1 February 2013

Zimbabwe: Primaries - a Litmus Test for the MDC-T

LOOMING primary elections in the MDC-T are set to provide a litmus test for the party's democratic ideals.

Sources within the party said fissures could further widen given the way the party's top brass are protecting each other from possible challengers for parliamentary seats.

The party has put in place stringent conditions for aspirants, including requiring that candidates for local government elections own houses in the area they want to represent.

This is being deemed undemocratic by some party members. An official in the national executive said the MDC-T leadership is shooting itself in the foot by closing doors on its foot soldiers who have stuck with the party since its formation.

"Tsvangirai wants to make sure that he removes all those with the institutional memory of the party to replace them with people who do not challenge him," said the official.

Sources also said some constituencies were not going to have primaries as they had been reserved for certain individuals.

For example, Buhera West had been reserved for the late John Makumbe.

Outgoing legislator Eric Matinenga said he was working with Makumbe as an "incoming member of parliament", which suggests that while the MDC-T has been talking about a transparent process in selecting candidates to represent the party, a "royal clique" had been given safe passage, sources said.

Controversy is also brewing over the candidature of party members based in the diaspora. A number of these have expressed interest in contesting.

"MDC-T is setting a very bad precedent by giving constituencies on a silver platter to those who were comfortable abroad at the expense of those who have endured Zanu PF abuse," said another source.

Former Zimbabwe Mirror journalist Grace Kwinjeh and ex-ZBC disc jockeys Ezra Sibanda and Eric Knight have expressed an interest in contesting on the party's ticket.

Kwinjeh announced her interest to contest the Makoni Central constituency in Manicaland while Sibanda and Knight are eying Lower Gweru and Mbare respectively.

This has set the party on a collision course with the MDC-T Supporters' Forum which is against imposition of candidates as well as reservation of seats for "special people".

The forum comprises the party's supporters from the high-density suburbs of Kambuzuma, Mufakose, Rugare, Dzivaresekwa, Warren Park and Kuwadzana and is a loose union of MDC-T district executives disgruntled over their party's selection process of candidates for the forthcoming polls.

"We are not happy at all and we are arranging countrywide campaigns to stop imposition of candidates," said one forum official.

However, MDC-T organising secretary Nelson Chamisa said there was nothing wrong in allowing those who were outside the country to contest because they were in the party structures.

"Those from the diaspora have always been part of this family. They were in the structures which I supervise abroad, so constitutionally they are allowed to contest in any election," Chamisa said.

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