The Heart of the Matter – Every candidate must go through primary elections

Tanonoka Joseph Whande

November 22nd, 2012

Last week, party President Morgan Tsvangirai discouraged the imposition of candidates, saying that candidates must be elected democratically.

He tried hard to give the impression that his party stood by democratic procedures.

I am not fooled.

Both the MDC and ZANU-PF are earnestly preparing for elections next year as both talk about their respective parties’ primary elections.

Interestingly, both parties always claim to be staunch democratic institutions yet both are wary and rather feel scared of unfettered, internal democracy.

The leaders of both parties, Morgan Tsvangirai and Robert Mugabe, have the undemocratic luxury of remaining unchallenged for the leadership of their respective parties.

Mugabe has led ZANU-PF unchallenged since before independence and no one in his party has been allowed to challenge him.

Tsvangirai is also hard on Mugabe’s heels, having led the MDC since its formation 20 years ago and, obviously, no challenger will be tolerated.

No one in ZANU-PF and the MDC-T can challenge these two simply because they won’t allow it and they just won’t step aside. Both have tempered with their parties’ constitutions to remain at the helm so Tsvangirai’s pep talk about his opposition to the imposition of candidates is just a smokescreen. He should start by going through the primaries himself.

Why is there so much talk about “unopposed candidates” in both parties? You mean to tell me there is no one who wants the jobs being held by Tsvangirai, Mugabe, Biti and all the so-called “party heavyweights”?

The old geezers in both parties are not amused by having to go through primary elections.

You can see their reluctance to open doors wide enough for any individual within their parties to challenge or run for parliament or any office.

Both parties are reluctant to welcome new so-called ‘Young Turks’ to contest in the primaries. Instead, they are both tinkering with new rules, regulations and directives, which seek to limit who runs for office and how.

The reason is simple, both parties are stuffed with useless non-performing Members of Parliament who have failed to deliver and who have failed to connect with their constituents. Yet these useless old geezers are close to their parties’ leadership not to those they represent.

Neither Prime Minister Tsvangirai nor President Mugabe would like to lose their close friends or relatives who have been hanging around them for years without doing anything to justify their presence in Parliament.

And the youngsters in both parties are clamouring for not only recognition and inclusion but for accommodation and space. They see the shortcomings of the old timers and how their non-performance is hurting their parties.

But the leaderships of both parties are reluctant and afraid to let go.

“We are preparing for primary elections and we are going to confirm the actual dates, but they will definitely be held in December,” MDC spokesperson Douglas Mwonzora said last week. “First, we will hold primaries where we do not have MPs. We call these constituencies orphaned. After that we will have a confirmation election in areas where we have MPs. The aim is to weed out unpopular MPs.”

But Mwonzora should know that people care less about the popularity of a candidate and that they vote for performers and expected performance.

By reducing the number of contestants like this, the MDC is trying hard to give a helping hand to their friends, those incumbent non-performing MPs they don’t want to fall by the wayside.

“A primary election includes one or more people while in the confirmation there is only one candidate where people will decide whether they still want that person,” added Mwonzora.

This is absolute nonsense and is five thousand kilometres away from democracy. Give the people the chance to choose, period. Why limit their choices?

The MDC should be ashamed of engaging in such underhandedness to short circuit people’s choices and preferences and impose useless friends on people.

Every Member of Parliament, let alone a party president, must renew their mandate with the people at agreed intervals. This confirmation business they are talking about is just simple deceit to steal from the people by helping their non-performing sitting MPS.

Everybody must, of necessity, go through the primaries to renew their mandate while giving the voters an opportunity to choose between candidates. Those who have performed well in parliament have nothing to fear.

As their own Party Organising Secretary, Nelson Chamisa, recently said, “There are no two dip tanks in the party and there won’t be sacred cows.”

Meanwhile, ZANU-PF, a party full of lazy non-performers who survive through more praise singing than performance, is wary of primary elections because they know that their MPs are just free-loaders, passengers who don’t even know the destination of the gravy train they are riding on.

The ZANU-PF old guard, who have been in power since way back when and who now consider constituencies to be their personal fiefdoms, are very afraid of primary elections where they would be pitted against the Young Turks who seem fed up with the corrupt old geezers. They want new regulations to use during elections to protect themselves from imminent electoral defeat.

According to a daily paper in Zimbabwe, the proposed regulations on primary elections “would bar those members who have served the party for less than five consecutive years, from contesting. This would prevent many of the so-called “Young Turks” in the party from challenging the veterans in the primaries”.

Apart from the Young Turks in ZANU-PF, people like the infamous serial flip-flopper, former Information Minister Jonathan Moyo, would be disqualified from running for parliament on a ZANU-PF ticket.

But from the outside looking in, I am very concerned about how the MDC is mimicking ZANU-PF in just about everything it does.

In the MDC, just as in ZANU-PF, the issue of succession is not being entertained. Deputy Prime Minister Thokozani Khupe, who is also deputy party president, is just as much of a political mannequin to Morgan Tsvangirai as Vice President Joyce Mujuru is to Robert Mugabe.

Surely, the MDC cannot start this deplorable political cycle now, for goodness. They have conceded too much to ZANU-PF and has slowly shown a tendency to take their eyes off the people. Our freedoms are slowly being whittled away in the numerous compromises they continue to make.

The MDC cannot be a party associated with the curtailment of people’s freedoms. What will the MDC do should it come out the absolute winner in those elections?

Will it tolerate divergent views even from within its own ranks?

Morgan Komichi, MDC national deputy chairman, said that: “Party structures in the constituency, where we have an MP, will sit down as an electoral college and vote by secret ballot to retain the MP or not. Any MP who gets 51 percent of the vote will automatically represent the party. Anyone who fails to get the required percentage will be given another opportunity to fight for a place in the primary elections.”

Of course, this is utter nonsense and undemocratic. Why giving anyone a second chance that is not being given to other contenders? Why the secret ballot? Why not just go straight to primary elections?

The heart of the matter is that at the expiry of every term, the people must be given a fresh opportunity to re-appoint a sitting official or reject him. The people must be given the chance to bring in new representatives, if they so wish.

The MDC and ZANU-PF must steer clear of any attempts to give certain individuals an advantage over others during elections.

There is nothing more dangerous than a scared powerful politician and both ZANU-PF and MDC ‘stalwarts’ are genuinely afraid of primary elections. They are justified because both parties are overburdened with dead wood that has to be cast away.

If both these parties practise democracy, like they constantly tell us they do, here is an opportunity for them to show us, not tell us.

Let whoever wants to run for Parliament do so but every contender must go through primary elections…no sacred cows!

We should appreciate the existence of ZANU-PF and its unwarranted long stay in power because we are fortunate enough to learn from their mistakes.

Let the MDC not start this abominable political chicanery and let ZANU-PF now stop it. Let us be honest with ourselves for a change and party leaders must subject themselves to the people’s choice as well.

Let anyone who wants to run for office do so but every candidate must go through primary elections. Parade all aspiring candidates before us and we will choose for ourselves.

I am Tanonoka Joseph Whande and that, my fellow Zimbabweans, is the way it is today, Thursday, November 22nd, 2012.

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