that the process was undemocratic and tantamount to the imposition of candidates.

The party said only sitting legislators who fail to garner a two-thirds majority during the confirmation system would be subjected to primary elections.

Some party insiders who declined to be named for fear of retribution say the confirmation exercise was likely to be manipulated by the sitting legislators some of whom hold powerful positions in the MDC-T and the inclusive Government.

University of Zimbabwe lecturer Dr Charity Manyeruke said the MDC-T's move was undemocratic and retrogressive.

She said most African political parties had progressed well in terms of promoting democratic processes.

"It's now entrenched in our African society that disallowing primaries is tantamount to dictatorship as it takes us backwards. The MDC-T is tarnishing our image as Africans. Taking away someone's right to participate in the elections is depriving that person of his/her democratic and constitutional right.

"We urge all political parties in the country to allow free and fair democratic processes during the forthcoming elections. The MDC-T officials are afraid of internal competition and what about inter-party democracy," said Dr Manyeruke.

She said competition in parties was healthy as it helped bring up candidates with good policies and legislative agenda.

Dr Manyeruke said such actions by the MDC-T leadership explained why the inclusive Government for a long time failed to come up with robust policies to empower the people.

"This explains why the inclusive Government brought chaos in this country. We have a government that has no focus on development. The people are just concentrating on amassing material benefits. They do not think about the country that the people want jobs, farmers want some inputs. That support is not coming."

Another political and social commentator Mr Goodwills Masimirembwa said the current crop of MDC-T legislators felt a mission unaccomplished during their tenure of delivering some promises to their Western handlers.

He said the imposition of the sitting candidates meant the MDC-T was not a democratic party.

"What the party did demonstrates that the leaders are power hungry, dictatorial and above all are not fit to rule this country. This shows that there will be total disaster if these people are allowed to rule this country," he said.

Mr Masimirembwa said the current crop of MDC-T leaders wanted to cling on to power because they had for a long time, failed to deliver what they promised their handlers.

"What we have here is much deeper than just primary elections. We have people who want to deliver the country to their handlers and they are under pressure. So they are aware that if they go for primaries and a certain crop of candidates are elected, they might not have the same vision they have and might fail to deliver the promise to the handlers.

Midlands State University lecturer in the Media Section Dr Nhamo Mhiripiri, said it was critical to understand why the MDC-T decided to confirm sitting candidates without subjecting them to primaries.

The elections are very expensive at macro level and the Zimbabwe Election Commission recently said it was not carrying out certain tasks due to limited budget.

This also means political parties are also affected financially at micro level.

Dr Mhiripiri said maybe the party had seen the sitting MPs performing well and as a way of cutting costs decided not to subject them to the democratic processes.

"There is no problem if the members in those constituencies agree to that, but if they do not support that it is dictatorial and might lead to disgruntlement. It is not democratic if you do not subject people to periodic elections and endorsements," he said.

Speaking to journalists after the national council meeting on Wednesday MDC-T secretary-general Mr Biti claimed the confirmation exercise was highly democratic and took a swipe at those branding it undemocratic. He said; "There will be primary elections in every contested position. However, for sitting MPs they have to go through a confirmation process."

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