‘First come, first served’ – ZEC says as MDC Alliance name row rages before by-elections

HARARE – The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) says it does not regulate or register political parties and will accept candidate nominations for March’s by-elections on a “first come, first served” basis.

MDC-T leader Douglas Mwonzora earlier this month wrote to ZEC announcing himself as the leader of the MDC Alliance, the party led by Nelson Chamisa.

ZEC chairperson Justice Priscilla Chigumba on Monday told ZimLive that they would not respond to “letters for clout” from political parties – but she did little to shed light on the expected confusion when the nomination court sits on January 26.

She said: “ZEC does not adjudicate who has the right to the name of a political party because there is no legal framework that mandates the commission to regulate, deregulate and register political parties.

“On January 26 the nomination court will operate on a ‘first come, first served’ basis. ZEC will not respond to letters for clout from political parties over party names.

“If politicians want to stop a political party from using a party name or symbol, they must approach the electoral court which determines political parties.”

Chamisa’s MDC Alliance has little trust in Zimbabwean courts which it says are captured by the ruling Zanu PF party which is allegedly pulling Mwonzora’s strings in an attempt to weaken the opposition.

MDC Alliance spokesperson Fadzayi Mahere on Monday maintained that their party would remain MDC Alliance, at least for now, as pressure mounts from supporters for Chamisa to rebrand.

“We remain MDC Alliance until otherwise advised. We have safeguards in place to ensure there is no confusion come election day. The people know who their leaders are,” she told ZimLive.

Chigumba said politicians were in the habit of blaming ZEC over political name disputes when the commission does not register political parties but only recognises them as prescribed by the electoral law.

Elections will take place in 28 parliamentary races and 105 municipal seats on March 26.

Most of the seats fell vacant when the MDC-T recalled elected MDC Alliance officials, armed with a controversial Supreme Court ruling from March 2019 which annulled Chamisa’s elevation to lead the MDC-T following the death of Morgan Tsvangirai a year earlier.

Mwonzora immediately left the MDC Alliance to fight for the leadership of the MDC-T, and subsequently declared he had power to recall elected officials seconded by the MDC-T in the alliance that took part in the 2018 elections.

Chamisa maintains, however, that the Supreme Court correctly noted that the dispute was now “water under the bridge” because the MDC Alliance mutated into a fully-fledged party after holding a congress following the 2018 elections.

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