PRIMARY elections held by the MDC-T faction led by Mr Nelson Chamisa over the weekend were marred by violence in most parts of the country as members traded accusations of imposition of candidates and vote buying.
In Bulawayo, the party’s structures under the leadership of provincial chairperson and deputy mayor, Councillor Gift Banda was accused of imposing candidates and rigging the polls. Some party members were allegedly bussed from other constituencies.
Sources said the team that had been tasked to oversee the internal polls led by the party’s national secretary for elections Mr Murisi Zwizwai arrived late in the city and allowed the alleged bussing of party members, culminating in violence in some wards.
In Cowdray Park, where the incumbent councillor, Mr Collet Ndhlovu was battling it out with his stepson, Mr Happison Ncube, the team only arrived well after 6PM, with some members having long dispersed.
“In Cowdray Park there was no proper electoral college because when the polling team arrived, three kombis filled with party youths suddenly appeared. However, violence only erupted when one of the polling officers was spotted writing the name of Mr Ncube instead of Clr Ndhlovu while assisting an elderly lady who could not read or write. Mr Zwizwai had to eventually opt for the cancellation of the elections,” said the source.
Clr Banda was fingered in trying to influence the outcome of a number of council primary elections.
Some party members alleged that despite Clr Banda having won a ticket to represent the party for the Njube-Lobengula House of Assembly seat, he still wanted to maintain a tight grip on his council seat.
In ward 16, where the bussing of supporters was also experienced, Clr Banda’s aunt Ms Ncube is said to have won the primary election despite scenes of violence which saw the sitting councillor, Nephat Sibanda making a report of assault at Luveve Police Station.
“What surprised some of us is that people who were not allowed to vote were known party members, one of them is my ex-boyfriend who stays at a council owned flat along Samuel Parirenyatwa Street,” said another party source.
Contacted for comment, Mr Zwizwai said although in some areas they failed to complete the exercise due to logistical challenges, they would revisit the process to complete the voting process.
“It’s an ongoing process. Yes there were challenges here and there but we are now in the process of rectifying those logistical challenges,” he said.
MDC-T primary elections failed to take place in most constituencies and wards in the Midlands province at the weekend after rowdy party youths reportedly disrupted the voting process by either running away with ballot boxes or barricading polling stations.
In an interview yesterday, MDC-T Midlands provincial spokesperson Mr Munyaradzi Mutandavari confirmed that voting was abandoned in most areas due to confusion and logistical challenges.
He said there were few wards and constituencies where the voting process and counting of votes were concluded.
“Elections in the Midlands province were only completed in few constituencies like Zvishavane-Ngezi and Shurugwi North and some parts of Gweru urban. Voting was however disrupted in some wards especially in Gweru and Mkoba constituencies with reports that in some wards, the voting process was disrupted after candidates failed to agree on certain procedures,” he said.
Mr Mutandavari could however not give detailed information on the areas where voting was disrupted by party youths.
“I am still compiling I will get back to you,” he said. His mobile phone later went unanswered.
Sources within the party however, said there were incidents of violence in some wards in Kwekwe and Gweru after candidates clashed.
“The whole process was chaotic, we did not vote in Gweru’s Ward 3 after some youths ran away with ballot boxes. The same scenario occurred in wards 6 and 11 when some voters were threatened with assault if they voted,” said the source.
The source said in Gweru urban, only Wards 1, 16 and 5 managed to complete the voting and counting process.
“In ward 16, Mr Tawanda Magidi emerged victorious polling 63 votes while his closest rival, Mr Promise Mucheda polled 45 votes.
In ward 5, Mr Cleopas Shiri was the winner with 130 votes while his closest rival, Mr Moses Marecha got 80 votes,” said the source.
The source said they were now waiting for communication from the party’s national executive on the rescheduled election dates.
In Plumtree, the elections, which took place at the weekend were characterised by chaotic scenes amid allegations of intimidation and wanton disqualification of aspiring candidates and voters.
