Bulawayo Bureau — The political career of three former legislators from Matabeleland hangs in the balance as the MDC-T leadership has indicated will not field candidates that have less than five years in the party.
The decision comes at a time when the party is battling to contain raging infighting and factionalism, which has been worsened by the fact that those who were part of the pro-Senate faction have gone back to the group led by Mr Morgan Tsvangirai.
On Friday, MDC-T Matabeleland North provincial chairman Mr Sengezo Tshabangu told a party meeting at Dlamini Business Centre in Tsholotsho North that his party's constitution did not allow candidates with less than five years to represent it in polls.
This implies that potential candidates such as former Members of Parliament, Mr Abednico Bhebhe ( Nkayi South), Njabuliso Mguni (Lupane East) and Norman Mpofu (Bulilima East -- who were fired by the Professor Welshman Ncube-led MDC and joined the Tsvangirai group in 2011 -- cannot contest the elections on the MDC-T ticket in the next elections.
Mr Bhebhe is the MDC-T's deputy national organising secretary.
"As we prepare for our primary elections the party policy says any leader who wants to contest for any post should have been a loyal member for a period of not less than five years. We know there are people who left the party when it split in 2005 and came back later. The party was formed in 1999 and for such people the years they spent before the split were lost.
"If you are a councillor, a former MP or Senator and you rejoined the party in 2010 for example, it means you have three years and therefore cannot participate in our primary elections. We want to be represented by faithful leaders who would not take us back to 2005."
In a veiled attack on Messers Bhebhe, Mguni and Mpofu, Mr Tshabangu said leaders who joined the Mr Tsvangirai-led formation after realising that the elections were about to come were opportunists.
"Some people saw that PM Tsvangirai was more popular and that the elections were drawing closer and decided to rejoin the party. We are watching that and we will not allow it. It is not me who says that but this document," he said, showing a copy of the party's constitution.
There has been a lot of fighting within the MDC-T structures, especially in Matabeleland North and Bulawayo where party members have rejected the candidature of individuals they are describing as "rebel" leaders in the next election.
Party supporters accused the MDC-T senior leadership of seeking to elevate "rebel" candidates into senior posts.
Mr Tshabangu, however, said the party would be lenient on candidates who joined the party earlier on but said such candidates were still subject to scrutiny by party members in their constituencies.
He admitted that the MDC-T structures in the province were in tatters and warned that the scenario would cost the party come election time.
Mr Tshabangu castigated MDC-T officers in the province for failing to mobilise support and warned that such leaders risked being demoted.
"There are no party structures here and we cannot win elections if we are like this. If this continues it will be a betrayal to the MDC-T struggle," he said.
Mr Tshabangu said Zanu-PF seemed to be more organised and disciplined than the MDC-T.
"You can hate Zanu-PF and say whatever about them but the truth is that Zanu-PF is more disciplined because members respect their leaders," said Mr Tshabangu.
The party's provincial executive - including suspended provincial organising secretary Mr Thembinkosi Sibindi and the deputy provincial secretary Ms Angeline Kheswa - attended the meeting.