MDC election preps go up in smoke

HARARE – The MDC’s election preparations are in disarray due to lack of funding as donors continue to give the party a wide berth.

The Daily News can report that plans by the MDC to hold primary elections to choose candidates who will represent the party in parliamentary and local government polls are up in smoke because of financial stress.

With polls due by July 31, the country’s largest opposition party is racing against time to raise resources required to run its internal polls and rolling out a decent campaign ahead of the harmonised elections.

MDC secretary-general, Douglas Mwonzora, confirmed yesterday that planning for party programmes is becoming a huge challenge in the absence of resources.

“We (have) no resources because as of now there is donor fatigue,” he said.

“We are trying to persuade them (donors) but we are going to make do with what we have and prepare for elections”.

Notwithstanding the financial constraints, the MDC is issuing a circular to party structures to get ready for elections.

“We are issuing a circular tomorrow (today) to start the process of candidate selection; we will come up with a candidate list for all constituencies and we need to select the most popular candidate,” said Mwonzora.

The MDC has struggled to entice its traditional donors to fund party programmes since its sleek 2008 poll campaign when it completely outclassed Zanu PF with campaign messages that were couched around the catch-phrase “Morgan is MORE”.

Many blame the party’s disastrous performance in the 2013 elections for putting off donors although there were other contributing factors such as the MDC’s poor performance in the unity government of 2009-2013, the corruption blighting MDC-run councils and party leader Morgan Tsvangirai’s string of sex scandals.

MDC supporters and officials have also been impoverished by an inclement economic meltdown that has eroded their ability to pay for their subscriptions and give generously towards the party.

Hordes of workers have been rendered jobless while scores of companies have gone under on the back of the worsening economic climate.

As a result, the party is struggling to meet some of its financial obligations, among them salaries and statutory obligations such as payments to the National Social Security Authority.

Its financial situation could improve slightly if Treasury could release over $2 million due to the party through the Political Parties (Finance) Act.

In terms of the Act, political parties that secure at least five percent of the total votes cast are entitled to receive funding from Treasury.

At the moment, only Zanu PF and the MDC qualify for funding under the Act.

Observers warn that the forthcoming polls could turn out to be the worst for the MDC since its formation in 1999.

Already, there is a cloud of uncertainty in the party hanging over Tsvangirai’s future. The MDC leader has been holed up in South Africa for close to a month now battling cancer of the colon.

There is also no clear roadmap to elections in the MDC amid intense bickering on who among the party’s three vice presidents – Nelson Chamisa, Thokozani Khupe and Elias Mudzuri – should succeed the Tsvangirai in the event that he becomes incapacitated.

In the absence of Tsvangirai, the MDC has failed to gel and the rifts with colleagues in the MDC Alliance, a coalition of seven political parties headed by the former Prime Minister, are widening by the day.

Crucially, bigwigs in the MDC are disregarding the MDC Alliance and its programmes, snubbing rallies and important meetings.

While the MDC Alliance reserves seats for certain political parties, Mwonzora said the MDC would field candidates in every ward and constituency.

“It in terms of the pact that sets the MDC Alliance there is nothing that can stop us from contesting in any ward. What we only want is to come up with the strongest candidate. As we prepare for elections, the MDC will not let the country be divided into sections for certain parties, but that does not mean we are not preparing for elections, time is still on our side,” said Mwonzora.

This comes as Zanu PF, which splashed millions of United States dollars on all-terrain vehicles to traverse the width and breadth of the country, is already beating the war drums.

A bullish President Emmerson Mnangagwa who came to power last year following a military intervention that resulted in the fall of former president Robert Mugabe has already indicated that elections will be held before July 31 and that he “will sweep” to victory.

In the meantime, Zanu PF’s commissariat department, headed by Engelbert Rugeje, is rolling out its plans ahead of the watershed elections, including holding district and provincial elections.

Zanu PF is also scheduled to hold primary elections next month.

And with Zanu PF boasting of a war chest that also includes its access to State institutions and personnel, analysts said the opposition faces a herculean task ahead.

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