Chamisa faces biggest test this weekend

British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson and MDC Alliance President Nelson Chamisa
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ON European tour, presidential contender, MDC Alliance leader Chamisa calls for mass mobilization to ensure credible elections.

In a barnstorming speech to the Chatham House think tank in London, Nelson Chamisa, presidential candidate for the opposition Movement of Democratic Change Alliance, said his supporters would organise massive street demonstrations if their conditions for free and fair elections were not met.

So far, Chamisa says that President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government has not responded to requests for a meeting with opposition parties on the modalities of the elections.

Top of Chamisa’s list was for the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) to open an international competitive tender for the printing of the ballot papers, and a guarantee of full accountability in the bidding and contract award process.

Although the elections are due between the last week of July and the last week of August, the ZEC is yet to release a timetable for its operations.

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Most importantly, these would include publication of biometrically registered voters’ roll, which is said to be running at around 5.4 million, a substantial increase on previous elections.

The MDC also wants an agreement to establish an ‘infrastructure for peace in the elections’, says Chamisa.

That should amount to a peace accord signed by all parties.

Civic activists are raising concerns about ‘low-level violence’ and threats against voters although no one is predicting a repeat of the thuggery in the 2008 elections in which hundreds of opposition supporters were tortured and killed.

Although President Mnangagwa has said he would have no problem in handing over power to the opposition should they win, the military, which is a powerful force in the current government, has been silent on the issue.

After his week in Europe, Chamisa is due back in Zimbabwe at the weekend to preside over his biggest test for far as MDC leader – the management of the party’s primary elections.

Last week, ZANU-PF set the bar low with several disputed contests and claims that the central committee had been trying to impose candidates on dissident local branches.

Both Chamisa and former Finance Minister Tendai Biti, who is accompanying him on his European tour, insisted that the MDC’s primaries would be better managed than their opponents’.

Given their MDC Alliance is an amalgam of seven smaller parties, how they run the primaries will be an important indicator of the strength of the party’s organization.

They could also affect their ability to reach out to the opposition groupings run by former ZANU-PF luminaries such as Joice Mujuru and Dumiso Dabengwa.

Chamisa and Biti acknowledged the party faced severe funding constraints but claimed there was a new wave of popular support, especially in the countryside where they claimed that ZANU-PF’s grip had been slackening.- Africa Confidential