The chaos was more pronounced in the local government elections in Plumtree urban where some aspiring candidates threatened to leave the party if their grievances were not resolved.
Most of the aspiring candidates accused sitting councillors of intimidation, rigging and ring fencing their positions with the blessings of senior provincial party officials.
This has left the party divided and on the verge of imploding with some aggrieved party cadres having petitioned the provincial offices for redress.
One of the aggrieved candidates, Mr Richard Khumalo who aspired to be a councillor for Ward 3, accused sitting Clr Similo Ndlovu of rigging and intimidating party supporters.
He threatened to leave the party if his concerns were not addressed.
Mr Khumalo yesterday said: “I sent the letter to the provincial chair via the district secretary for Bulilima East, Mr M Ndlovu.”
He wrote: “I Richard Khumalo as a standing candidate for ward 3 Plumtree Town in primary elections which were held on 19 May 2018 reject the results as they were not free, fair and credible. The results came out as follows: Similo Ndlovu got 80 and I had 71. I was harassed as a candidate when I queried procedures which were not fair by one of the provincial election officers. They refused to inspect the ballot box before voting commenced as is required, to see that there was nothing inside.”
Sources said all the primary elections process in Plumtree were a sham and have left members divided.
The latest development comes barely a week after a senior party leader and aspiring legislator for Zengeza West, Mr Job Sikhala claimed that some members of the opposition were backstabbing the party’s president Mr Nelson Chamisa by interfering with the candidate selection process.
MDC Alliance abandoned its primary elections in two wards in Hwange town over the weekend as chaos reigned supreme while some ballots were allegedly burnt after some sitting candidates disrupted proceedings.
MDC-T provincial chairman Mr Gabbuza Joel Gabbuza said elections failed to take place in three wards-two in Hwange and another in Umguza although the party had finished all other local authorities’ elections in the province.
He however played down the chaos saying the party decided to halt the elections after some issues emerged.
“We are basically done with primary elections in the local government category as we are left with only two in Hwange Central and one in Umguza.
However, what happened in Hwange was not really noise but we rolled over the elections from Saturday to Sunday because we were afraid people might vote twice since it was dark.
“When we resumed Sunday there were emerging issues and we decided not to proceed until the issues are solved,” said Mr Gabbuza.
Sources said that a group of some MDC-T party members led by Hwange Central MP Mr Brian Tshuma, Wards 8 and 9 councillors Rhoda Sibanda and Chiratidzo Maphosa-Mudimba allegedly caused chaos in Hwange’s Number 1 on Saturday night when they visited aspiring candidates and their supporters’ places of residence.
The group was allegedly drunk and shouted obscenities while demanding that their rivals step down or face unspecified action.
Sources within the party said the incumbents knew that party members no longer wanted them because they failed during their terms and feared they would lose to their rivals.
Some party members allegedly burnt ballots in protest as they complained that some members had voted twice on Saturday.
On Sunday, Cllrs Sibanda and Maphosa-Mudimba allegedly disrupted the elections which were eventually cancelled at Kwanele Shops in Number 1 as they complained about violation of the party’s constitution.
Cllr Maphosa-Mudimba is being challenged by Ms Fani Chirwa who she claims is not eligible to contest.
In an interview, Mr Tshuma who is being challenged by Mr Fortune Mguni for MP Hwange Central said he was not involved in the chaotic events.
“I am aware but not involved in that issue of noise. What I can say is that I am solidly behind those people who refused to have elections. We have a template which states who qualify for election and I respect that,” said Mr Tshuma.
Cllr Maphosa-Mudimba said the elections will not go ahead in her ward.
“I believe every house has its rules and we told the provincial leadership to use our party template which says a person should have been in the structures for five years to be eligible for office,” she said.
She accused her rival of vote buying and wants her disqualified.
“We stopped the election because people were voting twice and we want the party to be transparent and follow the constitution. I guess people just want to tarnish our images. What I know is that we were just campaigning and Brian was not even there and no one was insulted,” said Cllr Maphosa-Mudimba.