Lloyd Gumbo and Phyllis Kachere—
ZANU-PF and political analysts have dismissed as cowardly and hypocritical the decision by the MDC-T and UMDC to chicken out of by-elections in 17 constituencies that fell vacant following the recall and death of several Zanu-PF and MDC-T MPs over the past few weeks. The UMDC that brought together the MDC Renewal Team led by Mrs Sekai Holland and the MDC led by Professor Welshman Ncube was the reason 21 MDC-T MPs who dumped Mr Morgan Tsvangirai for the Sekai Holland-led faction were recently booted out of Parliament.
On the Zanu-PF side, Mt Darwin West and Chirumhanzu-Zibagwe constituencies became vacant by operation of the law when Dr Joice Mujuru was appointed Vice President on September 11, 2013, a position from which she has since been fired to be succeeded by Cde Emmerson Mnangagwa on December 10, 2014.
Headlands, which was held by former Zanu-PF secretary for Administration Mr Didymus Mutasa, and Hurungwe West, which was in the hands of his bellicose nephew Temba Mliswa, were declared vacant following the pair’s expulsion from Parliament, while Hwedza North fell vacant following the demise of Cde Simon Musanhu (Zanu-PF).
Neither the MDC-T nor UMDC are contesting the by-elections whose voting begins today in Mt Darwin West and Chirumhanzu-Zibagwe saying they need reforms first.
This is despite the fact that there are reports of fierce jockeying in the MDC-T for the seven proportional representation seats that the party is entitled to fill by virtue of its share of the vote in the 2013 harmonised elections that ushered in the Eighth Parliament.
Political analysts say the stance by the MDCs, in their various guises, is very surprising given that they, along with Zanu-PF, participated in the biggest reform since independence, the authorship and adoption of the new Constitution which offers the framework for all the by-elections being held beginning today.
The three parties also negotiated the Electoral Act which governs the conduct of the elections.
More so, political analysts said, any reforms the parties may be hankering for can only come through Parliament in which representation and numbers are essential to push through any changes to the laws.
Zanu-PF national spokesperson cDE Simon Khaya Moyo was yesterday upbeat saying the revolutionary party was confident of prevailing in the by-elections.
‘’Zanu-PF as a revolutionary party is looking at tomorrow’s (today’s) by-elections in Mt Darwin West and Chirumhanzu-Zibagwe with political glee, as the two constituencies have since independence been one-party constituencies.
‘’The cowardly withdrawal from the race by the same opposition losers confirms their demise. Election reforms were done by all the parties concerned hence their total participation in the July 31 2013 elections and, of course, their dismal performance.
“Zanu-PF is a people’s party anchored in their hearts and minds with its liberation history visible from every angle. We urge all our members to go and vote in their thousands. We call for unity, an orderly and peaceful election as the voters have done in the past,’’ Cde Khaya Moyo said.
Dr Nickson Charehwa, a South Africa-based political scientist, expressed surprise that the MDC factions, given their pathetically low numbers in Parliament, could choose to diminish them even further and still hope to influence what they called reforms.
“This (reforms) is what the MDC has been saying since 1999, the new Constitution is the reform of all reforms. They used to say we want reforms, but with the new Constitution in place, that refrain rings hollow.
“Instead of reading what is in the new Constitution and talking sensibly about the alignment of laws to the new Constitution, the MDCs are talking about reforms today in the same way they have been talking about the reforms since 1999. These factions have thus become a laughing stock.
“They participated in the writing of the new Constitution, and they also participated in the new Electoral Act. The current Electoral Act was adopted by the inclusive Government. So you have a new Constitution, and a new Electoral Act that you produced, and you did that when you were in Government, and now you keep saying you want reforms. That is evidence of serious bankruptcy, and that is why no one is paying attention even among the party’s traditional supporters, and certainly there is no one in Sadc or South Africa who will want to hear this infantile noise,’’ Dr Charehwa said.
Tendai Zemura, a UK-based blogger, concurred saying she thought the MDCs had learnt from their inclusive Government days that the only way of influencing reforms was through participation.
“The only way of levelling the field is through participation, this continued harping about NIKUV is evidence of mental diarrhoea,’’ Ms Zemura said.
The MDCs, however, yesterday dug in.
While the MDC-T said it would not participate in the by-elections, its secretary-general Mr Douglas Mwonzora, last night ironically said that his party would fill in the seven vacant proportional representation seats in Parliament.
“Yes, we are filling those proportional representation seats. The reason being that the process does not involve any elections. Our congress was clear that we will not participate in any election without adoption of electoral reforms,” said Mr Mwonzora.
Mr Mwonzora conceded that they had actively participated in the constitution-making that ushered the new Constitution but accused Government of failing to operationalise it.
“There is nothing wrong with the new Constitution – it only needs to be operationalised and three-quarters of our electoral system concerns will be addressed.”
He said according to the Constitution, voter registration should be carried out by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) and that the voters’ roll should be accessible to participating political parties.
Mr Mwonzora confirmed that his party had in its possession voters’ rolls for Chirumhanzu-Zibagwe, Mt Darwin and Headland constituencies but claimed these had not been compiled by ZEC.
MDC Renewal spokesperson Mr Jacob Mafume said the by-elections were unnecessary and that the money could have been used to buy food to avert hunger.
He said they wanted a number of electoral reforms before they could participate in future elections.
“The Electoral Amendment Act did not give control of the voters’ roll to the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission, so at the moment no one knows who is in charge of the voters’ roll,” said Mr Mafume.
“We are pushing for a biometric voters’ roll just like in other countries. We still don’t have private radio and TV stations. So, all these are some of the reforms we want.
“In any case, we are facing a famine as a country of biblical proportions what should be happening is that all public funds should be harnessed towards finding food for this year.
“It is criminal to waste resources on 14 by-elections that are absolutely unnecessary and of no impact. The food situation in the country should be declared a national disaster.”
MDC spokesperson Mr Joshua Mhambi said his party would also not participate in any elections until there were electoral reforms.
“That position was taken after the July 31 2013 harmonised elections after what transpired before the polls in relation to the unavailability, inaccessibility and unverifiable voters’ roll that led to the tricks that were played on the Zimbabwean citizens,” he said.
“We believe that an election must be fair because that is the only process citizens use to endorse or otherwise the sitting regime which is a right that must not be violated.”
But an insider said the two formations’ excuse was just a smokescreen as they were not ready for the elections.
“They are in a bad shape even if they wanted to contest they are not confident of defeating Zanu-PF,” said the source.
“They don’t even have the funding to bankroll their campaign. So, the excuse about electoral reforms is just a disguise. They are running away from the real issue, that is, they are not ready.”