While Mwonzora and his party feel it is their democratic right based on the constitution of their party that whoever declares allegiance to another party when he or she was voted through their party ticket should be recalled, it is the contention by the electorate that they feel they have the right to determine the recalls rather than the party doing it arbitrarily.
Zimbabwe has a total of 133 elective vacancies, which comprise 28 parliamentary seats and 105 council seats emanating from recalls and deaths.
Mwonzora’s MDC-T and Lucia Matibenga’s People’s Democratic Party (PDP) have been responsible for the majority of seats that fell vacant from 2018 to date. Matibenga recalled six house of assembly members with two representing Bulawayo constituencies.
The nation is gearing towards the March 26 by elections to fill the vacant seats with Matabeleland region having a total of 19 vacant local authority seats and four national assembly seats.
Out of the 19 council seats 12 fell vacant due to recalls while the remaining were due to deaths. Out of the four houses of assembly seats vacant three were due to recalls and only one was due to death.
Breakdown of the seats are that Bulawayo have eight wards vacant, seven through recalls and one through death, and two house of assembly seats all through recalls. Matabeleland North have five wards vacant with two councillors recalled, three Zanu PF councillors died and two house of assembly, one recalled and the other, a Zanu PF legislator Zenzo Sibanda of Tsholotsho South died. Matabeleland South has six wards vacant, three through recalls and three Zanu Pf councillors died.
Zimbabwe Electoral Commission Chief Elections Officer Utloile Silaigwana recently announced that $3,7 billion has been set aside for the by-elections amid concerns that the money is so huge and could have been used to accomplish sustainable development for the country rather than being used in unnecessarily caused elections.
Political commentators, activists, residents and human rights groups are adamant that if not for the recalls of MDC Alliance MPs and councillors the number of vacant seats and wards would only be of few deaths that occured and would have meant that only a few dollars are used to replace them.
Rural Communities Empowerment Trust Lupane Coordinator Vumani Ndlovu says by-elections are just a waste of resources especially when they are occasioned by recalls that could have been avoided.
“We are almost a year to the elections, the affected constituencies have endured 2 years without representation and calling for an election now will not help them. Legal, yes it is necessary,” Ndlovu says.
“A clause must be there that gives the parliament power to look at the merits of the recalls and make substantive decisions based on that.”
Ndlovu says bona fide members of the party in the affected constituency must not just be consulted but vote to make a determination on whether a recall must be effected.
He says parliament must be given power to analyse whether a recall is warranted rather than to just accept a letter from the party.
“They must learn from the MDCT versus MDC Alliance. In future a repeat of that can cause problems in the functionality of parliament. There is no benefit for the citizens from the by-election given that funds to be used in the election were going to be channeled to productive sectors in the region,” Ndlovu says.
“Mwonzora led MDC in the recalls were the winners and the then Nelson Chamisa led MDC Alliance were the losers ( lost their Mps, political party funds allocation ) but in the by…elections Mwonzora led MDC are greatest losers. By-elections will show who is popular in the opposition mainly between Chamisa and Mwonzora led parties. It is also a greatest opportunity for the newly formed Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) to sell it’s brand. For Zanu PF it’s an opportunity to test it’s popularity and craft relevant campaign strategies in preparation for the 2023 plebiscite.”
Political commentator and human rights activist Effie Ncube says recalls are a necessary tool that allows those who elected a person or political party in which they were elected to recall them in the event they are no longer carrying out the mandate they were given by the people.
“But in the instance where we have found ourselves in, that is an abuse of the recall tool. So there is a need to look into that and see what can be done to avoid this. Also on one hand someone can say these are the pitfalls of democracy that are very difficult to close. But we have to find constitutional and legal means to prevent the abuse of power to this extent. Also the advent of Covid 19 based excuses by the government in which it cited Covid 19 as the reason for not holding the by elections worsened the situation. We should not have such a large number of recalls, this is unfair to the nation and the electorate but a benefit to Zanu PF,” says Ncube.
Ncube contends that it is important to prevent the kind of expensive recalls leading to expensive by-election but people must have a say before the recall is made.
He says after the political party sends a recall letter to parliament there should be at-least a mechanism through ZEC, that parliament should consider citizens say at least 40% of the electorate should assert the recalls to prevent the reckless action done.
Ncube says since the by-elections have been declared the only option now is for people to go and vote for the leaders they want.
CCC Bulawayo provincial spokesperson Swithern Chirowodza says it is unfortunate that Mwonzora and his allies did not think about the expenditure problem when they removed legislators from Parliament.
“It is a huge cost on the country to be repeating elections some of which can end up exposing voters to the trauma of Zanu PF violence. The recalls allowed for an individual and his allies to impose on the populace their choice. The People’s choice was in fact supplanted. By-elections according to past experience have shown that the state can concentrate all its might and resources in a small area,” Chirowodza says.
