MDC-T faces another potential split

Felex Share Senior Reporter
MDC-T faces a potential split after its national council met in Harare yesterday and endorsed the decision to boycott the forthcoming 14 by-elections, but not before some top officials fiercely opposed the decision.

The beleaguered opposition party has come under fire for jostling to fill the seven proportional representation seats, itself a form of participation in the election process, while shying away from facing Zanu-PF in the 14 contested constituencies, a development analysts put to MDC-T’s fear of further humiliation at the hands of a resurgent Zanu-PF.
By elections are also due in Headlands and Hurungwe West to replace expelled Zanu-PF legislators Mr Mutasa and his nephew Mr Temba Mliswa respectively.
By-elections are due in Harare East, Kambuzuma, Kuwadzana East, Dzivaresekwa, Glen View, Luveve, Mpopoma-Pelandaba, Pumula, Highfield West, Lobengula, Tsholotsho North, Mbizo, Makokoba and Chikanga Dangamvura, should more than one candidate successfully file nomination papers when Nomination Courts sit next week.

By elections are also due in Headlands and Hurungwe West to replace expelled Zanu-PF legislators Mr Mutasa and his nephew Mr Temba Mliswa respectively.

Other party members have in the past made it clear that the party cannot afford to “donate” the seats and boost other political parties ahead of the national elections expected in 2018.

Some MDC-T stalwarts were reportedly pushing for the abandonment of the poll boycott position adopted during the party’s congress in October last year, while some members in Bulawayo, Tsholotsho and Kwekwe had reportedly began angling to represent the party in the by-elections set for June 10.

Those who are for the elections are said to be contemplating contesting as independent candidates in the by-elections.

Sources in the party said the party’s national council was clearly divided on those pushing for the boycott and those against it.

During the meeting, sources said, those against participating in the by-election, including party leader Mr Morgan Tsvangirai, were of the view that the troubled opposition party was not at its strongest and faced humiliation at the hands of a resurgent Zanu-PF.

Those for the by-elections argued that it would be difficult to reclaim the seats in 2018 once they were won by Zanu-PF or any other party.

Another problem noted by the MDC-T national council, the source said, was that those who proposed a freeze in participating in elections never envisaged so many of their seats falling vacant at the same time.

Zanu-PF has grabbed every by-election that has come its way since the 2013 harmonised elections.

“The 14 by-elections are in our strongholds and many believe by not contesting we are donating the seats to Zanu-PF,” said one source. “During the national council meeting, you could see that the party is not ready for elections and it is all about the fear of getting drubbed.”

Added the source: “This means another rebellion has been in the party because a number of people are for the elections, but there is nothing they can do because the leadership thinks otherwise. The only option is for one to be an independent and I believe this will happen in many cases as being planned.”

MDC-T has been accused of being hypocritical by claiming to be boycotting all by-elections, while jockeying to fill the seven proportional representation seats that fell vacant when it recalled the 21 legislators, as filling the seven vacancies was no different to filling the 14 constituency-based seats.

Information, Media and Broadcasting Services Minister Professor Jonathan Moyo is on record rapping the MDC-T for the hypocrisy, saying the party was pretending to be boycotting a process it was participating in.

‘’As everyone knows there are 21 seats left vacant by the expelled MDC-T MPs,” he said last week. “14 are constituency-based while seven are proportional representation seats. The MDC-T is filling the seven PR seats, that is participation. You can’t say someone who is filling proportional representation seats is not participating.

“MDC-T leaders want to participate where there is no contest, the reason being that they are afraid of losing and humiliation as they know they cannot defend all those seats. Because they know that Zanu-PF will participate, they are afraid to participate.

“If they didn’t want to participate, the consistent position would be to leave the PR vacancies as they are till 2018. The MDC-T does not want contest, but the contest is provided for in our Constitution.’’

Prof Moyo trashed the MDC-T claim that there was need for reforms, saying the only reforms that were necessary were supervised by Sadc and are manifest in the new Constitution, and the amendments to the Electoral Act, all of which the MDC-T co-authored

Political scientists of criticised the MDC-T saying it pretended to advance democracy, but yet shying away from democratic processes like elections.

They said the MDC-T officials could not have the luxury of participating in elections whenever they wished and boycott those they knwo they have little chances of winning.

Addressing journalists after the national council meeting yesterday, Mr Tsvangirai said they wanted electoral reforms first which would come by taking to the streets.

This process, he said, would have been achieved before the 2018 polls.

“The council was unanimous that as the MDC-T we will uphold the resolution of our congress that unless there are reforms, participation in those by-elections would be futile,” he said.

“We also noted that what is happening in this country will not end until the people of Zimbabwe are able to be mobilised to take action, pressurise Government to stop all abuses. We will do everything possible to mobilise people. We will act on those reforms until they come.”

Mr Tsvangirai said the party would push for the holding of the national convergence conference to “discuss the crisis facing the nation.”

He said disgraced former Zanu-PF secretary for administration Mr Didymus Mutasa had not approached the party to work together.

“After all, when wooing a woman do you do that through the media or you go and talk to the person?” said Mr Tsvangirai. “He has not talked to me and if he wanted to engage on that particular proposal why not approach me?”

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