10 January 2013

Zimbabwe: Furore Over MDC-T Poll Conditions

MDC-T will conduct primary elections this month and only members that have been serving or associated with the party for at least five years will be allowed to contest the polls, party spokesperson Mr Douglas Mwonzora has said.

This has, however, sparked outrage among members who say the clause "associated with the party for the past five years" was meant to accommodate the party leaders' cronies and academics ahead of people who "religiously" served it for years.

Some argue the system will also result in some senior party officials being disqualified.

These include national deputy organising secretary Mr Abednico Bhebhe and former legislators Mr Norman Mpofu and Njabuliso Mguni.

The trio are former legislators in the MDC formation led by Professor Arthur Mutambara, but were dismissed from the party less than three years ago and rejoined MDC-T.

They were, however, officially served with dismissal letters from MDC-T two months ago.

Mr Mwonzora said the party's elections directorate would look into the trio's case.

He confirmed that party regulations stipulated that only officials with five years in the party or "have been closely associated with the party for five years" would be allowed to take part in the primary elections.

"One has to be an active member of the party for five years. The regulations are clear on five years as well as exceptions.

"It does state that the people may not have been office bearers but have been closely associated with the party for five years," Mr Mwonzora said.

Asked if that meant the disqualification of Mr Bhebhe and the other two officials, Mr Mwonzora said: "The elections directorate is going to deal with that. It has not ruled on that."

However, a party insider said the regulations were likely bent on accommodating the trio in a move likely to widen fissures in the MDC-T in Matabeleland North Province where loyal party cadres were also eyeing parliamentary seats.

"The party is going to treat their situation as special cases paving the way for their participation in primary elections," the source said.

Said another source: "Why are we outsourcing candidates now yet all along we have people of repute who have been serving the party very well."

This is happening at a time when MDC-T secretary-general Mr Tendai Biti has written to the party's provinces requesting a list of all candidates interested in contesting in the primary elections.

"The secretary-general has written to all the provinces inviting the list of names of people who want to contest. It is called a national list and it will tell us how many people are interested in each constituency or ward.

"After compilation of the national list, that is when the elections directorate can ascertain whether aspiring candidates meet the criteria or not," Mr Mwonzora said.

MDC-T has already made it clear that sitting legislators will not be subjected to primary elections.

Only those that fail to garner two-thirds majority confirmation by their respective constituencies would go for the primary elections set for the end of the month.

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