APOLOGY: 'We are sorry, we rigged elections'

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MDC-T Pumula MP Albert Mhlanga faces ouster for conducting outreach meetings to apologise to party members for being an ally of vice-president Thokozani Khupe and that they rigged the party's primary elections last year.

Mhlanga, once a key ally of Khupe, has been holding outreach meetings with Bulawayo MDC-T structures asking for forgiveness for rigging primaries in Entumbane, Magwegwe, Luveve and Pelandaba-Mpopoma constituencies with the blessing of top party officials and the provincial executive.

The MDC-T Bulawayo province was thrown into chaos over alleged rigging in the holding of the primaries to choose the party's candidates to represent the movement in last year's elections.

Mhlanga, who is also the MDC-T Bulawayo provincial organising secretary and has seemingly fallen out with Khupe, was accused of rigging the primaries to sway votes in favour of candidates preferred by the Khupe camp. MDC-T Bulawayo provincial secretary for policy and research, Swithern Chirowodza, said Mhlanga's outreach meetings were necessary to bury divisions and foster unity in the party.

"This is important because our constitutional mandate is to build the party in the province. Following South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission, it was observed that to provide healing, it's important to open the wound, disinfect it and apply medicine. Practically this involves confession, forgiveness and ultimately healing, as all parties agree never to go back to bad ways of the past," Chirowodza said.

Mhlanga has, however, come under fire from allies of Khupe who are now pushing for his ouster on charges that he is not only an MDC-T renewal team member, but that he was frustrating efforts by the Khupe group to ensure Bulawayo deputy mayor Gift Banda took over the reins of the province.

Mhlanga told Southern Eye yesterday that Khupe had railed against him on Sunday for holding the outreach meetings. He said he regretted rigging the primaries with the blessing of the provincial leadership and said he was unmoved by attempts to kick him out of the party.

"All I am saying is that we rigged the primaries and we should apologise to the structures. I want to come clean and I do not understand why I should be persecuted and be kicked out of the party for that. They should go to court to dispute that we rigged primary elections in Bulawayo," Mhlanga said.

"There are a lot of MPs from Bulawayo who are in Parliament not because they had the support of the structures, but because as the province, we ensured that they won the primaries. I am saying we should not repeat this again, but I am surprised to hear people now saying I am part of the MDC-T renewal team. There is a clique that is saying Mhlanga should be removed because he wants to be the chairperson of Bulawayo and is selling his candidature to the structures under the guise of apologising.

"I should also indicate that even if they succeed in removing me, the MDC-T Bulawayo province will continue not to have peace because these are the same people that are causing divisions and factionalism. It's only a group of less than 12 people that is causing all these problems in Bulawayo and if they are stopped from doing so, Bulawayo will be peaceful. These are the same people that are now trying to impose Banda on the structures.

"Banda is the deputy mayor because of the wrongs of the provincial leadership. What we did was wrong . . . is that not rigging? He is junior in the party and does not deserve any position. What will he bring to the party? He will only be serving the people that want to impose him on Bulawayo province," Mhlanga added.

Khupe could not be reached for comment when Banda said on Monday that he was not angling for the Bulawayo chairmanship position.


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