MDC-T leader Mr Douglas Mwonzora yesterday announced he had pulled out of the August 23 presidential race, claiming that the playing field is uneven, but the Zimbabwe Election Commission confirmed he remains on the presidential ballot paper since he missed the 21-day deadline for withdrawal.
By the time he announced his withdrawal from the race yesterday afternoon, Zimbabwe was 15 days before the election that Zanu-PF is widely tipped to win resoundingly due to its pro-people policies. The Electoral Act lays down that a withdrawal in the Presidential election must be done at least 21 days before the election day.
Mr Mwonzora’s reason was the rejection by ZEC of the nominations of 87 of his party’s candidates for the National Assembly elections on the grounds they had not paid the required fee. Speaking in Harare yesterday, Mr Mwonzora claimed the candidates were “unfairly disqualified by the ZEC”.
While ZEC said the MDC National Assembly candidates had failed to pay their nomination fees, “yet it was ZEC that had made it impossible for these people to pay their nomination fees”, was his argument.
“When the extension was done the following morning, MDC was excluded from benefiting from this extension. We view this as very discriminatory,” he said. The extension Mr Mwonzora was referring to concerned Bulawayo Metropolitan only, a province with eight seats, where there were special circumstances involving candidates from the CCC and some smaller parties, a total of 18 altogether.
Mr Mwonzora said after the rejection of nomination papers of his party’s 87 candidates, they took the matter to court but after the case was heard and decided after one month, it was dismissed.
“What is clear is that the MDC has been treated in a very discriminatory manner by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission. For that reason, after consultation with the National Council of the MDC, it was decided that we boycott this election,” he said.
Mr Mwonzora said they will advise on the “method of struggle” they will take going forward.
In an interview last night, ZEC vice-chairman Ambassador Rodney Kiwa said while Mr Mwonzora may have pulled out, he would be on the ballot paper since he failed to do so within the stipulated 21 days.
Social media was abuzz yesterday, with some people saying Mr Mwonzora’s withdrawal was a realisation that he would fare badly in the elections, especially after struggling to attract decent numbers at his rallies.
A couple of months back, Mr Mwonzora told some party supporters that he had dreamt of winning the elections resoundingly, with ZEC chairperson Justice Priscilla Chigumba, battling to count ballots cast in his favour.
Yesterday, that video was back on social media with people claiming that Mr Mwonzora feared a rout and wanted to preserve his image by raising flimsy allegations of an uneven playing field in the build-up to one of Zimbabwe’s most peaceful and fair elections since 1980.