“By-elections are a necessary activity in a democracy. Every inch of the country must be led by people who are chosen by the people. We have been futuristic in outlook and have formed the CCC to distance ourselves from the noise now associated with Mwonzora and the MDC whose name he has adulterated and people are the losers.”
Bulawayo Progressive Residents Association Secretary for administration, Thembelani Dube says the recalls are a political tool used by politicians to settle political scores at the expense of the electorate’s constitutional rights and obligations.
“Politicians need to respect the will of the electorate and not waste the little resources the country needs due to personal differences. There is a need for an electoral act that will empower the electorate as the key stakeholders when it comes to recalls. Without their consent, no public representative must be recalled,” Dube says.
“The money could have been channeled to more pressing issues in the region. Political games are of no benefit to the masses. The electorate are the biggest losers as their constitutional right to choose and be represented are violated at the expense of political games and personal self fulfilling ambitions.”
Ibhetshu likaZulu secretary general Mbuso Fuzwayo says recalls are not benefiting the nation but are a tool to destroy opposition.
“Zanu PF must prioritize development over investing in destroying the opposition. However, if people in Bulawayo vote for credible people, they will benefit, but if they vote thieves or party functionaries who don’t have Bulawayo at heart they will suffer further setback,” Fuzwayo says.
He says in the whole saga Zanu PF is a great beneficiary because there has been success in destroying the main opposition party through infiltration.
Zanu PF activist Dzingai Kamhamba says recalls and by elections are a waste of resources but for Zanu PF the opportunity will lay the group work for 2023 elections.
“The opposition made a big blunder by doing recalls. As it is now, the opposition is at its weakest strength due to divisions hence once they lose, the public opinion will change and that works against them come 2023. All in all this election will be a serious waste of resources considering the poverty amongst our people and lack of development, especially what we see here in Matebeleland,” he says.
“We lack a lot of infrastructure and our roads are in bad shape. ZESA needs funding as we are back to serious load shedding. It’s mismanagement of resources indeed, given a chance they could have just ignored these by elections since it’s only one year before the 2023 general elections.”
MDC-T spokesperson Witness Dube declined to comment.
In Bulawayo’s ward 8 successfully nominated candidates are Loveness Nomsa Ndlovu (Zanu-PF), Bekezela Ncube (Zapu), Edwin Ndlovu (CCC), Tafara Gandare (UDA), Rosa Ndlovu (MDC-A), Taurai Mashizhe (Independent), Albert Moyo (Independent) and Tobias Nyamhlambanje (Independent). Ward 9 candidates are David Ncube (APP), Donaldson Mabutho (CCC), Gasela Mhlaba (MDC-A), Lovemore Mnyamana (Zanu-PF), Philisani Ncube (LEAD) and Innocent Msipa (UDA).
In ward 12, there are Mary Ncube (Zanu-PF), Visitor Ndebele (MDC-A), Casper Sibanda (Zapu), Lilian Mlilo (CCC) and Esnath Khumalo (RTZ). Ward 18 has Sibonakaliso Tshuma (MDC-A), Concilia Mlalazi (CCC), Gibson Sikhosana (Zapu), Taringana Manyika (UDA) and Enoch Madzimure (Zanu-PF). In ward 19 there is Adam Felix Dambano (Zapu), Ntando Moyo (Zanu-PF), Peter Ncube (MDC-A) and Christopher Dube (CCC). Ward 20 has Ethel Sibanda (MDC A), Thabo Thwala (Zanu-PF) and Ernest Rafa-Moyo (CCC). Ward 21 has Geshom Zimba (MDC-A), Janet Moyo (Zanu-PF) and Tinevimbo Maphosa (CCC).
In Ward 26 there is Norman Hlabano (CCC), Japhet Ncube (DOP), Simangele Ndebele (MDC-A), Janana Ngwenya (independent), Lungisani Sibanda (Zanu-PF) and Mpumelelo Moyo (CCC).
Matabeleland North House of Assembly candidates for Binga North are Peggie Mudimba (MDC-A), Kudakwashe Mavula Munsaka (Zanu-PF), Clive Muzamba (UDA), Prince Dubeko Sibanda (CCC) and Disciple Munkuli (independent). Tsholotsho South has Leonard Mthombeni (Zanu-PF), Musa Ncube (Zapu), Nganunu Tapson Sibanda (CCC) and Bongani Moyo (independent). Matabeleland South Gwanda Municipality ward 7 has Thembelani Mathuthu (Zanu-PF), Lizwe Nyathi (Zapu), Justone Mazhale (CCC) and Vusani Mhlanga (MDC-T).