A CLANDESTINE plan by some MDC-T MPs and top party leaders to ring-fence their constituencies during primary elections has stirred controversy, disgruntlement and conflict in the opposition party, NewsDay Weekender has established.
Insiders said the elections directorate was planning to protect its sitting MPs so that they would not be subjected to primary elections, a move that is likely to face rejection from the majority of the aspiring candidates.
"They have also gone to the extent of barring junior party members from challenging seniors in primary elections. This is not only undemocratic, but exposes the party to defeat," a highly-placed source said.
A member of the standing committee said the proposal was made at its meeting on Tuesday. But some vowed to put a stop to the plans, calling for the party to open up the candidate selection process to all eligible members.
"Some of these people have been performing badly and, therefore, can’t be protected by such unfair rules. If Zanu PF can have fair primaries, who are we as the MDC not to have them?" another official queried.
The plan will see top members like Jameson Timba, Murisi Zwizwai, Morgen Komichi and others sail through as party candidates without a contest. The party has indicated that it will consider holding primaries as a last resort because internal polls are divisive, instead opting to select candidates by consensus.
But party spokesperson Obert Gutu quashed the claims, saying MDC-T would not impose candidates and would conduct primary elections soon.
"The national elections directorate will soon be meeting to put the final touches on the candidate selection template. One thing, though, is for sure. There will be no candidate imposition because we are a democratic political party. Wherever possible, we will encourage candidates to be chosen by consensus, but where this fails, primary elections will become inevitable," Gutu said.
Meanwhile, Gutu's claims that MDC will have primary elections very soon, is directly against its ailing leader, Morgan Tsvangirai's vow that his party had banned primary elections.
In July last year, Tsvangirai reportedly banned holding of primary elections to choose party candidates to contest in this year’s general elections, saying candidates will be nominated through consensus. Addressing the party’s Harare executives, Tsvangirai is reported to have said primary elections were divisive and had to be dispensed with.
"Our biggest problem, as a party, is the division of supporters and this is caused by elective congresses and primary elections. Now I want to tell you, this time around, there will not be any primary elections. We will select our candidates through consensus. Those who want to contest in a particular constituency must discuss among themselves and come to a consensus. I am waiting to hear the names of the odd ones, who will say they cannot find common ground [and] I will ask them if they are MDC or Zanu PF," he said.