Zanu PF, MDC-T fail democracy test
Zimbabwe’s two main parties that appear to be like oil and water, Zanu PF
and the MDC-T, recently conducted primary elections which seem to have been
scripted from the same manual.
Once the dust had settled on the chaotic and often delayed primaries,
allegations of internal violence, vote rigging, intimidation and imposition
of candidates arose, with some losing candidates filing their papers at the
Nomination Court last Friday as independents or a party having two
candidates as was the case with Zanu PF in Bikita West and MDC-T in Mutare
While the developments would not have surprised observers who have regularly
followed electoral processes in Zanu PF, it is events in the MDC-T which
have become a talking point as the party has been campaigning for change and
a different political culture.
Last Saturday, MDC-T Manicaland provincial chairperson Julius Magarangoma
abandoned all protocol and took to social media to attack the “snakes, cups
and kitchens within the party who went out to openly rig elections and in
some cases even impose candidates in Buhera West and Chipinge Central”.
This was in reference to the “kitchen cabinet”, MDC-T leader Morgan
Tsvangirai’s inner circle comprising people often accused of making
Magarangoma’s outburst was followed by a similar attack on the party by
other senior colleagues, including outgoing Magwegwe MP Felix Magalela
Sibanda and aspiring Makoni Central candidate Grace Kwinjeh.
“Saka hanzi Grace Kwinjeh ndiye adyiwa, hanzi hondo yedu yahwinhiwa, hoooo
tahwina. (So they say Grace Kwinjeh has lost and we have won the war — is
that so),” Kwinjeh, who actually suggested the name MDC in 1999, posted on
her Facebook wall.
“I went into politics at the tender age of 19. I have lived through seasons
and I sit back to watch this one with keen interest,” she said, adding that
she will resist all attempts to push her out of “the party I formed, neither
will I be provoked to leave the party that I love so much, have worked so
Such accusations coming from founding members and high-ranking officials
like Kwinjeh and Magarangoma have had analysts questioning whether there are
any real prospects for a democratic dispensation in Zimbabwe when the two
biggest parties cannot even manage peaceful and credible internal elections.
Analysts say if the main parties are not democratic internally and not
committed to democratic processes, the likelihood of democracy taking root
in national politics is slim.
They say it is also pertinent to ask if any of the parties would still have
the moral high ground to cry foul after the outcome of the polls given the
way they conducted their own primaries.
If anything, analysts say, the whole primaries charade has shown Zimbabwe is
yet to develop a democratic culture and even with the advent of the new
constitution the situation proves there is still a long way to go.
The major political parties must take the lead in embracing democratic
values to allow credible internal elections before they can do the same on
the national stage.
Zanu PF and the MDC-T have been found wanting as they were often quick to
protect high-ranking officials from democratic competition during the
MDC-T showed its undemocratic tendencies when it resolved that its 12
standing committee members would be unopposed, ensuring they circumvented
the democratic process.
As if that was not enough, the party brought in “rebels” from the Welshman
Ncube-led MDC like Nomalanga Khumalo, Abednico Bhebhe, Njabuliso Mguni and
Norman Mpofu who were all given free passage into the party primaries,
fuelling divisions within the party.
Analysts ask if members of the standing committee are indeed the backbone of
the party, why then should they be shielded from internal scrutiny,
competition and renewal? If anything, contesting elections is the best way
of proving that they are the trusted party leaders they claim to be, they
Political commentator Blessing Vava said the controversy over the primary
elections in both parties have clearly demonstrated that “democracy is still
an alien idea in Zimbabwe’s political system”.
“Clearly, the will of the people is not the one that prevailed in most cases
in both parties as there were instances of imposition of candidates,
rigging, violence, vote buying and unfair disqualification of candidates who
posed a threat to those favoured by the parties’ hierarchy,” said Vava.
Vava said in the aftermath of disputed primaries bhora musango (internal
sabotage) could affect both parties given the number of disgruntled
aspirants who thronged the Nomination Court last Friday to file their papers
to contest as independents.
In Zanu PF the list of independent candidates includes suspended Manicaland
provincial deputy chairperson Dorothy Mabika (Chipinge Central), Marian
Chombo (Zvimba North), Daniel Garwe (Murehwa North), Richard Mavhunga
(Marondera Central), Rumbidzai Mujuru (Chikomba Central), Shylet Uyoyo
(Bikita South) and Jonathan Samkange (Mudzi South).
Sitting MDC-T MPs Samuel Sandla Khumalo and Sibanda are among those who
opted to stand as independents to contest the Pelandaba-Mpopoma and Magwegwe
constituencies respectively after losing in primaries they claim were
Political analyst Godwin Phiri said the primary elections fiasco reflected a
crisis of leadership in both parties and blamed both Tsvangirai and
President Robert Mugabe for allowing a culture of rigging and manipulation
to take root in their parties.
“The problem lies squarely on the shoulders of the leadership of the parties
who should have done better in ensuring transparency in the electoral
processes. Otherwise the country will have a perpetual problem in addressing
issues of democracy if the major political parties are struggling to
demonstrate a commitment to these ideals within their own institutions,”
Magarangoma scoffed at suggestions that the MDC-T problems can be resolved
through dialogue with the party leadership, saying he had “developed a
hoarse voice trying to speak about these issues through official channels”.
“I am a senior (MDC-T) member and I have spoken to everyone who matters and
no one listens because they are the very people who are guilty of corrupting
internal democratic processes,” said Magarangoma.
Given these shenanigans, analysts say it is difficult to imagine how
political parties, which have failed the internal test of democracy, can
move the country along the path to credible, free and fair national
elections which reflect the general will of Zimbabweans.