NEWLY-APPOINTED MDC-T leader Nelson Chamisa has reportedly stirred fresh controversy within the opposition party after he issued a decree that seeks to protect sitting legislators from being contested in primaries ahead of this year’s general elections.
Chamisa was recently endorsed as MDC-T leader following the death of the opposition party’s founding leader Morgan Tsvangirai nearly three weeks ago.
Insiders said the party’s sitting MPs arm-twisted Chamisa into issuing a circular barring internal party elections in constituencies held by opposition legislators.
“The sitting MPs want protection and an open ticket back into the House, claiming they used a lot of resources, including their cars to campaign for him during the internal power struggles. It’s pay-back time, but you will realise that most people have chipped in with one form of help or another,” a party insider said.
“If this is allowed as is the case now, then it could further divide the vote with the possibility of a great number of independent candidates likely to come up. Some of these lawmakers are very unpopular in their constituencies.”
According to a circular announcing the procedures for candidate selection, party structures were supposed to find “consensus” regarding who will represent the MDC-T and only where there was no agreement will a primary election be held.
“Candidate selection will start in orphaned constituencies and wards. Of these, we first deal with those allocated to the MDC-T in the alliance interim agreement. Please note that we have not yet opened applications in relation to those constituencies with sitting MPs.
“The party leaders at each level shall achieve consensus on the candidates, failure which primary elections would be held as determined by the elections directorate in terms of the constitution of the party,” the circular said.
The guidelines barred party provincial and district executives from disqualifying candidates, saying they could only make recommendations for disqualifications to the national elections directorate.
“All prospective candidates should abide and adhere to the stipulated youth, women’s and disability quotas,” the circular said.
MDC-T secretary-general Douglas Mwonzora confirmed the circular, but argued the search for consensus was meant to avoid divisions.
“We will be democratic. We will not impose any candidate and we want the people to choose the candidates they would want to represent them. The idea of consensus is meant to avoid adversorial contests ahead of elections,” Mwonzora said.
But insiders argued Chamisa and his acolytes were avoiding primaries, as a continuation of his refusal to go to an elective congress following Tsvangirai’s death.
“They are sacred to face the people on the ground. They will lose, they have taken a path to destruction,” another source said.
Chamisa rejected calls for an extra-ordinary congress to settle the MDC-T leadership dispute and instead the national council endorsed him as substantive party leader, following a fierce contest against vice-presidents Thokozani Khupe and Elias Mudzuri.