.....MDC -T Primary Elections: A Bad Omen

MDC  Leader Nelson Chamisa at a rally recently, pic credit

THE  outcome of recent primary elections in both Zanu PF and MDC-T makes one question whether the process is not a new frontier for political corruption. Increasingly, primaries are now characterized by violence, rigging, intimidation, manipulation, all designed to sideline foes and promote candidates that are in favour with the political establishment of their parties. It could be one of the most devastating political ironies that such a democratic process is made an instrument of undemocratic practices.

For the record, primary elections, whose origins are in the United States, are supposed to be a democratic way by which a political party chooses the best candidate that will represent it in a constituency, and will face off with the best put forward by other contesting parties. These candidates should be competent enough to secure a  seat for the party. For that reason, he or she should be the party’s best foot forward.
However when the system is manipulated to ensure a certain candidate wins the primaries but without a guarantee that they will win the election, this is a shortsighted strategy which in the end is self-defeating. It's a case of winning the battle but losing the war.
Zanu PF primaries produced their own controversies, with the nullification of some election results and re-runs in some areas as well as allegations of rigging, ballot stuffing and vote buying. The highlight was when the likes of Webster Shamu were allegedly, caught red-handed with stuffed ballot boxes leading to his arrest, and as some say, eventual dismissal from cabinet.
Primary elections as first-line in the practice of democracy
When primary election produce the kind and level of fiasco as is the case with the recent and ongoing MDC Alliance and MDC-T primaries, then democracy itself is the ultimate casualty. The people who proceed beyond the primaries may end up being in Parliament, and if that process itself was is flawed and rigged, democracy will suffer for the next five years.
It is not the primary election fiasco in Zanu PF that raises eyebrows because Zanu PF is not the centre of scrutiny when it comes to matters democratic. Judged on their past record, they have a FAIL on the Democracy scorecard. They are in this contest seeking to reset the record button to zero and start to cleanse themselves of that past record. WE, Zimbabweans and the international community that support us, are waiting with bated breath to see if they can and if they have reset their button to zero. Theirs is the challenge to convince the electorate that they are reformed.
My interest and that of many others is on what is happening in the MDC-T. This attracts attention for many reasons. First, MDC-T and MDC Alliance is the alternative to the ruling party, and in an election, they stand the chance to govern us if they beat Zanu PF. We therefore have a legitimate right to know and interrogate what is happening in the party. Second, MDC was formed as a movement, and its core values were to restore democratic values it said were denied by Zanu PF. When MDC-T becomes the violators of those same values, one wonders how they can inspire confidence that if they get into power they will not behave like the very Zanu PF they criticized. It is our duty to unpack the meaning behind the name Movement for Democratic Change and assess how far the party is abiding by the values behind those words.

