The Herald (Harare)

Zimbabwe: Polls Widen MDC-T Cracks

MDC-T supporters have challenged their party's policy of imposing sitting parliamentarians as candidates for the forthcoming elections by filing nomination papers to contest primaries in huge numbers in constituencies held by the party.

The party announced last year that sitting candidates would not be contested in primaries, but would go through a confirmation process and primaries would only be called if they do not pass the first test.

But the party has been thrown in a fix with revelations yesterday that more than 1 000 prospective candidates have filed papers to contest primaries in the 270 elective constituencies.

Sources said the high number of prospective candidates was more pronounced in urban constituencies where party members believed they stood a better chance of winning.

Some constituencies in Harare have recorded as high as 15 prospective candidates, most of whom are sitting councillors.

MDC-T spokesperson Mr Douglas Mwonzora confirmed receipt of many applications from aspiring candidates who are not sitting MPs.

"Yes, we received a lot of applications. Some of the people who wanted to represent the party are either in Parliament or in the provincial governance or council.

"There is no problem with high turnout because the confirmation process will proceed and all the prospective candidates should pray that the sitting candidates are not confirmed."

Sources said most of the new candidates were not happy with the confirmation policy which they viewed as a ploy to protect some senior party officials from embarrassment.

"Most of the new candidates are not happy with this confirmation policy," said a senior MDC-T official.

"It is clear that most of the senior party officials have lost favour with the people. After all, it is known that the confirmation process is not going to be held in a transparent manner.

"This is a huge gamble because it may cost the party several seats even in urban areas which most people view as comfort zones."

Aspiring candidates were required to submit their nomination applications to their provincial leadership by January 31.

Divisions are also said to be looming in the party's Manicaland provincial structures.

Sources said MDC-T's national leadership wanted to impose candidates in most constituencies without the knowledge of the provincial leadership.

Zanu-PF has since indicated that it would hold its primary elections after the constitutional referendum.

Party spokesperson Cde Rugare Gumbo recently said the Constitution-making process was a key pointer to general elections.

"We will hold those (primary) elections after referendum," he said.

Cde Gumbo said the revolutionary party was still crafting rules that would govern the primaries.

This comes as the Tourism and Hospitality Industry Minister Walter Mzembi yesterday told a parliamentary committee that elections should be held at least three months before the holding of the United Nations World Tourism General Assembly.

The assembly is set to be co-hosted by Zimbabwe and Zambia in August in Victoria Falls.

Minister Mzembi said early elections would enable the country to focus on staging the world's premier tourism event.

He said the general assembly, that would see a new executive being elected, would provide unique branding for the party that would have won the harmonised elections.

Minister Mzembi was giving oral evidence before the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Natural Resources, Environment and Tourism.

He said the election timetable was raised in Madrid, Spain, last week where he was attending the second trilateral sessions involving Zimbabwe, Zambia and the UNWTO secretariat.

"If you ask me, I would say if we can have them before June, I would be very happy," he said.

"It will give us three months to prepare for this royal wedding with the world and when you have a royal wedding, you need to put the best foot forward. We would need a three-month window period."

Sunningdale MP Mrs Margaret Matienga (MDC-T) said it was prudent to hold elections after the tourism extravaganza.

"Considering that we are being told that there are no funds, why don't we say after referendum we use the little money being mobilised for elections for the hosting of the event and then hold our elections thereafter," she said.

Minister Mzembi said Government had not disbursed the US$6 million that it earmarked for preparations for the event.

He said efforts were being made by the corporate world to raise more funds.

Successful hosting of the event, he said, would require a budget of US$11,8 million.

Minister Mzembi said Zambia had committed US$20 million towards preparations for the event.

He said he was pushing Treasury to repeal its Statutory Instrument that charges duty on items that were used by the hotel sector.

Some of the items include, carpets, textile products, bed linen, table and kitchen ware, spoons and fish knives.

Meanwhile, police said yesterday they were prepared for the referendum and harmonised elections and had put in place adequate measures to ensure the events were held in a peaceful environment.

Addressing senior officers in Harare, Commissioner-General Augustine Chihuri urged commanders to continue stamping their authority before, during and after the referendum and elections by adopting zero tolerance to all forms of violence.

The policemen, who are officers commanding provinces and chief staff officers, are undergoing a training programme on major amendments to the Electoral Act Chapter 2:01.

"The ZRP as an oriented, focused organisation believes in development of its officers for them to keep abreast with the changes in the policing environment," he said in a speech read on his behalf by Deputy Comm-Gen (operations) Innocent Matibiri.

The senior officers are covering topical issues in the Act and these are pre-electoral phase, the electoral phase, voting by post, special voting, post electoral phase, corrupt practices and illegal practices.

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