A group of MDC provincial members have petitioned the opposition party’s national executive council (NEC) demanding that the recently concluded local congress results be rescinded over claims of vote rigging, ballot stuffing and manipulation of procedures.
Party leader Nelson Chamisa was nominated by all 13 administrative provinces but the latest twist could stall the process leading to the main congress set for May 24. Chamisa was now just awaiting confirmation by the main elective indaba to be held in Gweru.
The appeal effectively means Chamisa would have to put his celebrations on ice given the possibility another candidate could emerge.
According to a notice of appeal directed to the NEC, Nketa legislator Phelela Masuku and 11 others said they were appealing against the process and procedures employed at the Bulawayo provincial congress held at Stanley’s Square in Makokoba Bulawayo on April 17 and 18, 2019, because the process violated several sections of the party’s constitution.
In a letter to the party’s national executive, 12 losing candidates blamed Mr Chamisa and organising secretary Mr Amos Chibaya for the chaotic congress.
The 12 losing candidates who include Mr Phelela Masuku, Mr Edious Shumba, Mr Charles Moyo, Mr Thamu Ncube, Ms Sinikiwe Mutanda, Ms Jasmine Toffa, Mr Dingilizwe Tshuma, Mr Edwin Ndlovu, Ms Stella Ndlovu, Mr Mbuso Siso and Mr Samuel Munsaka called for the nullification of the provincial congress results on the basis that it was rigged among other irregularities.
“… the appellants’ grounds of appeal are that the congress was not legally constituted for failure of a quorum notwithstanding the districts that were disenfranchised and refused to participate,” the appellants submitted.
“The process was characterised by voter stuffing and rigging with both security teams, and presiding officers playing part thereof. The whole voting process, from ballot allocation, voting, ballot casting, counting and computation of votes cast lacked transparency and failed to meet a single thread of secrecy as dictated by our constitution,” the group argued.
It is one of several attempts by several groups within the faction ridden party who have tried unsuccessfully to stop the elective congress. Masuku and his group argue that many were disenfranchised in the run-up to the process.
“The withholding of information and late notification of the congress date, venue and time by provincial organiser and team, while being interested parties in the process, was manipulative and lacked credence,” said the appeal.
Added the group: “The lack of impartiality in the security personnel and involvement of both the provincial organiser and his deputy as resource people in the accreditation and determination of delegates’ eligibility in the congress process, resulted in manipulative discrimination against those areas perceived not supportive of their lot.”
While Chamisa has argued he has a right as Tsvangirai did before he died to actively direct the process, the appellants argue the MDC leader and organising secretary had deliberately locked out key groups from the process.
“The directive given by the president Chamisa to national organiser Amos Chibaya, on being petitioned at the congress venue by disenfranchised delegates who were refused to participate, was only acceded to after the conclusion of both the youth and women processes, effectively denying them the vote and creating complexities for main wing processes by (the) introduction of non-eligible delegates.
“Mpopoma was effectively locked out of participation, and the caucus constituted by Chibaya to address the anomaly calculatedly and mischievously took forever resultant acceding at the close of the voting process. The cabal of James Sithole and Helen Zviviri (Tsepiso Mpofu) formed the think-tank of the caucus,” it was argued.
According to the appeal outline, Masuku and his group said the presiding officers, jointly with Chiabaya’s direction, failed and/or disregarded the establishment of the existence of a quorum prior to the commencement of the process as stipulated in the congress template.
“Section 9(a) of the MDC 2019 congress template stipulates a 2/3 of all eligible delegates as a quorum to constitute the holding of a congress,” the officials said.
They further argue that eligible delegates to the provincial congress, as contained in the party’s constitution, were supposed to be 2 577, but the delegates who participated in the congress were 1989, a figure below the expected number by 588. According to the appellants most party members were creamed out of the congress given the short notice provided in violation of the rules governing procedures.
“Notice giving effect of the congress on April 17 at 10am as posted on April 16 at 6:14pm by the provincial organiser, effectively giving 16 hours notice, thus disenfranchising working delegates as there was no opportunity to seek leave of absence from work to attend congress,” the petition reads in part.
They also said the election of the Mpopoma women structures was not procedural in that in each portfolio, the losing candidate was unilaterally installed as automatic deputies by the presiding officer, one Tendai Gwaradzimba, denying prospective candidates to be nominated and voted for.
The appellants said such was a clear violation of the party’s electoral rules.
Results for the main wing saw Masuku getting 307 votes for the chairmanship after being defeated by James Sithole, who got 509 votes, among other provincial executive positions, which the appellants claim were taken by those belonging to the Sithole faction.
It is the appellants’ conviction that the whole process and the outcome of the Bulawayo provincial congress be nullified and that a fresh process of holding a provincial congress be instituted.