The fall of big names in MDC-T
Cries of foul are loudest in MDC primary elections than in Zanu PF. This may threaten the MDC Alliance chances in the upcoming polls, and perhaps the very survival of the MDC-T as we know it. Allegations of rigging, vote buying and vote manipulation have been made in almost every region, from Manicaland, Mashona land, Matabeleland, Masviingo, Midlands, Hwange, to name some. It doesn't take rocket science to know something is wrong when sitting members of Parliament of a party start to lose during primary elections to novices not known by many in the party.
Well, respected Harare West legislator Jessie Majome, who in my opinion is among the few hardworking Legislators who I can count on one hand. Majome not only executed her duties well in the constituency she represented but was a great asset to the MDC- T but was ‘rigged ‘out of her Harare West constituency to make way for the young Joana Mamombe who is also an intelligent woman. However, I think the situation could have been handled differently to accommodate both women.  MDC-T Women's League Chairperson Lynette Karenyi is crying foul that she was ‘rigged ‘ out of her Chikanga-Dangamvura Constituency by Utseyami who is the sitting MP for Musikavanhu constituency, despite the fact that this is a constituency that MDC-T had reserved for Women. Similar complaints have accompanied the fall of sitting members of Parliament such as Fani Munengami (Glen View North), Simon Chidhakwa (Zengeza West), Jameson Timba (Mount Pleasant), Gift Chimanikire, (Southerton) and Webster Maondera (Glen Norah)  Even other high ranking officials such as  Vice President Elias Mudzuri also fell by the wayside. Reports indicate that the party is inundated with appeals against the conduct of the primaries.
One wonders whether the fall of so many sitting members of Parliament suggests that these representatives were not representing their people properly or adequately to the extent that the people were not happy with them. Or is it that the system of primaries is so flawed that the will of the people does not prevail? Or could it be a case of the system being manipulated to further some grand internal political outcomes?
The sad fall of James Maridadi
Perhaps the most shocking news was the “loss “ of that MDC- T Member of Parliament for Mabvuku Tafara, James Maridadi to someone by the name McLynton James Chidhakwa . This development leaves one wondering "what exactly is going on within MDC-T?"
I am sure I speak for a lot of people when I say that Maridadi was a hard-working MP, especially over the last term. In August 2015, the Financial Gazette published results of its snap survey of the Best and Worst legislators in the eighth parliament, and found out that Maridadi had established himself as one of the “fiercest debaters in Parliament.”
He is fearless and always spoke truth to power. He was the first person to seek to move for a no confidence vote against President Robert Mugabe in November 2016 only to have this thrown out by the speaker of the Assembly as, ironically, frivolous( a year later the same speaker presided over the same motion, and this time it was not frivolous). Maridadi threatened to take the matter to the Constitutional court, and challenged the Speaker to allow his motion to undergo a secret ballot, arguing: “I must be allowed to lose and a secret ballot must be allowed in this case, because my motion will force a change in the constitutional order,” Maridadi said.
In November 2017, at the height of the political changes in Zimbabwe following the Army intervention, Maridadi had again already prepared on behalf of his party an impeachment motion against Mugabe. Finally, he had the last laugh on 21 November 2017 by being the seconder of the impeachment motion moved by Senator Monica Mutsvangwa (Zanu PF) before the joint sitting of the assembly and senate.
 Maridadi always did his research on all the topics he addressed. People will remember his motion in June 2017 about how Chinese imports are contributing to the destruction of Zimbabwe's economy. In that contribution, he brought drama to parliament with exhibits of one small dish, one large dish, and transistor radio, a thread, binder and outer blanket, to prove a point, and demonstrating the extent of the prejudice to the economy, of importing those items from China without either duty or taxes levied on them.
He won positive feedback on social media for this expose, which was not partisan but nationalistic. Commenting on this contribution, Mthwakazi Republic Party spokesperson Mbonisi Gumbo said then: "This Maridadi MP deserves the title "Honorable”.
This voice of reason, hard work and commitment will not be heard. Thanks to the shambolic conduct of the MDC-T primary elections. The absence in the next parliament of people like Maridadi is not just a loss to the MDC-T, but quite frankly a loss to Parliament, to the people of Zimbabwe and to democracy.
Have the elections been rigged?
Going by the litany of complaints raised by the likes of Jessie Majome amongst others, and the number of appeals we hear are before the Appeals committee, I suspect it is a matter of time before we know just what happened in Mabvuku Tafara for Maridadi to have garnered only 394 votes against  Chidhakwa’s 498 votes. But I smell a rat in all this. Clearly there is either outright manipulation of the system or the process, and plain anarchy and chaos as is the case where some elections have had to be abandoned.
What has been surprising so far through, has been the silence with which Honourable Maridadi has taken things. So far, unless I missed it, he has not commented on it. Again, that makes him Honourable.
Does this suggest he has no issues with the conduct of the primaries as did some of his colleagues who came out guns blazing? Or is this the calm before the storm?
The primaries a symptom of a deeper problem
Since its formation, MDC has been characterized by factions and factionalism. At one time there were so many MDCs one would be forgiven for being confused. There was Tsvangirai (MDC-T, Welshman Ncube (MDC-N) Mutambara (MDC-M), Job Sikala (MDC 99) Elton Mangoma (MDC Renewal). This was followed by the breakaway of Secretary General Tendai Biti in 2014.
Since then, the instability in the party has not abated with the list of people leaving or getting expelled from the party. In March 2015, 21 MDC-T MPs were recalled from both the assembly and senate for crossing the floor to join Biti. Further big name losses have been registered in MDC including the likes of Biti, Elton Mangoma, Lovemore Moyo, Obert Gutu, Thokozani Khupe, and Abednico Bhebhe.
At the moment, party president Nelson Chamisa is fighting with Khupe for the control of the party, and the matter is still with the courts. Those missing out on the primary elections and not happy with the way things are conducted are likely to turn foe rather than allies to the MDC system at elections.
At the rate old-time MDC –T stalwarts are falling, it may be a case that Chamisa will remain with a completely new crop of faces in the party. Interestingly it is the old faces who had left MDC-T who are capturing the limelight around Chamisa, the likes of Job Sikhala, Tendai Biti, Welshman Ncube, who are rediscovering lost relevance under the banner of the MDC Alliance. Sikhala won the Zengeza West primaries and is obviously working his way to Parliament. Other than loyalists like Komichi, the party President will be surrounded by a lot of new faces after the elections.
Are the Primary election outcomes part of a Grand design:
Perhaps this change of the guard is part of a grand strategy to “renew” the party and inject fresh blood. Some believe that there is a pattern that the losers are people not so supportive of Chamisa as President on account of the manner he seized power, and the direction he is taking the party in the run-up to elections. Others are those seen as likely to stand in Chamisa’s way and challenge him in future. It is argued Mudzuri’s loss was designed to remove him completely as a challenger to the throne as he was openly critical of the way Chamisa out-muscled him. Mudzuri himself complained at having to compete in the primaries against a novice, saying this was designed to embarrass him. Observers, see a pattern to eliminate direct opponents of Chamisa, or those not so enthusiastic about his Presidency.
If true, this casts a shadow of despotism and authoritarianism on the way things are done in the MDC-T. First, the timing would be unfortunate to activate these kinds of internal power politics with an epic election less than two months away. This is the time one needs all the support, even among one’s enemies. Second, the focus of attention as far as the meaning and practice of democracy has unwittingly and inadvertently shifted from Zanu PF and Mnangagwa to MDC-T and Chamisa. It would be prudent for MDC-T to dust itself up and dress for the scrutiny, not to be found wanting. Third, the electorate is watching, and asking themselves pertinent questions as to whether this behaviour depicts a party that wants to rule and promises democracy for the next five years when they are failing to practice it for a contest coming in the next two months. Lastly, bitter friends turned enemies can be very dangerous. They know your secrets, your strengths and your weaknesses. They can expose you. And if they decide to go for broke, they can do a bhora musango on you. What use is it to win a battle and then lose the war?
A strategy that sees political assets the like of Maridadi sidelined or thrown under the bus is not a very smart strategy. Neither for Chamisa, nor for MDC party, nor for the country, nor for democracy. At this moment, MDC needs to be in full election gear, as one unit speaking the same message with one voice, mobilizing people to register, and sending out messages of who they are and what they want to do differently to ZANU-PF. Instead, they have to spend time mending fences, dealing with myriads of appeals and perhaps with the likelihood of ordering re-runs in some constituencies.
And by the way, they have not yet pronounced their election Manifesto. And then there is still the court case with Khupe fighting over who is the true President of the party and who has the rights to use the party logo and symbols. This is not a good situation to be in going into an election.
Mugabefication of the MDC
The goings on in the MDC just leaves a sour taste in my mouth. As a Zimbabwean woman I worry,  how can we differentiate the events characterising MDC of late from former president Robert Mugabe's G40. I don't know about you dear reader but I fear that this could be a Mugabefication of the movement which is supposed to represent the change Zimbabweans are praying and fasting for. The violence of late in the Chamisa led MDC reminds one of Mugabe's days where fear, violence and intimation were the modus operandi.
Just last weekend, MDC deputy treasurer took to Facebook where he vented about the violence that had taken place in Kuwadzana. The violence was orchestrated by the MDC Vanguard.  It's like a script was taken out of Mugabe's school of politics. This group is seemingly becoming like the Zanu PF Chipangano Militia group. I'm failing to see the difference between these two groups as they serve the same purposes. Also, the manner in which the Chamisa led MDC are dealing with Khupe reminds one of the ways Mugabe dealt with former Vice President Joice Mujuru. As a Zimbabwean woman, I'm also concerned about the careless statements Chamisa has been making about women. I shudder to think what the future for women who constitute more than 52 percent of the population will be like under President Chamisa who doesn't mind betting his 18-year-old sister to a man old enough to be her grandfather should he lose the election to Mnangagwa.

