HARARE – Just as is the case in the ruling Zanu PF, it is proving to be a brutal dog-eat-dog affair in the MDC as party heavyweights jostle against each other ahead of primary elections to choose both local government and parliamentary candidates for this year’s watershed elections.
This comes as the Daily News has learnt that no parliamentary or local government seat is deemed safe, and that all sitting and aspiring legislators and councillors will face tough competition to earn the right to represent the party — amid vicious mudslinging and backbiting along factional lines.
Confirming the stampede for high offices yesterday, insiders said thousands of aspiring candidates, including youths and women, had already expressed a firm interest in challenging incumbents and representing the party in the harmonised national elections set to be held this year.
“What has added fuel to the fire is that the party has resolved to reserve 20 percent of all seats to youths and 50 percent to women, which has created battles of titanic proportions in many constituencies where rookies are taking on sitting MPs and other bigwigs in the national standing committee,” a senior party official said.
Contacted for comment, women’s assembly chairperson Lynette Karenyi-Kore said while the party was still to decide who among its cadres would contest where, robust campaigns had indeed kicked off in constituencies coveted by men.
“But because we, as women, were given 50 percent of all seats by the party, we are very happy with that. However, we are still to decide the constituencies that we will target,” she said.
This notwithstanding, former deputy Justice minister Jessie Majome was already facing a stiff challenge from a female youth, Joana Mamombe, in Harare West.
Interestingly in Kuwadzana East, which has been left vacant by new party leader Nelson Chamisa — who is now its presidential candidate — his two close allies, deputy treasurer-general Chalton Hwende and deputy national youth assembly president Shakespeare Mukoyi, would fight it out for the right to represent the constituency.
Another battle of bigwigs is also set for Zengeza West constituency in Chitungwiza, where former St Mary’s MP Job Sikhala will take on incumbent Simon Chidhakwa.
But there is another candidate eyeing the same constituency — former Chitungwiza deputy mayor Rangarirai Mutingwende, who is also the provincial organising secretary for Chitungwiza.
Still, Sikhala expressed confidence in an interview with the Daily News that he would prevail over his competitors, as well as in the national elections themselves.
“I have chosen Zengeza West after I was persuaded to stand by residents in that constituency, but I haven’t yet started campaigning for the primary elections because there is no reason to,” Sikhala said, in what came across as a dig at his rivals.
“Being seen canvassing for votes for primary elections is a sign of being not wanted by the people. People know what they want and it shall be shown by the statement they will make on the day of the primary elections.
“The people of Zengeza West know what they want. They will speak whether it is in broad daylight or at night. They are organising themselves as we speak and the vibration is already there … I am preparing for the general elections not primary elections,” Sikhala said.
Youth Assembly secretary-general, Lovemore Chinoputsa, told the Daily News that some of the constituencies which were being targeted by youths include Epworth, Mbare, Mpopoma, Hwange West, Chiwundura, Mhondoro Ngezi, Bikita West, Gutu South, Zaka Central, Highfield West, Buhera Central and Gweru Urban which is currently held by former deputy Local Government minister Sesel Zvidzai.
In Chitungwiza South, lawyer Maxwell Mavhunga is said to be fancying his chances against sitting MP Canisio Makarau, Delma Kariati and Innocent Gwanzura — while in Chitungwiza North it will be a battle between businessman Asani Tembo and sitting MP Godfrey Sithole.
Former Chitungwiza provincial chairperson Alexei Musundire’s Zengeza East seat is being coveted by former MP for the area, Goodrich Chimbaira, as well as by a provincial official, Taurai Shenje.
Meanwhile, Sikhala’s former constituency which is currently being held by his ally Unganai Tarusenga, will be another battleground — with former councillor Adam Puzo having expressed interest in contesting it.
In Harare’s Mabvuku constituency, the battle will be between incumbent James Maridadi and James Chidhakwa, a youth assembly member. Other seating MPs whose constituencies will be contested include Magwegwe legislator Anele Ndebele who will slug it out with Felix Mafa.
But some party bigwigs — including vice president Elias Mudzuri (Warren Park), deputy national organising secretary Amos Chibaya (Mkoba), Theresa Makone (Hatcliffe), Douglas Mwonzora (Nyanga North), deputy national chairperson Morgen Komichi (Midlands Senatorial post) among others — will stand uncontested.
However, a senior party official was quick to warn that some of the aspiring candidates who have submitted their CVs for consideration could be disqualified, as they have not been in the party for the five years that is required for them to qualify.
“Unless as aspiring candidates possess certain attributes that the party considers as adding value, they may be disappointed. But in some cases the national council may choose to waive some of the requirements and allow them to contest,” the national standing committee member said.