MDC-T primary polls: Making a mockery of democracy
Nobleman Runyanga Correspondent
When zanu-pf carried out its primary elections over the past few weeks to select its candidates for the forthcoming harmonised elections, MDC-T and other detractors of the revolutionary party went to town over the challenges which characterised the democratic process.
The opposition’s criticism of the zanu-pf’s internal polls process came even as the MDC-T dilly-dallied over conducting its own primary elections, citing far-fetched, lame and embarrassing excuses such as fears of a zanu-pf infiltration.
The MDC-T director of elections, Murisi Zwizwai told radio and television presenter, Ruvheneko Parirenyatwa in April this year that “. . . when we do the primary election process we end up having zanu-pf guys infiltrating us, who would after the election, defect back to zanu-pf and start chanting zanu-pf slogans and maybe, in this case, they will start wearing the famous scarf.”
While zanu-pf’s primary elections were indeed characterised by challenges, these were, in fact teething problems associated with the party’s new system, which include putting in place a new National Elections Commission (NEC) to strengthen its internal democracy.
The new system came on the back of many years of a deficient system which was abused by some during the previous dispensation.
Although the MDC-T aspires to be “a party of excellence” and touts itself as a champion of democracy, the way it has carried out its candidate selection process is tantamount to blatantly tearing to pieces the democracy rule book.
In contravention of the principle of democracy, which espouses the selection of a popular candidate by the people, the party attempted to justify candidate imposition by coining the term “consensus process” to describe the process in which competing aspiring candidates would sit down and consult among themselves until they agreed on who would contest the elections under the party’s ticket.
The process sounded very mature and noble, but it deprived the party’s grassroots members of their democratic right to choose their own leaders.
It was meant to help the party’s leader, Nelson Chamisa to protect some of his cronies from competition by other party members. Flawed as the process was, one would expect that the opposition party would follow it to the letter, but Chamisa had other ideas. In Harare West constituency, sitting legislator Jessie Majome was forced out of the race after Chamisa imposed Joanna Mamombe in the constituency, arguing that Majome had become too old and should go and herd donkeys. Instead of encouraging consensus between Majome and Mamombe, Chamisa unfairly disqualified Majome and insulted her.
Chamisa also reportedly attempted to impose his brother, Starman Chamisa in Mbare constituency, but party members foiled the bid as they preferred Paul Gorekore. Chamisa directed that the internal poll venue be moved from Matapi Creche to Harvest House, but it was all in vain as the members would have none of it, resulting in the election being called off. So much for a leader of a party which describes itself as a movement for the promotion of democracy.
Democracy should know no social class, but Chamisa sought to make it an elitist commodity, which only the well-heeled among the aspiring candidates could afford. In March this year, Chamisa announced that aspiring National Assembly candidates should pay $1 000 each when submitting their curriculum vitae for consideration. Local authority aspiring candidates were also expected to fork out $100 as part of the participation requirement.
This was calculated to bar some aspiring candidates from participating in the internal polls to facilitate some of his cronies to land MDC-T tickets for the harmonised elections.
The move was also meant to facilitate aspiring candidates from the MDC Alliance to secure some seats ahead of the impending polls. Most alliance grassroots members, especially the youth, feel used by the MDC-T and this seems to have been calculated to pacify them.
Chamisa’s elitist and discriminatory candidate selection procedure has its precedent in his predecessor, the late Morgan Tsvangirai’s ways. In 2015, when the party was cash-strapped following its post-2013 abandonment by the West, Tsvangirai appealed to legislators to continue paying their membership subscriptions in exchange for immunity from competition from other party members in future primary elections. This was in contravention of the principles of democracy.
In 2017, he repeated his modus operandi, but this time around he asked the legislators to use their own financial resources to campaign for the party ahead of this year’s elections.
This saw the party embarking on various mobilisation campaigns such as bereka mwana tiende and mhou nemhuru, among others.
This was not the first time that Tsvangirai had disregarded democracy for political expediency. In 2013, the late politician plunged to unprecedented depths by trying to impose the Mavambo Kusile Dawn (MKD) leader, Simba Makoni, in the Makoni Central constituency despite the fact that the latter did not belong to the MDC-T.
This incensed party members who preferred Patrick Sagandira. Makoni was rejected by the constituency leading to Tsvangirai abandoning the idea.
As if the gross violation of the principles of democracy by the MDC-T was not enough, the party’s ongoing primary polls have been marred by logistical problems and intraparty violence.
In Chipinge, poor organisation led to the postponement of the internal polls while in Hatfield sitting legislator, Tapiwa Mashakada’s motor vehicle was stoned by party supporters after his bodyguards had assaulted one of their members.
Incidents of sporadic intraparty violence were also reported in Mutare.
Generally, MDC-T members are not happy with the way that Chamisa has handled the primary elections especially the consensus concept which they feel has failed dismally.
A WhatsApp conversation doing rounds on social media indicates that Chamisa has failed. In one of the comments, an irate member said: “Pama primary elections apa. Chamisa akoniwa, hamadzangu.” Another comment reads; “Makes you actually wonder kuti tiri kuendepi shuwa kana tichitadza primary (election) chaiyo.”
If party (MDC-T) members are worried about Chamisa’s leadership pedigree over internal elections, what assurance do they have that he will win the presidential election and run the country properly?
In view of this, the electorate should check his record before allowing themselves to be swayed by his utopian promises and glib speeches.