A bonus for Zanu PF
President Mnangagwa is the unintended beneficiary of the problems bedeviling the MDC Alliance and MDC-T party at the moment. For the first time, the question in people’s minds is no longer just about whether Zanu PF can be trusted to deliver when they have failed us for so long, but also now whether MDC can deliver when they are failing themselves right now. “Deliver “is in this sense an all-encompassing word, both the economics and the politics, including democratic space. This whole discourse is taking place at a time when, under Mnangagwa Presidency, Zanu PF is undergoing an internal cleansing exercise and is reforming itself into a party that seems to be stealing the values that MDC was formed to champion and protect and instilling them into itself. MDC is put under pressure to demonstrate that if voted into power, they can be different to what Zanu PF is doing.
If MDC Alliance was stable, properly oiled and well organized, for this election history and past record would be the judge of decision making for the electorate. Zanu PF always comes out pure on that yardstick. Unfortunately for MDC-T, and the current environment, the current story ( and not history) will prevail. Unfortunately, it is not a good story to tell for MDC-T.
And, by the way,
It’s been a week now since Kasukuwere has been back in the country. It seems life has returned to normal, and we are all forgetting about his return. Or even his escape. I recall there were “criminals surrounding the President” that led to Operation Restore Legacy” in November last year, and Kasukuwere’s house was ridden with bullets. Was he one of them? Kenny Rodgers once sang in the song The Gambler “You never count your money when you are sitting at the Table. There will be time enough for counting when the deal is done”. Figure that out.

Politics is an interesting and perplexing game. Perhaps the Nutty Professor should also give it a try, and catch the next flight from wherever, and come home. Who knows? He might be welcomed with a scarf at the airport.


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