The Movement for Democratic Change led by Morgan Tsvangirai has made disturbing declarations that they will not allow incumbent councillors and MPs to face other competent officials from within the rank and file of their party during elections.
Report by Precious Shumba
This position is disturbing because the majority view of voters across the breadth of Zimbabwe is that most councillors running urban and rural local authorities have become entrenched in corruption that they have ceased to serve the interests of ordinary residents.
At the same time, the Zanu PF leadership has indicated that they are in the process of developing procedures for holding primary elections to choose candidates who will stand against other political parties in harmonised elections scheduled for March 2013.
Now that election talk is being repeated by political parties, this is a time for the citizenry to demand and occupy their space to determine who gets to represent them in elections, given that political parties are coming up with regulations and procedures on behalf of the people, a clear testimony that they do not trust them to choose their own representatives.
The MDC-T position on the selection of candidates for elections has to be interrogated from three critical viewpoints which will help us understand the merits and demerits of their chosen methodology.
Firstly, the party should satisfy itself that serving MPs and councillors have the endorsement of their respective constituencies, rather than use a tired excuse that these are known and can help the cause of the party in elections.
Secondly, the decision should be informed by the performance of incumbents, within their respective constituencies and wards as individuals, and their performance as a collective within council or parliamentary committees, in full council and parliamentary deliberations.
The third viewpoint is that those being nominated for election should meet a certain standard, determined by the citizens, informed by historical experiences of the significance of an office, otherwise citizens will endure a nightmarish five years under the leadership of incompetent, corrupt and ignorant officials, whose selection was manipulated in the first place.
Voters know what they want in a leader and should have the right to make their views known by their leadership.
But it should not be the responsibility of the national or provisional leadership to declare that such leader will not be challenged, hiding behind party constitutional loopholes which do not put a maximum period of service for MPs and councillors, yet advocate for two-five year terms for the president of a political party.
All leaders should be endorsed through a formally-adopted system that has popular support and is understood by the membership.
It must be transparent, accountable and with a conflict resolution mechanism that guarantees redress of challenges. There has to be one system for all candidates on the same level of office — councillors, MPs, senators, vice-presidents, and presidents.
Imposing candidates is one of the reasons why Zanu PF has an old guard that is too powerful to be opposed by low-ranking officials. President Robert Mugabe is unable to control them, given their lengthy stay in Parliament and cabinet.
The tragedy of this kind of decision-making by political parties on candidates selection is that it protects certain interests, mostly economic for short terms, but this will ultimately destroy the party, and erode public confidence.
Loyalty by the membership should be towards the values and principles of the party and not the narrow political and economic interests of well-fed officials, wanting to be permanent councillors and MPs.
Some of these incumbents who have engaged in corrupt practices, getting kick-backs on tenders and have enjoyed a very comfortable life, are the ones who are at the forefront demanding changes at the helm of their political parties yet they do not want to open up the system to democratic competition by winning or losing in a transparent process.
The MDC-T has to listen to communities, just as Zanu PF, Mavambo/Kusile/Dawn (MKD) and the MDC have to pay attention to what the ordinary people are saying regarding their officials holding public office.
Failure to heed the demands of communities for genuine involvement in decision-making processes within their political parties, means they will express themselves in an unpredictable way through the ballot, voting for other candidates than those from their preferred party owing to disgruntlement— or they will choose not to participate in elections thereby reducing chances of winning against formidable opposition.